KOCHI: Ashique Kuruniyan had his dream cut short after suffering a hamstring tear which prematurely ended his stint with Villareal CF in Spain. However, the Spanish sojourn has been helping the 20-year-old forward tremendously in the new ISL season as he tries to make his own mark in the league with FC Pune City.
The youngster from Malappuram has come on as a substitute twice this season -- first as an 83rd-minute substitute in a 1-0 win over Jamshedpur FC for his ISL debut and then against Bengaluru FC in a 3-1 defeat last Thursday, this time taking the pitch around the hour mark with his side one man down.
"At first I had found it hard to adjust in Spain making a huge step up from the academy level. They demanded quick movement on and off the ball as well as one or two touch passing. This is exactly what the Pune coach wants from the team this season. So, it is easier for me to adapt to his style," said Ashique,
Ashique has recovered impressively from a knock he picked up a week before the start of the season by forcing himself into the schemes of head coach Ranko Popovic in a squad that has an abundance of attacking talent -- Emiliano Alfaro, Marcelinho and Baljit Sahni to name a few.
"It was a setback to sit out the start of the season. But I have been working hard and the two consecutive substitute appearances, I hope, will be the start of better things to come," said the striker who honed his skills at MSP HSS, Malappuram before making his switch to Pune with Pune FC Academy.
"It is always challenging with quality players like we have. But I will have to work even harder and at the same time learn from them and know what the coach wants from me," said Ashique. "The senior players in the side are of great help. They keep me motivated and we work towards our objective," the junior India international said.
After the conclusion of six matches, Pune are fourth in standings winning three and are aiming for a maiden berth in the knockout stages of the domestic competition. "It has been a decent start so far, though there has been a blip against Bengaluru. But we will definitely bounce back from the setback," said Ashique.
"The team spirit among the players is great and everyone contributes their bit for a great collective performance. Our goal is obviously to become the champions. But to do that, we need to reach the finish in the top four and qualify for the semifinals. We need to take one game at a time," Ashique added.