ATK vs Kerala Blasters Pre-match Conference.

by Admin on Feb 07, 2018
Kerala Blasters face the defending champions, ATK, at their home ground in another must-win encounter. James and co will be hoping to keep the winning run going as the race for a Top 4 finish intensifies.

The gaffer spoke to the press ahead of the game and here are some key quotes and highlights from his conference.

What's the secret behind the change in fortune before and after your arrival?

"Secret? Like I've said before, I've been watching Kerala as a fan at the beginning of the ISL, there's a lot of talent there, I thought and I was genuinely surprised they weren't higher up the table. What I have done is brought some people in, coaches, and we just allowed the players to be their best.

It's a very talented squad, give them the right environment and they can flourish, so I don't know what happened before, I wasn't there and it's not right for me to comment on that. But, since I've been here, I've been fortunate having such a good group of players, not just talent wise, thoroughly enthusiastic to get on and do well."

ATK have had the upper hand over Kerala in ISL history, in the current scenario, do you think your team can get some revenge?

"Revenge? They've got two trophies, we haven't.

Listen, when I came in, we weren't in a great position. Two wins to start with was nice, then two defeats were not so nice. Not good enough performances in a lot of respects but kind of left us with a quite a simple challenge, which was six wins out of six games to give us a chance of qualifying and when Bengaluru won last night, people were talking about the sort of points tally you need to get to the playoffs.

I can't afford to, we can't afford to as a team, to be thinking of anything less than four more wins. So Kolkata, NorthEast, Chennai and Bengaluru are all going to face the same prospects as far as we are concerned and that's us trying to win a game of football.

Is it the best time? It is for us because we are in a good place."

Any injuries, problems, ahead of the game?

"Unfortunately, we have picked up a few injuries and we're not talking, I think in the nature of football we have muscle injuries and strains, but we've picked up some serious injuries over the last few weeks. When I first came to the club I made it quite clear that I wasn't looking to bring anyone in with regards to transfers, but when you lose players for the season, then you have to replace them. We have lost a few players, we have replaced a couple of them and whether or not we get the opportunity, certain rules in the league suggest you have to replace like for like, be it Indian for Indian or foreign for foreign and I would like to replace a foreign player with an Indian player which I think is part of the strength we have in the squad. I haven't got the text message to see if we've been successful with that and we are running out of days, but again it's an opportunity for one of my young players to experience the ISL and prove themselves.

So injuries? Yes, but we've got adequate replacements already."

What about Dimitar Berbatov? There isn't a lot of talk about him.

"We are talking about him. To be fair to Dimitar, when he arrived at the club, his physical state was not as good as he wanted it to be perhaps. There were a few injuries, he broke down two or three times between the matches. He's an important member of the squad, he's back in training and I say we are talking about him because he's one of the leaders around the dressing room. Very inspirational to the younger players, which he does himself. As a head coach, you don't want to be the one that's making all the decisions and orders when it comes to how you improve players. You do like your experienced players to share their knowledge and what Berba has been doing is fantastic. Credit to him. He's getting himself back to the match fitness we need and he will feature at some point in the upcoming games."

James was once again questioned about the allegations against Sandesh Jhinghan. The gaffer reminded everyone that he has been happy with Jhinghan's commitment and expects the Kerala Blasters captain to the best that has come out of the ISL. James stressed that Sandesh's conduct has been superb and he has always wanted to improve.
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