The veteran striker is raring to return to the national team fold under the new head coach.

‘Every new beginning comes through the end of some other beginning.’ The situation of the Indian football team relates to the saying, with the new head coach in place. Igor Stimac’s policies might be as simple as they look, but the national team is used to the age-old system rooted from the Stephen Constantine-era and the transition has put it in an odd predicament.

Carrying the weight of the hopes of millions on its shoulders into the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, Stimac and his young stars have comparatively less time to build a bond as a team. Competitions like the King’s Cup and Hero Intercontinental Cup showed us glimpses of the amazing talent that the new band of young players possess.

However at the same time, the fact that we lack commanding figures upfront like Sunil Chhetri, was something that surfaced as a concern in both tournaments. Who else could explain the situation better than Robin Singh, a player who has already had quite an experience with the Blue Tigers. 

Recently, Khel Now had the opportunity to discuss a series of issues with the forward, including the striking options of the Blue Tigers, the transition phase, the upcoming qualifiers and more. “With the new coach coming in, it is like a new beginning for the team,” began Singh as he spoke about the recent performances of the national side. 

“In our case, the King’s Cup and the Intercontinental Cup were just stepping stones and as professionals, we need to be as quick as possible while adapting to the new system. Yet, it’s a transition phase and I think transition takes time, wherever it maybe.”

“What we can definitely make out from these tournaments is that we are hungry to face ‘the elite of Asia’, that’s our main aim.” Praising the likes of youngsters like Brandon Fernandes and Sahal Abdul Samad, Robin was equally delighted with the performance of Mandar Rao Dessai, who made his debut in the Intercontinental Cup.

“Overall, I must say, the boys are happy with the new style of football. Stimac had asked for time to assess the team’s abilities. Moreover, the coach looks to want more physically sound players in the squad, which only gives me hope and I see it as an opportunity for myself to get back into the squad,” said the 29 year-old with optimism.

“As far as opportunities are concerned, I feel genuinely ready to step up back into the national team. I have been working throughout the off-season and want to make sure that when I receive the call-up, I can give my best.”

“Taking a step further, I am traveling to Dubai to work with Chris Bowman, a trainer who also trains the athletes from the Premier League and be ready for the national team as well as for the domestic season.”

Further, the FC Pune City frontman explained the qualities a striker needs to possess in order to fit into the current system. “I think it is not just one quality that can determine whether a striker fits into the system or not. For instance, Chhetri, Manvir Singh, Jobby Justin and Jeje Lalpekhlua all come with unique qualities and together they make the team strong. Yet, personally, as a striker, you need to be physically fit and believe in the abilities you have.”

Taking his stance in the debate on whether the Blue Tigers are over-dependent on Chhetri to score goals Singh said, “With all due respect to the other players, a team always depends on its strikers. The fact that Sunil is the highest goalscorer in the country, people do look up to him for goals,” he asserted. “However, we do have other players too, who can score goals. We have Narender who stepped up last time. There’s Sahal and Anirudh Thapa too, who has chipped in with goals.”

Furthermore, the veteran striker also had his say on the trending issue of the inclusion of PIOs like Omid Singh in the team. “I think it all depends upon the coaches and the AIFF, whether they would want to give the PIOs a chance to play for their country of origin. However, personally, I think there is immense talent in India itself and so irrespective of the inclusion of PIOs, the team will always progress no matter what.”

Moving on, the forward discussed the chances of the Blue Tigers at the qualifiers. “We have to perform the best football, irrespective of the draws. Whether that be against Bangladesh or Qatar, you have to make sure you come as prepared as you can, wanting to play every game to win.”

“There is no easy draw as such, because there have been times when we have given tough times to the best in the continent and at the same time, have lost against the likes of Bangladesh. Everybody wants to be at the World Cup.”