ISL 2019-20: With John Gregory still at the helm, Chennaiyin FC seek change of fortunes
Embattled Chennaiyin FC are desperate to get their Indian Super League season going - the two-time champions are currently languishing at the bottom of the table with just one point from their four matches and worse still are yet to find the back of the net. They remain the only team yet to score a goal among the 10 teams in the competition.
In their last game before the teams dispersed for the international break, they were soundly beaten 3-0 away at arch rivals Bengaluru FC that heaped more pressure on their coach John Gregory with the Englishman hinting afterwards that his time with the club may be at an end.
However, since then there has been no development on that front and Gregory returns still in-charge of the club as they look to get out of their current rut when they take on fellow strugglers Hyderabad FC on Monday in Chennai.
Gregory addressed the media on Sunday afternoon ahead of the game, accompanied by his captain Lucian Goian.
There was no doubt as to what the biggest question on everybody's mind was and Gregory responded by saying that his comments at the end of the BFC game were largely due to the manner of the loss.
"The way we lost in Bangalore hurt me more than anything. I was disappointed in the team's performance and ultimately the results come back to me as the manager. The home games, though we got just a point, we dominated, played well against Mumbai and ATK. So I was relaxed going into the BFC game, but the performance left me shell shocked. Particularly since it was against BFC, our rivals. We gave our fans nothing to cheer about."
He said his club remains hopeful of getting back into contention for a semi-final spot.
"Since then we've been back on the training ground, working hard. Looked at what went wrong against BFC. We're very optimistic about our chances."
Quizzed on if there had been any conversations between him and club management during the break, Gregory said,
"I talk to Vita (Dani) on a regular basis, nothing special. We both agree that getting six points from our two home games is of utmost importance."
When asked if he was confident of being the coach of Chennaiyin come the end of the season, the Englishman responded by saying,
"Football always surprises you. We're not thinking that far ahead now and just on the next game."
Romanian defender Lucian Goian also echoed his coach's sentiments saying that the group still feels strongly about turning around their sinking ship similar to what Mumbai City had managed last season after two heavy defeats early on.
"After the defeat against Bengaluru, I told the team about what happened at Mumbai last season. It was exactly like this, we did not get a good start. But then we got some good performances, found our form and qualified for semi-finals. I'm sure that we can do this at Chennaiyin as well. We have the quality. We're just missing the goals."
He added that the team had come together and agreed that they were not going to give up without a fight.
"All the players after the last game we agreed that we cannot give up. Difficult moments are common in football. In difficult moments, the strong characters show up."
Can Chennaiyin break their goal drought and get that all-important win?
The coach and captain put on a brave, unified front on Sunday, but their season is once again close to spiraling out of control soon. Anything apart from a win in their game against Hyderabad on Monday will be seen as a massive disappointment.
Phil Brown's Hyderabad themselves have had just the one win and have had one of the most porous defences among all teams this season. With Chennaiyin having one of the most frugal attacks at the moment, it is a question of who breaks first in this battle.
Gregory expressed his dissatisfaction with the performance against Bengaluru, but in some ways the team he picked for the game didn't help matters. Starting with two forwards and no width left the team with no options as they were overrun by BFC in the first half. Only after the introduction of Lallianzuala Chhangte and Dragos Firtulescu in the 2nd period did their game improve.
The Englishman confirmed that Mizo winger Chhangte will feature from the start against Hyderabad. He also needs his strikers, Andre Schembri and Nerijus Valskis, to get their shooting boots on. Both men have been guilty of missing some guilt-edged chances in their previous home games.
Jeje Lalpekhlua remains sidelined as Gregory confirmed that despite getting back into training with the main squad, he isn't ready to feature in a match.
Solidarity in troubled times
The club earlier this week put out a video expressing the solidarity among the current squad to rebound from this horror start. It's a video that many notable athletes and celebrities have gotten behind hoping to rally support for the club.
Indian paddler Sharath Kamal and cricketer Washington Sundar have lent their support behind it as well along with the likes of actor R. Madhavan as well getting behind the club in what is a bleak period for the 2-time champions.Modified 21 Dec 2019, 01:06 IST