The Chennaiyin FC gaffer talked about the upcoming season, new signings and AFC Cup expectations among other topics.
Ahead of the next Indian Super League (ISL) campaign starting later this year, defending champions Chennaiyin FC‘s head coach John Gregory met with the press at a media interaction where he spoke about the preparations for the upcoming season, signings made and the ranchise’s maiden AFC Cup adventure.
For a coach to achieve success in the ISL, versatility is necessary and Gregory possesses something similar. Popularly known as ‘JG’, the English tactician replies to every tweet of Chennaiyin FC fans and that friendly gesture made him an instant fan favourite in the southern state.
The 64-year-old has returned to Chennai after a break of three months, hoping to deliver another memorable season to the Super Machans. The tactician looked vibrant as he stated his intention of winning the trophy for a second straight season saying, “It has never been done before, so we’ll look to be the first team.”
Since the winning campaign of last time around, the Chennaiyin backroom staff has seen an overhaul as Paul Groves and Kevin Hitchcock have been appointed as the Assistant Coach and Goalkeeping coach respectively. Despite the fact that the quality they bring cannot be questioned, Gregory chose to explain the reasons for the appointment of the English duo.
“Paul Groves has an excellent CV. Hitchcock too. After a title-winning season, you need a new set of people to bring motivation in the players’ minds and to train different,” he affirmed.
“Many of our players have won the title already. Few have won it twice. So, for them to get inspired again, you need new ideas in training. Paul Groves for that matter spends a lot of time in the training ground,” Gregory continued.
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The southerners will be having their pre-season in Malaysia
Chennaiyin are set to have their pre-season camp in Malaysia and Gregory stressed on the significance of the destination. “Both Malaysia and India have similar temperatures. It will be helpful for the foreign players to go through training in such conditions, before the league starts in India,” he asserted.
Chennaiyin FC announced the signing of former Barcelona, Swansea City and Brighton & Hove Albion midfielder Andrea Orlandi earlier this month. Talking about his side’s newest recruit and the experience the Spaniard can bring, Gregory looked excited as he said, “He’s experienced and just turned 34. Orlandi is a very versatile player. He can play in multiple positions on the field. He can be a winger, midfielder and so on. That’s something we didn’t have with some of the players in last season’s squad.”
Critics have questioned the decision to retain Inigo Calderon, due to the age factor. However, the former Aston Villa and QPR manager was quick to respond as he answered, “Inigo was travelling to his home place to meet his mom. He found out that a mini-marathon race was about to start there. Inigo participated in the race and guess what, he finished in the top five. This is real. He sent me the photo. That’s how fit he is “.
Having already signed five overseas players, Chennaiyin are looking to complete their squad in the coming weeks. While the last season saw the southerners start with three foreign defenders, Gregory gave his inputs about the exodus of seven players and the new ones who have joined the team.
“We have retained most of the players and a few new ones have been signed. About foreigners, we have four-five names with us. We look into various aspects before signing someone,” he said.
“Match fitness is one key thing. About how many matches the player played the previous season. About Indian players, I have an idea about Issac as I’ve seen him while playing against FC Pune City. Others, I’ve to see.”
The ISL will have three breaks in the upcoming season including a long break for India’s AFC Asian Cup campaign. When asked about his thoughts on the breaks, the Chennaiyin gaffer asserted, “When you win four matches continuously, you don’t want a break. And sometimes, while leading 2-0 in the first half, you don’t want halftime, since it allows the opponent to regroup.”
As the champions of last season, the southern outfit will be the league’s first ever side (barring Bengaluru FC who qualified as I-League champions) to participate in a continental tournament, the AFC Cup. Talking about his side’s maiden continental experience in the upcoming season, the Englishman said, “It’s something we’ll look into later since the matches are from February.”
“It depends on the opponent too. Few matches, Bengaluru FC managed to win with their reserve squad and we’ll take some knowledge from it,” he said before continuing, “We’re excited and looking forward. I’m sure the fixture list will allow us a little bit of breathing space to manage the ISL and the AFC Cup. Last season, our match Vs BFC was postponed for three days as they had their AFC Cup match,” Gregory concluded.