An era ended for Chennaiyin FC with the departure of club captain Anirudh Thapa to Mohun Bagan Super Giant, but it ushered in a new one with the re-appointment of Owen Coyle - the man who led the club to the second Indian Super League (ISL) final in the 2019-20 season.
Coyle’s stint has enjoyed a prosperous intro as Chennaiyin finds itself in the Durand Cup 2023 quarterfinals, having won all three group matches. And, the Scotsman has a loyal soldier in his ranks, playing a crucial role in the frontline.
Jordan Murray, under Coyle’s tutelage, in Jamshedpur FC mostly operated from the bench in the 2021-22 season. Despite being used mostly as a substitute, Murray scored four goals as the Men of Steel became the League Shield winners that season.
This time, Murray will look to shine in yellow and will have another Scotsman as his attacking partner in Connor Shields. With a goal and an assist in the Durand Cup group stages, Murray wants to do much more than score goals as his team gears up to face FC Goa in the quarters.
“My game is not just about scoring goals. I have always been a team player and someone who can sacrifice myself for the betterment of the other players...to do the dirty work when the boys are tired and motivate them to get them back in line. It is very much a team sport. If I wanted it [to be about] just me, I’d play tennis or golf,” Murray told Sportstar ahead of the FC Goa clash.
After leaving Jamshedpur FC, Murray spent a season with Thai club Nakhon Ratchasima F.C. When Chennaiyin came calling, the challenge to propel the club to the summit was appealing to the Australian, but so was reuniting with his former manager, with whom he shares a “very close relationship.”
“If I take the football side out of it, he [Coyle] is a very kind and really humble man. He is very easy to talk to and wants the best for you as well. Putting the football part into it, he’s had an incredible career, and again, that speaks for itself.”
“On the other hand, Chennaiyin is a club with a rich history. It should be in a better place than where it has been for the last few seasons. The good thing is that there is progress to be made. I want to be a part of that progression and also give back to the fans who have also been eagerly waiting for success.”
Murray’s feels his previous experience of playing under Coyle will be an added advantage because he knows what the gaffer expects of him.
Coyle is someone who believes in extending relationships off the pitch, as well and wants his team to be tightly-knit. For Murray, now, the onus is on the players - both the foreigners and the Indians to implement Coyle’s vision over the course of a long season, characterised by ebb and flow.
The immediate target
The ISL is a distant target at the moment. Up ahead for Murray and the Chennaiyin outfit, is a challenging quarterfinal against FC Goa. Having been a part of the Indian setup, Murray knows that on its day, FC Goa can overcome the toughest of challenges and frustrate opponents with its dogged style of football.
Like Chennaiyin, FC Goa has also ushered in a new era with the appointment of Manolo Marquez. It has added some serious firepower to its ranks. With danger-man Noah Sadaoui already there, the Gaurs have new additions to its foreign contingent like Carlos Martinez, Victor Rodriguez, Paulo Retre, and Odei Onaindia.
Among Indians, Goa boasts of players like Rowllin Borges, Udanta Singh, Sandesh Jhingan, Boris Singh and Raynier Fernandes.
Murray, who has been watching most of the matches of the Durand Cup, said his team is undoubtedly facing a very good side - “They have some top-quality players. Paulo Retre has played in Australia, and I know him - a great player honestly. We will look to nullify them [Goa] on Saturday.”
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