The Scotsman also spoke highly of the young talents in the side.
From Scotland to India, the journey may have been a hectic one, but the performances have been top-notch! Be it controlling the game by dropping deep in midfield or setting up opportunities for his colleagues or even trying his luck from set-pieces, Greg Stewart has turned out to be a phenomenal character in this edition of the Indian Super League.
With five goals and six assists to his name in 11 appearances, the Scottish orchestrator has been the talk of the town. It’s hard to predict if he’ll be bagging the Golden Boot this season, but surely, he’s one of the prime candidates for the ISL 2021-22 Golden Ball.
Khel Now caught up with the Jamshedpur FC star for an exclusive interview ahead of the team’s next match in ISL 2021-22. Here’s what he said:
The bio-bubble & difference in regulations between ISL & SPL
Players, coaches and managerial staff of every ISL club have been critical of the bio-secure bubble. However, the scenario is not the same in Scotland, where fans have been allowed in the stands and a bubble is non-existent.
The forward quipped on life inside a bubble and also the differences in regulations in the ISL and Scottish Premiership. “It’s tough! Quite tough. Especially for me, as this is my first time so far away from home. But, I was at a point in my career where I wanted to try something new and as soon as this opportunity with Jamshedpur FC came, I grabbed it. I had a word with the gaffer Owen Coyle and assistant coach Sandy Stewart before joining.
“Other than the restrictions of the bubble though, it’s been quite an adventure, of course. Yes, the Scottish Premiership has different regulations. But, then you also have to consider the demographics as well – like the population. We can’t compare regulations, as both are drawn out basis different factors,” he added.
Joining Jamshedpur FC
It’s surely surprising that a player from such a highly reputed club and league has joined the Indian Super League. That too, at a time, when players are usually at their peak.
When quizzed about what convinced him to make the move, Stewart mentioned, “As I said, I wanted to explore something new in my career. Age was not a factor here, it was just something I wanted to do. There were many options back in Scotland, but I wanted a new adventure. I was approached by the gaffer and he convinced me to come to Jamshedpur. My family completely supported my decision, which was also a big motivation for me.”
Adapting to the ISL
Needless to mention, the Indian Super League and the Scottish Premiership are completely different ball-games. The standard is different, so is the show. The forward mentioned how difficult it was to adapt to the ISL. “It is a tough league. There is no doubt about that. Especially the conditions here in Goa. For someone like me, who has experienced a cold climate consistently, it is all about adapting in the first few weeks.
“I think India has some amazing players, especially the younger ones. Laldinliana Renthlei, Komal (Thatal), Boris (Thangjam), Ritwik (Das), Mobashir Rahman, Jitu (Jitendra Singh), Narender (Gahlot), Vishal have been so impressive in training and in matches as well. They are such quick learners and have a bright future ahead,” he also went on to praise the young Indian players.
The dramatic competition this season
Have the previous editions of the ISL been so dramatic? Has anyone witnessed such a “Snake & Ladder” atmosphere on the table? Perhaps not. Each day, there is a new table-topper. Moreover, the playoffs spots are open to most of the teams, since there isn’t a huge numerical difference between the clubs.
Greg Stewart shared his opinion, “I read somewhere that ISL was the second-most competitive league in the world. I think it was a CIES report? Think they should consider making it the first now. I don’t remember seeing a change of teams in the first place so often in my career. This is a great sign of how close each and every team is, in terms of quality and persistence with each other. The race for the playoffs as well as the top spot is a really interesting story in the making.”
Hat-trick against Odisha FC
Earlier in the season, Jamshedpur FC thrashed Odisha FC to a comfortable 4-0 victory. All the goals came in the first half itself, with Greg Stewart getting his name on the scoresheet thrice. Stewart was asked about his hat-trick and the goal he enjoyed the most.
The forward quipped, “All goals were special to me. The first was a brilliant curler from outside the box. The second was a free-kick and the third was a good dribble before taking the shot and special again because it was the goal that completed my hat-trick.
“But, whether it’s a hat-trick by me, or by someone else, the most important statistic to me is a hat-trick of points. Three points, most important,” he underlined.
Playing in various positions
In this league so far, Greg Stewart has played in three different positions. In seven matches, he played as a second forward, just behind the striker. Another two appearances marked Stewart operating as a centre-forward. Lastly, in another appearance, he functioned as an attacking midfielder and assisted twice!
The 31-year-old talked about the different demands of these roles, “This is as per the requirement of the coach. I have played in the forward lines all my career, so adapting to a position is not the most difficult part.
“The viewpoint of playing centrally behind / with the striker is of course that you get the opportunity to get in between the lines, create opportunities and even try to score yourself when the opportunity arises. As a winger, you are working and running more on the flanks and have to try and get inch-perfect crosses in or cut-in to create more by teasing the full-backs,” he mentioned.
The Old Firm Derby
The Old Firm Derby or in layman terms, the classic match between Rangers and Celtic is one of the fiercest in the history of football.
Formerly, being a part of the Rangers contingent, the 31-year-old shared his experience of participating in one, “From a player’s perspective, I can tell you that it’s the best experience one can have in football. The noise, the chanting, the banter – the adrenaline rush that it gives to the players. I feel goosebumps every time I think about it. The derby is massive in the football world for a reason.
Additionally, he also quipped on experiencing the derby as a fan, “As a fan as well, you feel part of something big when you are at the stadium. That loud echo, it’s not normal. It’s crazy and an amazing feeling.”
Youngsters at Jamshedpur
Jamshedpur FC have a pretty large group of youngsters, who possess immense skills and potential. When asked about who has impressed him the most and whether any of them have the potential to make a move to the high level in Europe, Greg Stewart replied, “As I mentioned earlier, we have an amazing group of young players. The league overall has a bunch of up-and-coming youngsters.
“I won’t pick and choose one as I feel all of them have the potential to do well in the ISL and also probably make it to leagues in Europe, if they stay on the right path and keep working hard,” he concluded.