The tactician spoke at length about several topics including his arrival in India.
Despite having arrived in the country relatively recently, Jamshedpur FC head coach Owen Coyle has made himself a household name in Indian football. His earliest claim to fame in India came in the 2019-20 season, when he led his former club Chennaiyin FC to the Indian Super League (ISL) final against ATK.
Just days before his 55th birthday, Coyle joined Khel Now’s ‘Beyond The Scores’ podcast recently. He sat down with host Ashish Negi and had a very candid conversation, talking about his experiences in Indian football.
The Scotsman talked about his arrival in the country, the appointment at Chennaiyin FC, challenges with Jamshedpur FC, opinions on the ISL and Indian football and much, much more in great detail. This article pertains to Part 1 of the interview, which covers his time with Chennaiyin and their run to the ISL final in the 2019-20 season.
Early impressions & challenges at Chennaiyin FC
Owen Coyle started the conversation by responding to how challenging it was to come to the club and the size of the task at hand.
“When you come in, there are challenges ahead. I felt there were some good players at the club. They hadn’t achieved the results maybe (according to) the ability they had. Maybe there was bad luck, maybe there were some things they needed, a little trick here and there,” he said.
“They were at the bottom of the league. They hadn’t won away from home in nearly two years because in the previous season also they finished right at the bottom. Obviously, there was a lot of work to do.The biggest thing was getting the players to believe in themselves and gain confidence.”
First game against Jamshedpur FC
The 55-year-old then gave an account of his first taste of Indian football during CFC’s match against Jamshedpur FC. “Coming to India, I hadn’t been here before to see the stadiums as such, you are curious to know what it looks like. But, I have to say, arriving in Jamshedpur with the training facilities and the stadium and the passionate fans, the game was sold out and it was a brilliant experience. That stuck in my mind, how good the facilities were and how friendly the people were in Jamshedpur.”
The Scotsman further lamented the fact that they could not win the game. He explained, “We could have won that game, we should have. There was a very late equalizer for Jamshedpur and I think (there was) a handball in the process as well. What I did see from the game was a lot of positive signs. We needed to win games, a draw here and there would not be good enough for us. That then suited my philosophy because I’ve loved to play attacking football everywhere I have been.”
Word on Chennaiyin FC fans
The tactician praised the support he got from the fans of the Marina Machans.
He said, “The Chennaiyin fans, I have to say, are so fanatical about the club, they get behind the team, they love good football. It was nice to see fans coming back to the games because I think prior to joining the last home crowd was something like 8000 and then as each game went the crowds would get bigger and bigger. We had over 20,000 fans at the first leg of the semi-final against FC Goa.
“The Chennaiyin fans showed that if you play good football, they’ll come and watch the team. That’s great for Indian football,” Owen Coyle added.
Obligation to help Indian football
Coyle also made an important point about how the coaches in the ISL are responsible to help Indian football grow. He said, “As much as I am now a coach of Jamshedpur and want to help the club improve, there is also an obligation to help Indian football in general, with young players progressing. I always feel that is a part of the coach’s job as well.”
Challenges of coming into the season midway
The former Wigan manager explained how challenging it was to come into a new team in mid-season.
“Pre-season allows you the time to get to know the players personally. However, in mid-season, there is no recovery, you have to hit the ground running, you have to try and make an impact straightaway, which we did. To come midway into a season, there are a lot of challenges. The first one is to get players feeling good about themselves, feeling confident and allowing them to express themselves,” Owen Coyle explained.