ISL: The Coppell way to a joyful rush

With the Kerala Blasters’ fans packing the Nehru Stadium and loudly cheering the home side, Coppell found the right words that made his boys improve with every home game.

Steve Coppell, the Kerala Blasters coach, surveys the whole scene from the back.   -  S. Mahinsha

He is a key player in Steve Coppell’s scheme of things but the Englishman pulled out Josu Currais Prieto just when things were beginning to turn ugly in the Indian Super League semifinal against Delhi Dynamos in Kochi the other day.

Coppell could sense the red flag waving in his head as the Kerala Blasters’ left-back Josu, already on a yellow card for elbowing the league’s top-scorer Marcelinho, appeared to be losing his cool frequently while handling the Dynamos star.

“No other coach would have done something like that, pulling out Josu, for he is such an important player. But Coppell did exactly that, that shows what a brilliant coach he is,” said I. M. Vijayan, in a chat with Sportstar, on Friday evening.

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“Had Josu continued, he would have probably got a red card, for he committed two or three fouls after that and we would have lost that game.”

Vijayan, one of India’s greatest footballers ever, was lavish in his praise of the Blasters’ gaffer.

“Coppell looks a very quiet coach, a man of very few words but he has a very smart brain, his instincts are superb. He should be given the best coach award this time, he is easily the best this season and probably the best-ever in the ISL,” said the former Indian captain.

“If you look at the other coaches, they would be running here and there under pressure but Coppell surveys the whole scene from the back. And he brings about the best changes, makes the right substitution, no wonder the Kochi side has been so successful this season.”

But when the former England World Cup player landed in India and got to know his starless team better, he was in for a big shock.

“I’d be the first to admit that the balance in our squad is not ideal, I had no say in the balance of the squad,” the 61-year-old had said after his team lost its home opener, against Atletico de Kolkata, for its second straight defeat. “There aren’t many options for me.”

But step by step, the former Manchester United winger was able to bring the best out of his players. And with the Blasters’ fans packing the Nehru Stadium and loudly cheering the home side, Coppell found the right words that made his boys improve with every home game.

The arrival of C. K. Vineeth, very inspired after taking I-League side Bengaluru FC to the AFC Cup final, gave the team new push and power. The goals started coming, five of them from Vineeth, and with the backline doing an impressive job, the Blasters enjoyed a joyful rush.

Soft but effective

Vineeth offered an insight into some of the things that make Coppell tick and the difference between the Blasters’ current boss and former coach, Peter Taylor, also an Englishman.

“Taylor used to show his anger if he was upset with you but Coppell is a sort of sweet character, you wouldn’t see him very angry or very upset,” said the Blasters’ top scorer. “Coppell is more direct, he would advise you how to go about things in a nice, soft way.”

Vijayan expects the ‘55,000-capacity’ Nehru Stadium here to be overflowing with Blasters’ fans in the final against Atletico de Kolkata.

“When we have around one lakh fans in our stadium, shouldn’t we show something to the guys who are coming?” he said. “We should show them something.”

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