Meulensteen braces up for ‘unique’ journey with Kerala Blasters

The coach said his team was in “pretty decent nick” ahead of the upcoming Indian Super League season.

Rene Meulensteen... “It was important for us the build the base and I think we are in good situation now.”   -  Getty Images

Gaffer Rene Meulensteen has been part of a very successful football team - Manchester United. However, even with more than two decades of expertise in coaching, the 53-year-old feels training an Indian Super League (ISL) team is a unique challenge.

The Kerala Blasters coach used the word “unique” quite a few times during his interaction with the media here on Wednesday.

“It is an interesting journey. You bring in 25 players from all over the world and you have to bring them together and it is unique as no manager has the same situation. When you go into a club there is an established hierarchy. The players have been there for so many years. But this is new and unique as we only [have] C. K. Vineeth, Sandesh Jinghan and Prasanth who [have] been here before. The rest [are] new and it all comes down to your quality of coaching, your style of management; how quickly you can make that group respect each other, gel with each other and more importantly make fun of each other. In that respect the trip to Spain was very important,” he said.

His team started its pre-season training slowly, and was in “pretty decent nick,” according to Meulensteen.

Read - ISL: Kerala Blasters bringing in the big guns!

“If you look around you see other clubs struggling with injuries. But we started our preparation really slowly. The team is in pretty decent nick but nowhere near the best. It will take us three to four weeks to hit the peak fitness. But it was important for us the build the base and I think we are in good situation now,” he said.

Read: Lights go out for 'hyped up' Blasters before ISL opener

The ISL draft put every team on a level-playing field, and by the time Blasters got opportunity to bid, 13 players had been taken away by rival clubs. But Rene said he had done his homework pretty well to chose the players he wanted and was happy with the team he got in the end.

‘Pretty happy’

“I had my contacts and I gave them certain parameters to choose players. By the time the ISL draft started I pretty much had an idea of players I needed. At the draft it was about anticipating what other teams would do. In the end I am pretty happy with the team I got and it is a good blend of youth and experience,” he said.

Meulensteen said he would prefer to adopt an attacking style of play but what mattered more was keeping a clean sheet.

“I feel playing in front of 70,000 people you have to give them something to shout about. It will go with a bit of risk. Every attacking team builds with a little bit of risk. But we have to be solid and create chances and score goals. But most important thing is clean sheets. Clean sheets win you tournaments while goals win you matches,” he said.

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