Seven months after it was completely bought by new management and was rechristened RoundGlass Punjab FC, the Mohali-based club is ready for its maiden season under the new management in the I-league starting January next year. The club, which had roped in former Irish footballer 51-year-old Curtis Fleming, has signed up a total of 26 players for its first team with experienced campaigners like Spaniard Joseba Beitia, Bhutanese Chencho Gyeltshen, Bikramjeet Singh and youngster Bikash Yumnam set to don the club colours this season. The team has been training under Fleming and technical director Nikolaos Topoliatis at Kolkata since last month and Fleming believes that adapting to the situation will be the key for the players and team management in the current scenario, where competitions have been hampered due to Covid-19.
“I think it has been a difficult phase for everybody in the football world and it’s something for which we have to adapt. The biggest thing for us when we finalised this squad was having some sessions with the players during the last seven-eight months and we spent time on having virtual yoga and sports psychology sessions with every player. It’s really appreciative of the AIFF to start the season in January next year after all these months. Yes, we would face some difficulty in terms of peak fitness level of players but that’s why we have come early to Kolkata to prepare. All of us believe that we are lucky to get the chance to play again and I think the situation has been the same for all the teams. So we have to adapt and aim to win,” said Fleming, while speaking to The Indian Express from Kolkata.
The club, which was earlier known as Minerva Punjab FC before being fully taken over by the new management this year, had won the I-League title in 2018 and coach Fleming also believes that there will no extra pressure on the team with this season being their maiden season under the new management and identity. “For me, pressure is all about what you put yourself upon. When we come in any sport, there is going to be some pressure, be it as a player or as a coach. Talking of extra pressure of playing in maiden season as a club with new management, I believe there will be excitement about achieving things and having a start to build on something. Yes, it’s going to be tough against established clubs but what we can do is to plan and to be ready for the long-term goals,” Fleming added.
The 51-year-old former Irish footballer, who also plied his trade as a defender for English Premier League side Middlesbrough FC and had more than 300 appearances for the club, had earlier worked with Crystal Palace as interim manager in 2012. Fleming followed that stint with a role of assistant manager for Hartepool United and Queens Park Rangers before a coaching stint with Middlesbrough FC in 2018 before Roundglass Punjab FC.
“The opportunity to work with RoundGlass Punjab FC came when a friend of mine talked with me about the chance to coach this club and I met team owner Sunny Dhaliwal last year. I had options to coach in UK but I knew that this is the place for me. For me, the biggest thing in Indian football is the fact that it’s going in only one direction and it is going towards the roof. Talking of Indian players, I believe some of the Indian players have the same technical skills like players of clubs like Crystal Palace or Hartepool United or any other England club. What the Indian players really need is a little bit of finetuning and professional help from coaches and other staff,” Fleming said.
The club has got some experienced campaigners in the form of Beitia, Gyeltshen and Souvik Das. Fleming believes that the team has got the right balance of youth and experience. While the club has roped in Bhutanese striker Chencho Gyeltshen, who also played a vital role in then Minerva Punjab FC’s I-league title triumph in 2018, it also sees the presence of Spaniard Joseba Beitia, who was vital in Mohun Bagan’s I-league title triumph last season.
“For us, it’s about the character of the player and I believe all the players, be it young or senior, have shown the character. We have given them the chance to achieve their dreams and it is up to them how far they want to go. Regarding senior players, I am happy with the balance and the senior guys know their role and it benefits everybody in the team,” Fleming said.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines