Despite moments of applause, the Chennai City gaffer’s reign with the southerners could be termed as a gigantic failure if seen closely.

After a season with not much to celebrate, Chennai City replaced their head coach V Soundararajan with Singaporean strategist Mohammed Akbar. The veteran coach who was appointed in the middle of the 2016-17 I-League season led the team through a relegation scare and was finally sacked with hopes of better days in the next term.

Chennai had a poor start to their I-League journey under former coach Robin Charles Raja in the 2016-17 campaign. However, they had a better second half to reckon with as Soundararajan stepped in and produced improved results. The southerners who shifted their base to Coimbatore this season decided to persist with Soundararajan as the coach.

However, that decision misfired as the AFC Pro-licensed coach managed just four wins out of 18 games ending up with 19 points. It was another season of agony, as the Coimbatore-based side failed to show any sort of Improvement. But it’s not just the result that went amiss for Chennai and Soundararajan. A series of off-field issues led to an intent-less season for the players, Khel Now understands.

Soundararajan was a man under siege as a number of his players were unhappy with his work ethic. All the work the management did to ensure a good season went in vain, as the Chennai City gaffer failed to bring positive vibes to the dressing room.

One of the key players of the team, under the promise of anonymity has revealed to Khel Now that things weren’t pleasant in the team and that resulted in a poor season. “His only tactic was long balls. He demanded players to shoot from 40 yards. You can’t score like that. He did nothing else if I have to be honest,” he said.

Soundararajan’s tactics were massively overwhelmed against several league opponents this season

Both the foreign players and Indian players were left despondent by the way Soundararajan handled strategies. Players also felt fatigued because of prolonged training sessions.  “We had two training sessions a day, each averaging four hours. That resulted in injuries to many players, including me”.

Another major criticism the former Chennai head coach was directed with was his substitutions. Changes were often late and that meant less playing time for substitutes. Also, his squad rotation did not point towards having a backup plan in spite of playing seven straight away games this term.

The players presumed he wasn’t technically good enough to lead the side, Khel Now understands. One complaint led to another, as players grew displeased with his pressure-handling abilities. “He didn’t know how to react in the middle of the game during a pressure situation,” the source asserted.

Rightly so, the team faced few major defeats in the season. Namely a 7-1 loss to East Bengal and another 4-1 loss against the same side in the Super Cup Qualifiers.

Another one of his ploys that was heavily scrutinized by both the players and the fans was the way he ‘misused’ Edwin Sydney Vanspaul. The local lad was used in three different positions across the season. That meant the  #8 couldn’t stamp his authority in one spot.

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In one particular match against Shillong Lajong, Soundararajan continued with the midfielder in the right-back position. The move shocked everyone as the coach had other defensive options at his disposal.

In the later stages of the league, Vanspaul had to shift his role to that of a right winger. While the fans lauded the versatility of their favourite player, it hurt the side’s hopes of fielding a working strategy.

Despite the criticism of his strategies, the source had something else to say while talking about Soundararajn’s personality.

“He was not a bad person. He’s a good human being actually. But’, with his bad training and tactics, he killed the team’s morale.”

A good coach offers support and assistance or he is coaching his team to implement change and achieve desired goals. Eventually, the performance of the team depends on the capabilities of the man-in-charge. After two straight seasons and two managerial changes, Chennai City could only hope for a better outing come next season and not a repeat of the previous two.

*This story is again updated on 13/04/2018 to include following views of Former Afganistan Captain and Chennai City FC player Zohib Islam Amiri, who tweeted following after reading above article.