Chennaiyin FC coach John Gregory on Thursday said the team had a good pre-season ahead of the fourth season of Indian Super League adding the first target will be to make the playoffs.
“The pre-season has been very good. But it is all about what happens on Sunday. We always set targets that are reachable. The first target is a position in the playoffs,” he said at a press meet here, referring to the team’s first game against FC Goa on November 19 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
“I have got a fantastic group of players. It takes a few weeks to get a good understanding of the field. We have been working hard and played a lot of matches. Results don’t mean a great deal. I learned a lot from the matches that we played in. All starts on Sunday. That is when it matters,” he added.
He said the weather in Chennai, which has received rains in the past few weeks made it difficult to train and the team spent a week in Pune, where facilities were excellent. “When we got together some six weeks ago, November 19 seemed a long way ahead of us. We had suffered a little bit because of the weather here in Chennai. We spent over a week in Pune, because of the slightly better weather and training facilities. It has been a great pre-season for us,” he said.
The Chennaiyin FC coach said the pre-season training had offered an opportunity for him to get to know the players and also tell them what the goal was. “It was an opportunity for me and the players to get accustomed to one another. Generally, it has been an enjoyable
period. I wanted them to know exactly what we are trying to achieve this season. Obviously, the real work starts from Sunday,” he said.
He also said the team had played a pre-season game against another ISL outfit FC Pune City a few days ago, which finished 2-2. “We played against Pune City a few days ago. It was a pre-season game offered to us. I was a little nervous about playing against them ahead of the tournament. At the end of the day, it was important to play. Obviously, we got the chance to use very good facilities. We finished 2-2. We certainly got a lot out of it,” Gregory said.
The former England player said he was happy with the group of players Chennaiyin had and there was a balance to it. “Domestic players always look up to the foreign players for guidance. We have a lot of young players in Chennaiyin as you know. There is a really good balance and training has been great. The camaraderie has been good,” he added.
Dwelling on the poor show in last year’s ISL, Gregory said it was a bad one but hoped for better times. “I’m following a legend (Marco Materazzi) here. He is a tough act to follow and we hope to have a good season. It was a bad year last for our club. But we set such high standards in the first and second years. It was disappointing to finish 7th,” he said.
He also said it was up to local Dhanapal Ganesh to prove his abilities and win a spot in the squad. “Ganesh is a local boy, he has to fight for a place in the team. It is up to him to earn a spot in the starting XI.”
Gregory thanked the fans for their support through thick and thin and said he hoped they would continue in the same vein. Ganesh, on his part, said he was learning from the foreign players, both on and off the pitch.
“Last year I didn’t get a chance to play. This year my aim is to play in the XI. I have worked a lot, let’s see,” he said. Meanwhile, the team on Thursday announced Apollo Tyres as its main sponsor for ISL-4.
Chennaiyin FC has partnered with EduSports, a school sports organisation, to develop football at the grassroots level in Tamil Nadu.