The tactician spoke on last season’s performances and preparations ahead of the upcoming campaign.

NorthEast United recently announced the appointment of Khalid Jamil as the head coach on a permanent basis following his heroics with the Highlanders last season.

Jamil oversaw NorthEast United’s best-ever run in the Indian Super League, as they went on to finish third post the group stage. Under him, the Highlanders went on a 10-match unbeaten run, the longest for a NorthEast United manager. Khalid Jamil is now set to take charge of the side, making him the first-ever full-time Indian head coach in the league’s short history.

Post his appointment, Jamil expressed his thoughts on the season ahead in an interview with the club. Here’s what he had to say:

Thoughts on becoming the first Indian head coach in the ISL

Khalid joined the Highlanders in the summer of 2019 as an assistant coach and the head of the youth academy. But, since then, he has come a long way. After two stints as the interim head coach, Jamil has now taken over the reins permanently. He was asked about his feelings on making history as the first full-time Indian head coach of an ISL club.

“I’m feeling good to come back again. I never thought that I’ll be approached (to become the head coach) and it is my pleasure. I want to thank the management, especially John (Abraham) sir for giving me this opportunity,” expressed the former India midfielder.

“And for the place (finish) last year, the players worked very hard and because of them, we got a good result. This time also we are working very hard. I hope to get a better result than last year.” Jamil said, hopeful.

Looking back at last season

NorthEast United were struggling in a mid-table muddle when they decided to let-go of Gerard Nus. Jamil came in and changed the entire scenery. He turned the tables around and took the club on a dream run. When quizzed about his experience through that phase, Jamil said that he and the team enjoyed it.

“Yes, the experience was good. Everybody enjoyed the game and they worked hard from the first match till the last match we played,” the 44-year-old recalled. “So, this time also, we must work hard and play as a team. Even staff was very good and this time also, everybody is working hard and that is a good point,” he added.

Thoughts on new signings

The Highlanders have retained their core from last season and have also made valuable additions to their squad. When asked about his thoughts on the new signings and this season’s squad, Jamil said he feels the club have a good mix of players. “We have a mix of players. We have experienced foreign players like (Federico) Gallego, Hernan (Santana). From last season, we have also retained Khassa (Camara) and (Deshorn) Brown.

“We have a (good) mix of Indian players, who are willing to work very hard. So, overall, it’s a good team and we just have to work hard and play as a team,” he asserted.

Message to fans

Khalid Jamil has become a fan-favourite, not just among NorthEast fans but also Indian football supporters. Sharing a message for the fans, the former Aizawl and East Bengal coach thanked them for their wonderful wishes and support. “I just want to say that keep supporting us because your support is very important for us and the players. And thank you for supporting us,” he concluded.

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