John Gregory: ‘I use Indian players to their strengths’

The club's co-owner, Vita Dani, announced Gregory will continue to manage Chennaiyin FC’s title defence in the 2018-19 season.

Chennaiyin FC's head coach John Gregory (left) and co-owner Vita Dani at the press conference in Chennai on Sunday.   -  B. JOTHI RAMALINGAM

After winning the Indian Super League (ISL) for the first time in 2015, Chennaiyin FC was denied the opportunity to parade with the trophy in front of its fans due to devastating floods in the city. This time around, the club had a chance to savour the victory with its supporters in the aftermath of the 3-2 win over Bengaluru FC in the title decider.

The title-winning side was received by loud voices at the SDAT Nehru Park here on Sunday. The owners, staff and the players thanked the 300-plus in attendance for the support. Fan-favourite Dhanapal Ganesh had to give the event a miss as he had to travel to Mumbai, along with four other Indian players, for his first-ever national camp.

Read: Chennaiyin FC expected to win Super Cup after ISL win, says Gregory

Chennaiyin's coach John Gregory, who won a first league trophy of his managerial career, later admitted that the experience of the last two days was overwhelming. “It's quite incredible. It has not sunk in yet on what we achieved last night (the final). If I sit down and watch the recording of the game, probably it will all make sense. When you see the reaction and the happiness the victory has brought to our fans, that is when it will really sink in,” said the Englishman.

The club's co-owner, Vita Dani, announced Gregory will continue to manage Chennaiyin's title defence in the 2018-19 season.

Frustrating challenges

Gregory, who has plied his trade in the English Premier League, acknowledged there were some huge challenges in front of him. “From a professional point of view, there's a lot of red tape that we have to adhere. In Europe, you can do warm-ups any time you want to. It is not so here. They give you a time much before. For me, it was a bit unusual. Obviously, some of that is frustrating but you have to get used to it. The travelling is also different and a bit long,” said the 63-year-old.

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Gregory credited his support staff in helping him navigate through the challenges. “I had good people in the club, though, and they helped me. Amoy Ghoshal (chief technical officer), I always use him as an aid and help in decision-making. He gives me information that I do not know. Without his input, I would have struggled in the season with a lot of things,” the coach pointed out.

The turning point

Chennaiyin had a shocking start to the campaign when it fell three goals behind in the first 45 minutes at home against FC Goa in November, a game which it went on to lose 3-2.

Players and members of Chennaiyin FC pose with the trophy at Nehru park ground in Chennai.   -  B. JOTHI RAMALINGAM

 

“It was at the half-time at the FC Goa game, Vita was arranging my air ticket to go back (laughs). But we came back and then we beat NorthEast 3-0 and suddenly things started to pick up. Once we got into the top four, that's a playoff position and we started to believe that the season could be a good one,” said Gregory.

ALSO READ: 'I was delighted to hear the final whistle,' remarks Chennaiyin FC coach John Gregory

He added, "We went to Pune in the third match and we shackled Marcelinho and (Emiliano) Alfaro. We kept a clean sheet and it basically showed I had a solid defence in Mailson (Alves), (Inigo) Calderon and a young Jerry (Lalrinzuala). Suddenly, you think you are not bad."

The Indian core

Dhanapal, Jeje Lalpekhlua, Karanjit Singh, Anirudh Thapa and Lalrinzuala were among the Indian players who produced stellar showings in Chennaiyin's success.

On the domestic core, he said, "I try to use Indian players to their strengths and not their weakness. We have one or two Indian players who do not pass the ball as well as the foreign players. But their energy and enthusiasm is an asset. They might give away the ball as well, but you can use it as an asset.

"Sometimes, Indian players miss a pass, it is accepted. But, we've tried to improve that attitude and we've used video analysis with our players and show them what they have been doing wrong and right. I have to say that the standards since we've come in have improved in all our Indian players to varying levels."

Chennaiyin will next take on Aizawl FC in the Round-of-16 stage of the inaugural Super Cup on March 31 in Bhubaneswar.

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