ISL 2018-19: ATK will bounce back, says Andre Bikey after back-to-back defeats
Twin defeats from their first two games. Bottom of the table after two matchdays.
That's definitely not the kind of start to their Indian Super League (ISL) campaign that ATK were hoping for, given that they had finished a lowly ninth in the previous season.
After their poorest finish ever under the helm of Teddy Sheringham, Ashley Westwood and Robbie Keane, ATK roped in Steve Coppell as the manager and also brought in fresh blood to revive the team's fortunes. Coppell, two seasons ago, guided Kerala Blasters to the final of the ISL, and also helped Jamshedpur FC finish fifth last season.
With the Kolkatan outfit though, Coppell is yet to make a mark. But it's too early to write off ATK, say players.
During an interaction in Kolkata on Wednesday, defender Andre Bikey said ATK will bounce back. "To be frank, we were not expecting this kind of result in the first two games. But it's still a long a way to go. We need to keep improving and work hard. It's not the end of the war. We have to forget about what happened in the previous two matches. We need to prepare accordingly for the next two away games," Bikey said.
"In football, anything can happen anytime. It doesn't end up the way we always expect. But this is the beauty of football. We have lost the first two games that we should've won. We didn't play the way we're used to but it can happen. We're looking forward to the next two matches. Let's see what happens," Bikey added.
Bikey, who was part of Coppell's setup at Jamshedpur FC in the previous edition, says he's still adjusting to life in Kolkata. Bikey says he has heard a lot about Kolkata's famous cuisine and of course, about East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, the two giants of Indian football. "I've already seen the huge fan following that's there for these two clubs. One of them is the oldest club of the country. I know about the (Calcutta) Derby as well as I've seen a match on TV. But the fans are rooting for us too," added the defender.
Bikey also sees a lot of promise in youngster Komal Thatal, who played for India in the 2017 FIFA Under-17 World Cup. Although the teen sensation has only played 24 minutes in two games this season, Bikey says there's a lot more to come from Komal. Speaking about the youngster, Bikey said, "He is a nice guy. He has played a Youth World Cup, which was a learning experience for him. He is showing the same commitment for our team. But he needs to be mature."
Meanwhile, goalkeeper Debjit Majumder too felt it's too early to judge Kolkata as the season is just two games old. "Everyone knows we have a great team. There are some talented players like (Manuel) Lanzarote, John Johnson, (Everton) Santos and also Bikey himself. But there are some moments when you can't control everything. If we win the next two matches, then everything will change," Majumder said.
Despite showing tremendous form in the past couple of seasons, Majumder is yet to stand under the bar this time. ATK coach Coppell has preferred Arindam Bhattacharja over him. However, Majumder says he will fight to earn his place in the Starting XI. "I am working hard as I always do. I am always ready to play. Whenever I get a chance, I will try to utilise the opportunity," he said.
Majumder, who was ignored by national team coach Stephen Constantine for India's upcoming friendly against China on October 13, wished the team luck. "This will be a tough match because China is one of the strongest teams in Asia. But we too have some youngsters in our team. So it will be good preparation for the 2019 Asian Cup. I hope we will learn a lot," he said.