“We are not over-dependent on Marcus Joseph” - Mohammedan Sporting Club head coach Andrey Chernyshov ahead of I-League 2021-22

The vastly experienced Andrey Chernyshov has had a calming influence on the Mohammedan dressing room. (Image Courtesy: MSC)
The vastly experienced Andrey Chernyshov has had a calming influence on the Mohammedan dressing room. (Image Courtesy: MSC)

The past year has been quite eventful for Mohammedan Sporting Club. The 130-year-old club, once mentioned in the same breath as their iconic city rivals East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, hit the nadir in 2014. Beset by poor planning and a financial catastrophe, their rich legacy was shrouded by a sense of impending doom.

The rescue act happened last year when a Gurgaon-based company called Bunkerhill Pvt Ltd came on board as MSC’s investor. Driven by a professional outlook and backed by ample finance, the Black Panthers are now striving to compensate for lost time at the vanguard of Indian football.

In just over 12 months, MSC have made a remarkable turnaround. They clinched the Calcutta Football League First Division title after a 40-year drought and finished runners-up in the Durand Cup and the inaugural Futsal Club Championship. They also won the Second Division I-League last season to return to the First Division after a seven-year hiatus.

One of the chief architects of MSC’s resurgence has been their Russian head coach Andrey Chernyshov. After starring in several top-tier Russian clubs like Dynamo Moscow, Spartak Moscow and Rubin Kazan during his 12-year playing career, the former centre-back made his foray into coaching with the U-21 Russian national team in 2002.

The UEFA Pro License-holder managed clubs in eight countries before joining MSC earlier this year. He also served as the assistant coach of Russia's senior national team between 2002 and 2003.

Thanks to his amiable demeanor and good work with the club, Chernyshov has already become a popular figure among the Mohammedan supporters. He now has his task cut out to guide the Black Panthers to their maiden I-League crown and make a strong case for MSC’s inclusion in the Indian Super League.

Speaking exclusively to Sportskeeda ahead of MSC’s inaugural I-League 2021-22 fixture against Sudeva Delhi on November 27, Chernyshov opened up about his side’s preparation for the tournament, the historic CFL triumph and MSC’s new foreign signing Anđelo Rudović.

He, of course, refrained from commenting on their shock exit from the recently concluded IFA Shield, where they lost 0-1 to defending champions Real Kashmir FC despite being directly seeded into the quarter-finals. Here are the excerpts.

Q: Your coaching resume is quite impressive. Did you have any prior idea about Indian football before accepting Mohammedan Sporting Club’s offer?

Chernyshov: I've worked in many countries and have gathered good experience. Before signing a contract in India, I asked a lot about local football and life in this country. Before my arrival, I knew that people are very fond of football here and that the stadiums were filled with fans before the pandemic.

Q: What is your perception of the Mohammedan fans and Kolkata? Your social media posts suggest that you love exploring the city.

Chernyshov: Our fans are the best; they support the team wholeheartedly. Thanks to their support, we reached the Durand Cup final and won the CFL.

I love Kolkata! I like the city because it has good parks, many good restaurants and most importantly, very friendly and welcoming people. Whenever there is an opportunity, I gladly explore the city.


Q: The CFL was a roller coaster ride for MSC. There was so much talk about ending the 40-year title drought. How did you ensure that the pressure didn't get to the boys before the final against Railway FC?

Chernyshov: It was a tough tournament. I didn't expect it to feature so many strong teams and such good players. We had some problems during the tournament, but we knew what the problem was. First, it was a complicated calendar as we played in the CFL and in the Durand Cup at the same time.

Second, [there was] ugly refereeing. But we never doubted our strength. The guys knew that they were in good shape. We never pressed hard on them and never said that they should win. We went from game to game and did what everyone had been waiting for, over 40 years. The guys wrote history for the club!

Q: MSC had a disappointing I-League campaign last season as they finished sixth in the table. How have the preparations been for the upcoming edition, and how confident are you about MSC's title chances?

Chernyshov: We will start our I-League campaign soon. We have had good preparation, played a lot of practice matches, fulfilled everything that had been planned and decided on the squad for the championship. I think everyone who starts the championship wants to win it. We also want this and will do everything that is necessary for it.

Q: Why is it that MSC have struggled repeatedly in the knockouts of tournaments except the CFL? Is this more of a psychological barrier?

Chernyshov: No comment.

Q: Marcus Joseph has done the bulk of the scoring for MSC this season. Is the team becoming over-dependent on him for goals? What is your assessment of Azharuddin Mallick’s performance?

Chernyshov: The team doesn’t become over-dependent on Marcus. Bayern Munich don’t depend on Robert Lewandowski alone. It's okay for a striker to score a lot of goals; that's his job. Azhar works well in training and shows a good game. We are pleased with his form.

Q: How has your new foreign signing Anđelo Rudović looked so far? What are your expectations from him?

Chernyshov: We studied and analyzed a lot of players to improve [on our resources]. We chose Rudović as he is one of the strongest players in his position from the Balkans. He is a good player, but needs time to adapt to our game system and the lifestyle in India.

Q: The January transfer window is around the corner. What are the positions that need reinforcements?

Chernyshov: We have a very good roster, but any team needs strengthening. Our officials are aware of this and will resolve these issues. Soon our fans will know about everything.

Q: Which teams do you think will give you the toughest challenge in this I-League season?

Chernyshov: I think a lot of teams will fight to win. We respect everyone and are ready to fight. Our strength lies in our team spirit!

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Edited by Shourjo Chatterjee