CHENNAI: It has been nearly five months since his side trumped Bengaluru FC to win the Indian Super League, but Chennaiyin FC coach John Gregory has a startling admission to make.
“I have never actually sat and watched the game again,” he says. “It might be a little bit too much for me, I think. Even now, it’s not really sunk in, what we actually did on the day.”
He might as well not watch it now for there are more important things at hand. A new season starts at the end of September with the Blues leaving for pre-season on Sunday night.
Gregory has almost finalised his team but there are still two foreign player slots to fill. While defending their ISL crown remains first on the list, the Englishman will have one eye on what comes after — Chennaiyin will make their AFC Cup debut in the latter third of the season. So far, Chennaiyin’s strategy has been to not tinker too much with what works.
They will once again have an Asian pre-season with the team choosing Malaysia as a base this time after spending last year in Thailand.
“We feel the humidity and weather conditions are very similar to India,” Gregory says.
“There will be a couple of players coming over who have never played in this part of the world. Playing in India is a whole new experience. I remember Kerala, I just stood on the side and watched. And my shirt was absolutely covered in sweat. We could go to Europe but it’s not the same air quality as you are going to get in India. So we felt that Malaysia was a good substitute. And we don’t want to a 19 or 12-hour flight to the other side of the world.”
Four of their five foreigners have been retained from last year with Andrea Orlandi the lone exception.
Gregory also revealed that one of the four players they are considering for the remaining two slots is another who wore blue last year.
“To a certain degree that (not changing something that works) is the case,” he says.
“Out of the seven we are allowed, we have already got five. So we need to come up with the next two. We are talking to 4-5 players and hope to do it in the next 10 days.”
Gregory also lent some fascinating insight into what Chennaiyin look for in a player.
“We are trying to bring in the right kind of person, which to us is almost as important,” he says.
“Because we have to live together and this year, we have to live together for the better part of 10 months. In that respect, we do a bit of research into their background, as people, as characters. We had an amazing group last year.
The foreign players had a fantastic association with the domestic players. That to us is very important. ” It might be early days but everything has gone according to Gregory’s plans. Except for one thing.
“It’ll be nice to know our fixtures. The PL fixtures come out three months before the league but we still don’t know what our fixtures are. So we are unable to plan. We don’t even know where we are going to go or what we are going to be doing.”