ISL 2017: Robbie Keane will not play Chennaiyin FC game, confirms coach Teddy Sheringham
It has not been the best of starts for the defending ISL champions. All of the changes in the off-season, from name to associations to the players and even the new coach has led to a rather unimpressive start thus far in season four.
Teddy Sheringham is the new man in charge at the Kolkata club and in three games thus far, he has seen his side score only once, drawing two games away and losing their sole home encounter.
ATK haven't looked a threat going forward so far this season. Some of it has been down to injuries to key players such as Carl Baker and their marquee signing Robbie Keane, the former Tottenham Hotspur striker and Republic of Ireland captain. And Sheringham categorically said that Keane "will not be involved" in the game once again.
Despite the struggles, the embattled Sheringham is choosing to remain positive about his side's chances in their next game, against Chennaiyin FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai on Thursday.
"This has not been the best starts. We're propping up the division which is not good as the reigning champions," Sheringham said stoically ahead of his team's next game.
He continued, "There have been a few setbacks along the way, there have been some changes, but I believe we are not far away. We are trying to do something new. I know that we need to do better and remain positive."
When asked if there was pressure on him even at such an early stage, the Englishman said: "There's always pressure on everybody. Nobody wants to be bottom of the table even though it's early days. At the end of the day, we've had two very good away draws which I think is very positive and I know that we got undone by a couple of mistakes at home. So, from a positive side it's not been too bad. I'm very happy with my squad and very happy with how things are transforming. We're learning as a team."
As a former ace marksman himself, Sheringham hasn't been happy with his side's inability to score, evidenced by his reply to what he felt his side needed most - "Goals; we've only scored one goal and it came from a free-kick. We need to be converting our possession and chances into goals."
To add to their injury worries, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, who they spent big on in the draft went off with a knee injury in ATK's previous game against Jamshedpur FC. There has been murmur that the injury is bad enough to put him out for the rest of the season, but Sheringham refused to divulge any concrete information.
"He's got a bad knee. I'm not sure of the diagnosis at the moment. We'll be hoping for some good news once the specialists have had a look at it. We'll take a second opinion too to know what exactly the situation is," he said.
The ATK coach did say though that despite the draws, he felt his side got the better of their opponents in their two games away using a boxing reference.
"If this was boxing, we would have won both games on points," the former Manchester United striker remarked. "Might be a bit harsh, but that's my take."
Their next game though does represent a heavyweight clash as they gear up to take on an in-form Chennaiyin side who have won two games on the bounce and who will be playing at home.
Since he'd mentioned earlier that he saw the two points away from home in the earlier games as a positive, Sheringham was asked if he'd take a point tomorrow to which he provided this rather murky response:
"I think whenever you play away from home it's a tough ask. Crowds do have a say in the matter as well. Playing at home is easier than playing away. So if we could look at all our away games and say let's get a point from each one, I'd think we'd be delighted. But you're going to have to win your home games if you want to do that. So there will be times when if you lose a game at home like we did, you have to win your away games. So that's going to be a challenge for all of us," said Sheringham.
After the goalless draw against Jamshedpur FC last time around, Sheringham was very critical of the playing surface there. He reiterated the same while also having a go at the officiating for not being stern enough on a few tackles.
"From an overall perspective, there have been some horrendous challenges in all the games, not just the games against us. It's not an excuse for not getting good results. I think there's been some horrendous challenges that have gone unpunished. I'm very, very surprised there haven't been more injuries because of some of those challenges. They're going unpunished And if they keep going unpunished, you are going to get more injuries, simple as that," a clearly irate Sheringham said.
ATK and Sheringham will be hoping for a more favourable bounce of the ball against Chennaiyin, as they look to get their campaign back on track.