Indian youngsters have improved, says David James

Kerala Blasters coach David James feels the FIFA U-17 World Cup had a strong influence on Indian football.

Kerala Blasters coach David James during a media interaction in Bengaluru on Thursday.   -  Special Arrangement

Kerala Blasters FC coach David James, who has been in India for the last four years, feels that the quality of football in the country has steadily improved.

“The FIFA U-17 World Cup last year in India has had a strong influence on Indian football with the quality of young players coming through. Looking at the Kerala Blasters side three or four months on, it doesn’t resemble the squad I took over last season,” said the former Liverpool and England goalkeeper.

One of the most significant signing for the Blasters this season has been India U-17 goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem. The Manipuri goalkeeper was a star at the U-17 World Cup and James was impressed with his goalkeeping skills.

Apart from Dheeraj, there is youthful exuberance in the Blasters squad, although he was in no doubt that experience too would be vital this season. 

“We have a lot of young players in our squad with our average age being around 22. (But) the older players make up not just for the lack of experience but also with the quality of communication and inculcating togetherness within the team.

“It’s a wonderful bunch we have together and we have a chance to get our hands on the trophy after missing out twice,” he said. 

Another striking change at Blasters is its recruitment policy. The side opted for big-name signings like Dimitar Berbatov and Wes Brown last season but has changed its approach this season.

“We wanted players who are excited about playing football for the club. It wasn’t about signing big players with big money but signing the right players for the right price and I think we have done that,” said James.

Kerala Blasters will face two-time champion ATK in its opening clash on September 29.