Grayson wants Bengaluru to use Blasters fans’ hostility as motivation in Super Cup meeting

After the crushing ISL final loss, Bengaluru FC coach Simon Grayson looks ahead to the Super Cup, which could help earn the club a continental berth.

Published : Apr 07, 2023 21:53 IST - 5 MINS READ

Bengaluru FC head coach Simon Grayson has led the club to Durand Cup success and the final of the ISL.
Bengaluru FC head coach Simon Grayson has led the club to Durand Cup success and the final of the ISL. | Photo Credit: Shibu Preman
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Bengaluru FC head coach Simon Grayson has led the club to Durand Cup success and the final of the ISL. | Photo Credit: Shibu Preman

No amount of experience and tenacity makes it easy to digest a final loss, and Bengaluru FC (BFC) head coach Simon Grayson is no exception. But the season is not over, and there is still some battling left to do. While the Indian Super League (ISL) final defeat against ATK Mohun Bagan put a big dent in Bengaluru’s morale, Grayson believes that winning the Super Cup will ameliorate his team’s overall season. 

“The message has always been not to fly too high when results are going our way as it did in the Durand Cup. Similarly, I’ve told the boys not to feel too despondent about the final loss. All of us have had a well-deserved break. Now, we get back to work,” Grayson told Sportstar.

His mantra ahead of the Super Cup? - “Working hard and, even more important, having a positive attitude.”

Turning hostility into positive energy

In the Super Cup, Bengaluru has been pooled in Group A, along with Kerala Blasters (KBFC), I-League champion RoundGlass Punjab and Sreenidi Deccan. 

In Sreenidi, the Blues will come up against a dogged team whose indefatigable attitude was a crucial reason behind the club finishing I-League runner-up. In RoundGlass, they will have to cope with the club’s hunger to prove itself in front of the big boys after having achieved ISL promotion.

However, the match predicted to grab the headlines is Bengaluru’s clash against Kerala Blasters on April 16, in front of what is surely going to be a belligerent crowd at the EMS Corporation Stadium in Kozhikode. If both the club’s history wasn’t enough to make this a fiery contest, recent events will add a dash of piquancy to the match.

The context? In the ISL playoffs, with the match locked at 0-0, Bengaluru got a free-kick. Chhetri, who got the go-ahead from referee Crystal John, took the set-piece quickly to find the net. This enraged the Blasters team, who claimed they were not ready and hadn’t heard the whistle. As per head coach Ivan Vukomanovic’s instructions, the players left the field and abandoned the match. Bengaluru won the tie, and Kerala was out. 

Ivan Vukomanovic and Simon Grayson during the controversial ISL playoff tie at the Kanteerava.

Ivan Vukomanovic and Simon Grayson during the controversial ISL playoff tie at the Kanteerava. | Photo Credit: Vipin Pawar/Focus Sports/ ISL

But Grayson refused to chew over past events. “It is not about what happened but what will happen. Of course, we know that the home fans are going to be fanatical, but we have to cope with that. But I have told my players to turn the hostility into extra motivation. We would rather play in a packed stadium, where most want us to lose than contest a match without any fans. Regardless of who we play, we have some tough games coming up,” said the Englishman.

Also, the Super Cup winner will play Gokulam Kerala in a playoff match for a berth in the AFC Cup south zone group. Grayson says it was something that was decided in the coaches meeting at the start of the season, and this extra incentive will fuel every team to travel that extra mile because of the bigger picture at the end of it. 

If you’re good enough, you’re old enough

Under Grayson’s tutelage, youngsters like Sivasakthi Narayanan, Suresh Wangjam, Naorem Roshan Singh and Rohit Kumar have enjoyed a meteoric rise. Dishing out excellent and mature performances throughout the season, Grayson lauded his young players, but the buck does not stop here. 

In his Super Cup squad, he has named youngsters like Robin Yadav, Lalremtluanga Fanai and Shreyas Ketkar from the Karnataka team that won the 76th Santosh Trophy. Along with them, there are promising young players like Biswa Darjee, Wungngayam Muirang and Damaitphang Lyngdoh, who will be eager to make a mark.  

“If you’re good enough technically and can listen to instructions, you will be in my team. I can guarantee the youngsters will get playing time in the Super Cup. Whether they start or not, we need to see. You gain experience by playing time and getting big-match experiences. We have a balanced squad where seasoned players like Sunil [Chhetri], Sandesh [Jhingan] and Gurpreet [Singh Sandhu] will help ease the process of integration of the youngsters.”

Moving beyond tactics

Grayson has not been shy to tinker with his team’s structure as and when required. From the 3-5-2 that brought him Durand Cup success, he has tried the classic 4-4-2 and 4-3-3 as well. While Grayson admits that maintaining a structure is important, he says it is not absolute.

“You fall in love with football by starting to play the game and not reading tactics. I have told my players to express themselves -- to go for that dribble or shot in the final third or to try something new. That being said, if I see my defenders trying to nutmeg opposition players in and around our penalty area, they will see a very different side of their manager,” Grayson chuckled.

Ahead of the Super Cup, Grayson will instruct his team to follow the same motto.

Moving beyond the ISL final loss will not be easy, and Grayson knows that there is a chance that the past will haunt the players when they take the field.

“My players saw ATK Mohun Bagan players celebrate after the ISL final win. I told them if they work hard, there is a chance they will be in that position if they win the Super Cup. We have inspiring characters in the dressing room who will do their part in motivating and guiding the players.” 

Bengaluru opens its campaign against Sreenidi on Saturday.

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