I will not be a bench player- Nikhil Poojary
Written by: Neil Talnikar
With the new season of the ISL underway, the winger is looking forward to establishing himself as a regular starter for the Stallions.
FC Pune City’s attack this season, looks scary as they have a variety of reliable options. After last campaign’s impressive performances, the Stallions managed to retain some key players such as, Emiliano Alfaro, Marcelinho, Marko Stankovic and Ashique Kuruniyan. Apart from these, a lot of new and impressive additions have been made to the squad for this term, such as Iain Hume, Nikhil Poojary, Robin Singh and Alwyn George.
Now that the previous lot has had an impressive 2017-18 Indian Super League season, the new players, especially the Indians, might feel the heat as they will look to catch the eye of the coach. However, Miguel Angel Portugal, Pune City’s new head coach, is known to have a soft corner for young Indian players. During his time at Delhi Dynamos, Portugal provided opportunities for many youngsters especially, Lallianzuala Chhangte and Vinit Rai. The duo had an impactful season and went on to feature in the Indian team for the SAFF Championship.
With that in mind, in a recent interview with India Today, Poojary spoke about his chances with the new team. “I know there is tough competition for a spot in the lineup, but I have heard good things about the coach from Vinit and Lallianzuala. He likes to give opportunities to young players and likes to attack from the wings; something I feel is my strength,” said the 23-year-old winger.
During the entirety of last season, while he was an East Bengal player, Poojary was on the sidelines with an ACL injury to his left knee. After signing for the Stallions, the player again missed all the pre-season games due to international duty for the SAFF Championship. The Maharashtrian-born lad, however, had a strong display overall in the tournament as he scored his first international goal in the group stages against the Maldives. The Blues eventually emerged as runners-up.
Despite coming out of an injury after a year, the player is confident about his chances this season and believes that the coach has shown faith in his abilities. “I am not really bothered about missing out on pre-season. In fact, I am excited and want to be an integral part of the team this season. Coach Portugal said he closely followed my performances during the SAFF Cup and liked the way I played, which increased my confidence.”
The former East Bengal player is heading into his debut ISL season without any game-time with his new teammates, as Pune City play their first game against Delhi Dynamos on October 3.