KOCHI: Six goals from nine games. While that’s a record any forward would be proud of, Antonio German could only see his team — Kerala Blasters FC — finish bottom of ISL 2.
Having missed the first few games with an injury, his induction brought a different dimension to Blasters’ attack, with his constant cut-ins from the right flank creating havoc in the opposition ranks.
The new season has begun almost in the same fashion, as the Kochi side lost away to NorthEast United in the ISL 3 opener. German, again hugging the right flank, was a bright spot as the new-look Blasters struggled to combine as a team.
Ahead of their first home game against Atletico de Kolkata on Wednesday, the Englishman admitted that ‘we must improve massively in our next 3 home games’, while tweeting his apologies to the legions of Blasters’ fans.
But he promised ‘a big improvement’, especially after the amount of work the squad had put in during the build-up to the tournament. “We didn’t do ourselves justice,” German told Express on Monday, after their first training session at the Choice School ground in Tripunithura.
“We worked hard over the pre-season, and we didn’t perform to the best of our abilities. Hopefully, we can put it right in the next match.”
Even though he moved into more central positions, especially after Michael Chopra came on in the second session in Guwahati, the 24-year old is willing to play ‘wherever the manager puts’ him. “It would be hard for me to improve on last season. Basically, I scored in every game played. But I want to improve, I want to score as many goals as I can and help the team go as far as we can,” he said.
The lanky attacker also conceded that the standard of play in ISL had taken him by surprise. It did teach him a few lessons.
“When I first came here, I wouldn’t say I was mentally weak, but I thought that Indian football was going to be easy. It was a big shock to me. I feel as if I have got mentally stronger and I performed well. I hope I can continue to do that,” he pointed out.
And it was the fans, and the stature of new manager Steve Coppell – a former Manchester United and England winger – that drew him back to Kochi. “I really enjoyed my time last season. And the support was crazy. When you score goals, there is always going to be interest from other clubs.
“But the reason I decided to come back to Kerala was mainly because of the fans and the stadium, the football, and the coach here. The gaffer is a huge name in England. Just listening to him, hopefully, I can improve as a player. He has the experience of the top leagues, and will be vital for us if we want to succeed,” German added.