Kolkata: Defending champions and Indian Super League’s (ISL) most successive franchise with two titles in three years, ATK may have crumbled to unexpected low in the fourth edition of the competition but traits of it’s past glory remain and perhaps that is what induced John Gregory to say, “ATK is the Manchester United of India.”
Comparison to the Premier League giants seem to be a bridge too far but ATK’s current scenario wherein they stand 10 points far from leaders FC Pune City at the top is a tad similar to Manchester United’s 12 points gap over leaders Manchester City in the EPL points table.
“To me and all my players, we look at ATK like the Manchester United of India. It’s a huge club. Obviously, they have been champions twice. We have been champions once (but) we still look up to ATK,” said the Chennaiyin FC head coach ahead of their match against ATK in Kolkata on Thursday.
The Kolkata based franchise for all it’s past glory is lingering at the eight position currently and although they play six of their next eight matches at home, Play-offs chances look slimmer than them finishing last. Yet for Gregory 25 of Chennaiyin players are fired up to face the defending champions.
“All my players want to play tomorrow night because it’s ATK. They are fired up,” said the former Aston Villa coach who also believes that what endured in the past four months for ATK since the league began in October was as much as unseen as unhoped for, but most it goes to their injury woes he believes and rightly so.
How many times have a team that has just won the League title in the previous season be more closer to relegation than the table-toppers. Real Madrid is one example but although ATK has no such fears of being relegated, not many would have expected them to transform from being the most winningest franchise to their current deplorable state.
Their successive campaign in the past three seasons had not just earned then two titles in three years but also a fear among the opponents something that Gregory spoke of. “At the start of season when the fixtures come out, the first thing I did was ‘when do we play ATK’. That’s what they do in England.”
ATK have indeed crumbled down from being a fearsome great team to ramshackles. The Yuba Bharati Krirangan until 2016 was a fortress for the former ‘Los Indios’. But now with just one win from three home matches, smiles have long left the camp.
Chennaiyin FC however seems to have snatched the baton away from the Kolkata based franchise. “Teams obviously want to beat us, seeing where we are in the league table and we see a little bit extra when we play them,” said the Englishman Gregory and going by those words ATK might be the team tomorrw that may start behind when they face the ‘Marina Machans’ at home.