The Highlanders begin their ISL 2019-20 campaign against Bengaluru FC on Monday evening.
Ahead of their first match against Bengaluru away from home, NorthEast United players, Redeem Tlang and Pawan Kumar shared their views about the new Indian Super League season, their aspirations and changes in the team.
The Highlanders reached the ISL playoffs last season for the first time in their history, before bowing out against Bengaluru FC in the second leg. The Eelco Schattorie-led side were superb in their approach throughout the season. However, with the Dutchman moving on, Robert Jarni will also be expected to replicate that result or even go a step further.
Meanwhile, when quizzed about the confidence of replicating a similar feat this season as well, Redeem Tlang sounded optimistic. He said, “Yes, last season we reached the semi-finals (playoffs) and were close to progress to the final. So, this season the main aim is to reach the final.”
“Of course we will miss them, but new players are coming in they are also very good. Things like this happen in football and we need to move on,” Redeem Tlang added on missing the likes of Bartholomew Ogbeche and Rowllin Borges from last season.
Thoughts On Rowllin Borges
Redeem Tlang also put emphasis on how important Rowllin Borges was for the Highlanders in midfield. However, the youngster also feels that the players have the potential to fill his absence.
“Yes somebody else will come in and take his place. Rowllin played great football last season, but now he has joined Mumbai City. So, someone will come up to replace him in the team.”
Thoughts On Asamoah Gyan
The 22-year-old midfielder then went on to speak about Asamoah Gyan. Redeem Tlang sounded confident when he was asked whether the Ghanaian would be able to fill Bartholomew Ogbeche’s void.
“Yes, he is a player with great experienced. I have been watching him since his Sunderland days and now I am playing with him. It is a great honour for me. I have been watching him in training as well. He is a great person who always helps. I think we will get along very well,” he said.
Tlang handled the comparison between Eelco Schattorie and Robert Jarni with diplomacy as he concluded, “Coaches are like humans. Everyone is different from the other. But, when we play football, the ultimatum remains the same of scoring goals and winning games.”
One of the players who caught the eye last season for the Highlanders was goalkeeper Pawan Kumar. The 29-year-old proved his mettle after he came up with some terrific performances in the league. Ahead of the new season, the shot-stopper spoke highly about the team and the new recruits.
“We have two new goalkeepers and a new goalkeeper coach. We have been working hard in training and it is going good. But, now we have to show that in the game.
“The preparations have been great. However, you can only judge by playing matches. It is a process, as we played well against the national team and will look to carry that forward. If we start the season well with a win, then I guess we can also end it on a good note,” said an optimistic Pawan Kumar.
Pawan Kumar also feels that ‘injuries’ were the main reason that they lost to Bengaluru in the playoffs second leg. “We played really well last season and reached the semi-finals. I feel the injuries took a toll on us. It was an area where we lost the game I feel,” Pawan Kumar added.
“Our main players could not play as they were injured. Both Ogbeche and (Federico) Gallego missed the game and we lost. If we could have churned out a result there, we could have won the final as well. This season we are well-prepared let’s see where it goes,” Pawan Kumar concluded.