A handful of journalists had turned up for the pre-match press conference for the Chennaiyin FC versus Bengaluru FC match, what was supposed to be the marquee fixture in the Indian Super League calendar.
The PC turned out to be a sombre, dreary affair – considering the respective league table positions – due to outside circumstances.
Chennaiyin manager John Gregory, as always, was on time for his brief and said he would like to get one over Bengaluru to reward their faithful supporters, who had stuck by them during a torrid season.
But his counterpart, Carles Cuadrat, who was supposed to follow him after 15 minutes, was nowhere to be seen. One hour turned into two, two turned into three, with no sign of the Spaniard or his entourage.
Cuadrat's flight from Bengaluru was delayed by an hour, and his cab ride from the airport to the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai may have seemed like just another day on the roads of Bengaluru, getting stuck in traffic due to a political rally in Saidapet.
The journalists present there, habitually, caught up with each other on their latest assignments, but with each passing hour, their patience was wearing thin. Edgy journalists stepped out in the meantime to catch some air (read: cigarettes), while some chose to give Cuadrat’s brief a miss. A member of Bengaluru’s media team was constantly asked the ETA for his boss.
After nearly three hours past the scheduled time, the ever-charming Cuadrat walked in to the room and issued an apology and thanked the four scribes who remained for waiting.
Apology accepted, Mr. Cuadrat, but please make your next travel itinerary to Chennai with our deadlines in mind, too.
‘ John Abraham, my champagne?’
Defending champion Chennaiyin FC ended Jamshedpur FC’s playoff hopes with a goalless draw that left the former at the bottom of the table and enabled NorthEast United to grab the fourth and final playoff spot.
Talking to reporters after the game, Chennaiyin gaffer John Gregory said he was hoping to receive a gift from NorhtEast United owner and Bollywood star John Abraham.
“We never wanted to deny a team an opportunity to get into the playoffs. But I’m expecting a case of champagne from John Abraham in a week with a thank you note. The four teams who have qualified deserve to get there. It is an 18-game season and you don’t get there with luck. NorthEast can now really relax,” said the Englishman.
From the high of winning last season to finishing at rock bottom this season, Gregory, when asked what he would have done differently, the former Aston Villa boss simply quipped: “Everything.”
“It’s been horrendous for me, having to suffer some of the defeats we have suffered despite playing particularly well in a lot of the games. The opposition would score with one shot and we would not capitalise on our chances. It’s been hard for me throughout the whole season trying to keep everybody motivated,” he said.
He also added that he took complete responsibility for the team’s dismal campaign. “We have ended up with Thoi Singh being our top-scorer, but you normally expect your forwards to be the goalscorer. Jeje (Lalpekhlua) had a tough time and I think he has not had a break after playing a lot. I take full responsibility for the result,” said Gregory.
It looks like the Chennaiyin manager could do with that case of champagne.
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