Describing ATK as the Manchester United of Indian Super League, Chennaiyin FC coach John Gregory today said they are fired up to give their best against the two-time champions here tomorrow.
ATK are the most successful ISL franchise and are the defending champions but their campaign has gone horribly wrong this time, slumping to eighth in the 10-team table and have sacked Teddy Sherringham on the eve of their match.
But the Chennaiyin boss heaped praise on ATK: “We regard ATK as the Manchester United of India. You have been champions twice, it’s a huge/massive club. It’s massive to play against them.
“Even though we are champions once, we look up to you guys as a big big team. Every single player of my 25 wants to play tomorrow because it’s ATK. They are all fired up. You get fired up when you play ATK.”
“The first thing we did after getting the schedule was to see when we play against ATK, much the same when we do in England — to check the matches against Manchester United… Regardless of your position,” he hailed.
In desperate measures ATK sacked their high profile coach Sheringham, a Manchester United great elevating technical director Ashley Westwood as the interim coach.
Showing empathy to the embattled ATK, the Englishman said ATK suffered from injury woes.
“Robbie Keane has really shown in India what a quality player he is with his ability and his talent. I think he helped to get the players around him as well. He a very inspirational footballer. I do believe that he could be coming back relatively soon.
“They’ve lost some very very good footballers. For one reason or another, it hasn’t worked as well as they wanted it. Obviously, Teddy wanted it to work this season. He’s lost a lot of players to injuries and not been able to pick his best team.”
Delving on how to deal with injury issues, Gregory lavished praise on their head of sports science Niall Clark for ensuring that everyone of the 25 member squad is available.
“We’ve got a fantastic medical department, headed by Clark who keeps everybody fit. Literally, we have 25 people to choose from and left three behind because they weren’t going to be a part of the match tomorrow.
“I’ve even had a massive problem — of choosing players for the bench. It’s a testament to the way we look after our players with games coming thick and fast.”