Avram Grant and David James go back a long way. Back in 2010, when the England goalkeeper, James, captained Portsmouth FC, the side was coached by Grant.
Portsmouth made it to the final of the FA Cup against all odds, where it lost 0-1 to Chelsea, which also won the English Premier League that season.
All those memories will keep flowing in when James — now the coach of Kerala Blasters — takes the field against his old coach Grant, who is the coach of the rival side — NorthEast United FC.
But pleasantries will be exchanged only till kick-off as the visitor will look for nothing less than full points against NorthEast United FC at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati, on Saturday.
Kerala Blasters has a chance of qualifying for the semifinals of the Indian Super League with 21 points from 15 matches. It must win all three remaining matches to have a chance of qualifying and may still not make it. And James will have to start it all by outwitting NorthEast United coach Grant.
“The coach was my player. Eight years ago we made it to the final of the (FA) Cup. We had an unbelievable achievement. He was the captain. I wish him all the best but we will try to win the game. It’s good for the future that the team will not give up and show good mentality,” said NorthEast United coach Avram Grant during the pre-match media interaction.
NorthEast United is already out of the competition but will need the three points to give its home fans something to cheer. Two of the three victories for NorthEast United have come at home.
“You all know what happened in the first half of the season. We tried to improve things that needed to improve. We came out of the situation. From being good in counter, now we dominate and create a lot of chances. Last three games are typical to what happened, control the game, miss chances and rivals score from one half-attack. The results are better than the first half but not like we expected,” said Grant.
Kerala Blasters allowed defending champion ATK to snatch points from it with a late draw in its last game which halted its run of two successive victories. Assistant coach Hermann Hreioarsson admitted that the focus has been on it ahead of this clash and it is now ready to put the best foot forward.
“We are still in it. We have to go into every game playing for a win. We are happy with our progress. In the last game, we created many chances: 18 shots and 25 crosses,” said Hreioarsson.
Kerala Blasters can reach a maximum of 30 points and will need FC Pune City (28 points), Chennaiyin FC (27 points) and Jamshedpur FC (25 points) to drop points.