ISL 2018-19: We are happy with it at the moment - David James on Kerala Blasters' recruitment policy
Kerala Blasters succumbed to a 1-0 defeat against FC Pune City at the Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Friday to pile further misery on their catastrophic start to the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) season. David James' men are now witnessing the club's worst ever start to a season after having failed to register a win since their inaugural day triumph against ATK in Kolkata.
The defeat to Pune City now means that the Kochi-based franchise are without a win in their last 10 games in the competition and are currently languishing towards the bottom of the league table at this point in time. Despite their worrying start to the season, James has insisted that there is no pressure on him to ring in too many changes during the transfer window.
The former Liverpool custodian admitted that the recruitment strategy is based on a long-term policy and that the club knew that it would not attribute to instant success in the first place. James also stressed the fact that the players that have been brought in so far this year have more room for development since they are not quite the finished article yet.
“Recruitment policy is not a problem to us”, James told Sportskeeda after the defeat to FC Pune City on Friday.
“We have had discussions with the owners about how we plan to do things and this was not about spending the most money to go and win the ISL.
“This was about spending wisely, developing players, including foreign players as well. We liked what we saw in them, that is why we brought them in and with a view to developing them as well alongside the Indian and local players.
“If something happens [during the transfer window], then it’s not going to be forced because that will be going against our original strategy", James insisted.
Kerala Blasters have been let down by the impact of their foreign signings so far this season with players struggling for consistency and fitting into the system in place at the football club. However, James admitted that it can be a little difficult for them to adapt to conditions in India and backed his squad by stressing yet again on the fact that the he is under no pressure to make a lot of changes during the transfer window.
“The adaptation of players to India, and I think this is not just a Kerala Blasters thing, I think it is common for every club that you bring players in from abroad and one way or another, the environment can be tougher than they would expect", he continued.
“I did warn them, I do warn players when I talk to them, especially after having played in these conditions.
“I think we would be going against our strategy if we rush ourselves to changes in January, we are okay with it [at the moment].
“But it would have been a lot easier to answer that question if we had 15 points at this stage of the season.”
Pune City came into the game on the back of similarly disappointing run of form, but made the most use of the hosts' fatigued start to the game under the lights in Kochi. The visitors were on the front foot for the majority of the first half and dominated proceedings with Kerala threatening, albeit without enough impetus, on a few instances.
James termed his team's first half performance as lethargic and not up to the usual standards while also conceding that he was taken aback by their sluggish start, especially considering the improvements during their last game against Jamshedpur FC.
“For the first half, I was surprised at how tired we looked and I have to say that", James told reporters during the post-match press conference.
"I was expecting the same sort of energy that we had during the Jamshedpur game for 90 minutes.
“The second half was much better, a lot more energy, they did very well in slowing the game down from literally the first minute of the second half.
“First half was way off the mark. In the first half, it became very individualistic and it looked like eleven players not playing as a team."
I don't think the number of fans in the stadium affect us too much: James
For the second game in a row in Kochi, the attendance figures were confined to less than 10,000 as the team suffered their fourth defeat of the season on Friday. The fans have openly criticized the coach for his tactics until now, while also deciding to boycott the game against Jamshepdur FC.
However, the official support group's request to fill the stadium ahead of the meeting with Pune City seemed to have fallen on deaf ears when the game unfolded in a largely empty stadium with just around 8,000 people attending the game as opposed to the 35.000 you would ideally expect at this ground.
Despite the worrying relationship with the fans, James claimed that the number of supporters in the stadium does not make a difference to his team's mentality while also suggesting that the fans are free and open to taking up any sort of protest they would like to make their voices heard.
“If you look at the record over the last 12 months, we have had just one win in Kochi in front of 30,000 or 40,000 or whatever it is", James told reporters during the post-match press conference.
“I don’t think the number of fans makes any difference, but I think some players would like to see more fans.
“And of course, generally the fans’ appreciation of what they are watching will be demonstrated by how many turn up, you would think.
“How they want to do their protest and all that is entirely up to them. If supporting a team means that you don’t turn up, then I can’t comment too much.
“Some people support teams in different ways. It’s not that one way is right or the other is wrong, we all have our differences", he added.
Difficult to say whether mid-season break will help us, admits James
The Kerala Blasters will not return to action at the Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium in Kochi at least until February and will travel to Mumbai City FC before the ISL shuts shop temporarily for the mid-season break owing to India's participation in the AFC Asian Cup.
A number of players from James's squad are expected to be a part of the Indian national team camp for the prestigious tournament and the Kerala Blasters head coach admitted that he cannot really tell whether the break will be beneficial to his team.
James pointed out the fact that some of his players might be exposed to a lot of demands during the Asian Cup and admitted that it could affect their condition, like during the other two international breaks so far this season, when they return to the club.
“It’s difficult to say [whether the mid-season break comes at the right time for us]", James told reporters during the post-match press conference.
“The two breaks have cost us badly because we had three players coming back from two breaks and completely ruined by fatigue.
“It possibly cost us the equalizer during the Delhi game and we even had players struggling during the NorthEast game.
“Perhaps that is something we have to look at as a team on how we condition our players post-break. We have the AFC Cup and the better India do, the more our players are exposed to football.”
“There is pros and cons to it and it would have been nice to leave Kochi for the Christmas break with three points and something to look forward to, but unfortunately that has not happened."
Kerala Blasters have amassed just nine points from their 11 games so far this term and will next face Mumbai City FC at the Mumbai Football Arena in the final game before the first ever mid-season break in the history of the ISL.