MUMBAI: We live in a time where managers are often treated like used toilet paper. The demand for instant success in football these days leaves no room for sentiment. When top European clubs vie for the signatures of the best coaches in the world, the one thing that they often forget is the state of players. One can argue that the players’ duty is to follow whatever the coach says and nothing more. But for a team with players from different backgrounds and culture, the change in tactics and ideology is not easy.
For Chennayin FC, Marco Materazzi was instrumental when they won the ISL two years ago. But the season that followed was a disaster. A lot of carelessly dropped points saw them miss out on the semifinals last year. While the team owners remained patient with the Italian for three years, last season was the end of it. And that exactly is the challenge that new coach John Gregory feels he is going to face. To make players understand what he wants.
“I hope they have a little bit of Marco’s winning mentality in them. I have got four boys in the national team here. So this week, they work with Stephen Constantine and then they come back and work with me. So it’s difficult to convey exactly what we want as both of us have different ideologies. That way, it is a little difficult for the players. Language is not a problem as many of them speak English but you have to repeat yourself once in a while,” he said.
The ISL has changed over the years. Over the first three years, teams, especially those that went all the way, were dependent on their foreign signings. That trend has not been a good sign for the Indian players. But Gregory believes that things are going to change. He wants to give Indian players a chance and make them believe they are no different. “Sometimes, repetition is key. Especially with the young boys, you need to show them over and over again to get what you want.
They are probably going to need a little more time to understand what I say. But the one thing that is going to be different is that he (Marco) could use more foreign players than we can now. We can only use five. So we are more reliant on domestic players. I think it’s a great opportunity for them to step up and I hope they will,” the former Aston Villa manager said.
But tactics and strategy apart, football has always been about that special something - a player who can do the unexpected to change the course of the game. That is what coach Gregory is hoping for. And in the new signings that Chennayin have made, he feels there is one or two who can produce that flair. “Marco had some good signings who were able to drag the Indian boys. But there is always a surprise element. Like (John) Stiven Mendoza. When he came here nobody knew about him. Now he is hot property and became an overnight sensation.”