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ISL 2018-19: 'We're focused on improving ourselves than worrying about a reaction from Kerala Blasters,' says ATK coach Steve Coppell

804   //    25 Jan 2019, 10:32 IST

Coppell is wary of the threat possessed by the Kerala Blasters
Coppell is wary of the threat possessed by the Kerala Blasters

The Indian Super League (ISL) returns to action after a mid-season hiatus when ATK face Kerala Blasters at the Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium in Kochi later this evening (Friday).

Steve Coppell's men currently sit four points and two places adrift off the final playoff position in the league table and will be aiming to pile further misery on his former club, who are hoping to start on a good note under newly-appointed head coach Nelo Vingada.

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Despite being wary of a positive reaction from the players following the appointment of the new coach, Coppell admitted ATK are solely focused on their agenda of trying to make it to the next round. The Englishman also added that preparation becomes difficult when a new manager takes charge of the opponent but stressed on the fact that his side will be proactive rather than being reactive to what the hosts can conjure on the night.

“It creates problems because there is no immediate history of performances with this particular coach," Coppell told Sportskeeda during the pre-match press conference ahead of the meeting with Kerala Blasters.

"So it is hard to try and predict what they are going to do, but again with six games to go we know our agenda.

"We know not exactly what we have got to do, but we certainly have to improve on the first two-thirds of the season. So our focus has to be more internal than reactionary to what the opposition do.

"We worked very hard in the last couple of weeks, trying to improve our performance because ultimately that will be the thing that either puts us within the reach of the playoffs or not.”

Coppell opted against passing comments on the Kerala Blasters' poor start to the ongoing season and insisted he is only focused on trying to help ATK reach the playoffs this season. The 63-year-old also admitted he still has an affection towards his former team and reiterated on the fact that he is only concerned about facing an opponent, whose players will be eager to impress their new coach on Friday.


“It’s a difficult one [to explain what has gone wrong with Kerala Blasters this season], because we have our own agenda. I’m primarily focused on ATK and what we need to do in the final six games," he continued.

"I’m obviously aware of what’s going on in Kerala and they are a team I have huge affection for because I worked here for a year. We had a good season, we just missed out on winning the trophy so I’m always mindful of what is going on in Kerala.

“From my point of view at this moment, I look at a team who have got a new coach. It’s inevitable that the players will try to impress the new coach, that is all I look at.

"It would be wrong and disrespectful of me to make comments on the processes of what’s going on and why they are at this position.

"All I’m interested in is they are a team with some very good individuals and a new coach, so the team will be eager to impress the new coach. That gives us issues, we know we have to be at our best to get something from the game and that is my only focus."

January signings can enhance our squad - Coppell

Edu Garcia has returned to India with ATK (Photo: ISL)
Edu Garcia has returned to India with ATK (Photo: ISL)

ATK have complied to their recruitment policy of roping in players that are experienced in handling the rigours of Indian football yet again this month after the addition of Edu Garcia and Pritam Kotal. The two-time ISL champions will be hoping the two high-profile signings can help propel them towards the playoffs in the second half of the season.

Coppell claimed that the arrival of the duo will help improve the mood in the dressing room and insisted they will only enhance the potential of the current crop of players at the club.

“We have brought in some good players. I think Pritam [Kotal], Kalu [Uche] coming back is like a new player, Edu Garcia is a quality player," he claimed.

"These players can only enhance our squad going forward so it’s just a question now of trying to get the right formula and making the most out of their abilities.

"I feel fortunate that we have been able to bring these players in, I just hope that they can make a real impact, we need them to.

"It’s not just about their impact, but it’s also about the effect they have on the group because it is important the group responds and we get enough points."

The Englishman also lauded former Bengaluru FC schemer Edu Garcia for his commendable quality on the ball and admitted the signing coupled with the return of Kalu Uche (injury) and Manuel Lanzarote (suspension) will only help address his team's issue of not being clinical inside the final third of the pitch.

“Obviously, in the first two-thirds of the season, our problem has been creating chances and scoring goals," he continued.

"There was a window of opportunity to sign Edu [Garcia] after his spell in China and we knew Kalu [Uche] is also coming back after his injuries.

"We also have Everton Santos, who can play in multiple positions as an attacker so we just thought Edu [Garcia] would complement our attack going forward not only in creating chances but also in converting them.

"Hopefully, Kalu [Uche], Everton [Santos] and Manu [Lanzarote], when he is back from suspension, will be able to benefit from a more widespread attack."

It does not bother me - Coppell on Spygate incident and Marcelo Bielsa

Around 2 weeks ago, the second-tier of league football in England was rocked by the Spygate incident that came to light ahead of the meeting between Leeds United and Derby County. Marcelo Bielsa, who has taken the first step to bring back glory at Elland Road, admitted he sent an employee to Moor Farm in order to spy on Frank Lampard's side and their training sessions.

In the wake of the allegations, Bielsa defended his actions through a 66-minute long presentation and claimed it is a common phenomenon in South America and Spain. Although he justified his action and claimed it is not illegal in England, Bielsa was forced to admit his mistakes that hurt the interest of other managers in the division.

Coppell, who scripted infamous success stories in the second-tier with Crystal Palace and Reading, expressed his opinion on the incident by claiming it does not bother him too much.

The ATK coach also admitted there can be different formulas for success in football and stressed on the fact that he does not mind others spying on his training methods.

"In Argentina and I think in Spain as well it is common to watch opposition teams train. In England, it is not common and I think Bielsa has realized that and admitted everything," he opined.

"It will be interesting to see what happens in the future. Does it bother me? No.

"I don’t mind people watching our training sessions. I don’t think there is only one formula for success in football, you can be successful in a variety of ways. It doesn’t bother me at all.”

Despite not having had to play a competitive game for over a month, Coppell believes that lethargy won't affect his team's performances when they meet Kerala Blasters later this evening (Friday).

The former Kerala Blasters and Jamshedpur FC coach also revealed his team have worked hard in training to try and start games better to gain an advantage over their rivals in the race for a playoff spot.

“I certainly hope not,” Coppell replied when he was asked whether there will be a tendency among his players to start lethargically after the mid-season break.

“The good thing about the break is that it has been the same for everybody. That’s what you can ever ask for in football that everyone is treated equally.

"Undoubtedly, in this final phase of the season, it’s the teams that come out of the blocks quickest, who will make the most advantage.

“We have been training specifically to start quickly, start well and start brightly. That is the challenge that we have set ourselves, but we are playing against a team, who have a lot to prove."