ATK is the Manchester United of ISL: Chennai coach Gregory

Gregory also made light of ATK’s sacking of coach Teddy Sheringham after 10 games in charge, saying these things happen in football.

John Gregory also made light of ATK’s sacking of coach Teddy Sheringham after 10 games in charge, saying these things happen in football. (File Photo)   -  M VEDHAN

Terming under—fire Atletico de Kolkata (ATK) as the Manchester United of the Indian Super League (ISL), Chennaiyin FC coach John Gregory said that his boys are charged up to take on the defending champions at the colossal Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan here on Thursday.

“We regard ATK as the Manchester United of India. It is a huge, massive club. Even though we have been champions once, we look up to them. All my players are fired up as they want to play against ATK at this beautiful stadium. At the start of the season, the first thing I did was check when do we play ATK, Much the same as everyone in England; when do we play Man United looking over the fixtures list, not so much Arsenal,” Gregory told reporters on Monday.

Chennai is second in the points table while ATK is struggling at eighth place.

Gregory also made light of ATK’s sacking of coach Teddy Sheringham after 10 games in charge, saying these things happen in football.

“These things happen. New guy comes in and gives everyone some confidence and suddenly things change. You saw what happened at NorthEast United. My good friend Avram Grant came in and they got a victory over FC Goa. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I have to make sure that it doesn’t,” the English coach said.

The ISL has witnessed several coaches being fired this season. Before ATK, NorthEast showed Portuguese coach Joao de Deus the door following Kerala Blasters FC’s sacking of Rene Meulensteen.

Former Chelsea manager Avram Grant has taken over for NorthEast. Despite ATK’s poor showing, Gregory did not want to write them off, praising their star player Robbie Keane, who is out injured.

“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. So he might come back and still play a part in ATK’s season,” he said.

“But we are obviously concerned about ATK. 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,” he added.

Gregory also praised his medical team for keeping the team in shape.

“We’ve got a fantastic medical department. My head of sports science Niall Clark 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 problems choosing players for the bench. It’s a testament to the way we look after our players. With games coming thick and fast,” he said.

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