These are still early days in the Hero Indian Super League but something just doesn’t seem right with Kerala Blasters. Three matches into the season and Kerala are yet to not just log their first win but also score.
Successive losses against NorthEast United FC and Atletico de Kolkata was followed by a goalless draw at home against Delhi Dynamos that gave them their first point. The fans, clearly, are not happy with the performance and manager Steve Coppell will have to come up with something special to reverse the trend of English coaches failing to fire in the Hero ISL.
“I am puzzled why English coaches are not successful here. But I am determined to reverse that trend. When I was appointed as manager, I spent a couple of sleepless nights, thinking very very seriously about it,” said Coppell, who brings a wealth of coaching experience.
"The support for Kerala Blasters here in Kochi is just magnificent. All our players appreciate this and we want to repay the fans for their faith," he added.
Last year, former England Under-21 and Leicester City boss Peter Taylor became the first ISL coach to leave the club (Kerala Blasters) mid-way into the season. He was replaced by former Chelsea and Manchester City full-back Terry Phelan but the team could only finish at the bottom of the group.
Even at FC Pune City, former Manchester City coach David Platt failed to see his club through the knock-out stages last year. FC Pune City were among the pace-setters in the ISL but failed to qualify for the semi-finals after a disastrous run in the second phase.
In the inaugural edition, Kerala Blasters had another English manager, goalkeeper David James. Although he guided Kerala Blasters to the final in his role as marquee player-manager, he has been an exception rather than the rule for English coaches.
Coppell has watched the last two editions of the ISL with keen interest and is now determined to turn the corner, given his wealth of experience. However, he sees the challenge of an 11-week league to a 10-month long competition in England.
“It’s difficult because English coaches are more used to working in a 10-month building process and this is very much instant. I hope to quickly learn the strengths and weakness of the squad, to try and get the best out of this squad. The early signs are that the Indian and international players are mixing well for the season ahead,” said Coppell.
The former Manchester United winger has vast managerial experience having been boss of clubs including Manchester City, Brentford, Bristol City and Brighton. For the first time, he has taken up a job of coaching a club outside of England and is getting the feel of the tough ISL grind.
“I have been involved in English football all my life as player and coach. It is a 10-month grind, literally, through all weathers and all kinds of situations. It’s a mental and physical test for close to a year. ISL is totally different from anything I have been involved before.
“I was fascinated for the first couple of years, looking at the ISL from afar and I am still fascinated. I am intrigued whether what I can bring to the equation, will be successful. I certainly hope I can,” said the Kerala Blasters manager.