Ashique Kuruniyan to stay on if Pune City remains in ISL

“If there is a team from Pune next season and Pune City FC is fielding a team, I am playing. (A) decision about my future will be taken when the season ends, not now,” said the 21-year-old winger.

Ashique Kuruniyan recently making three appearances in the AFC Asian Cup.   -  AP

India winger Ashique Kuruniyan is one among the young Indian footballers whose form in the Indian Super League, playing for FC Pune City, led to a spot in the national senior squad, most recently making three appearances in the AFC Asian Cup in the UAE.

But Pune City, a semifinalist last season, has not placed above sixth in earlier seasons and is set to do so again, even as the 21-year-old winger sits out the last game of the season – against Mumbai City FC at the Balewadi Stadium – with a yellow-card suspension.

But Kuruniyan said he’ll remain with Pune City for now, when asked if he would take up offers from other ISL franchises in view of his recent India performances. “If there is a team from Pune next season and Pune City FC is fielding a team, I am playing. (A) decision about my future will be taken when the season ends, not now,” he said.

He was referring to unconfirmed reports on the franchise being asked to move to another city and a probable ownership change.

Kuruniyan and his teammates underperformed this year first under Miguel Angel Portugal and then under Pradyum Reddy, winning just one and drawing two of its first nine games, before Phil Brown took over.

“We started off well in season four, won many matches, and around three games before the league stage got over, the players knew that a place in the semifinal was confirmed. In this season, we took time to settle down as the coach (Portugal) was new. Pune's performances in the last four games proved that we settled down (under Brown),” said Kuruniyan.

The ISL team from his own state, Kerala Blasters FC, also did not play to potential this season, resulting in fans staying away till their demand for a change of coach and victories was met.

“Kerala Blasters has quality players; expecting success every time is not realistic. Chennayin FC won the ISL title last season (but) this time the situation has changed,” the Malapurram-born forward said.

“This season’s results have been disappointing due to many factors, (but) it does not mean the end of the road. They (Blasters) will come back, delight the fans like before. I am one of many Blasters fans waiting for this to happen.”

Kuruniyan earned a regular first-team spot in the national squad under coach Stephen Constantine, and the winger parried questions on Constantine’s replacement affecting the team. “Form depends on match-day mood and pre-match preparation. It also depends on which team India will face. Constantine prepared us well. As we wait for the new coach to be named, I can say that all of us are looking for an opportunity to play and are ready to do our best.”

The qualifiers for the Asian under-23 Championship will be held at the end of March, and Kuruniyan is among the probables under newly appointed coach Derrick Pereira.