Kolkata: Ashley Westwood will not only have to “inject freshness” but also get the team to “pull in the right direction” when ATK take on Chennaiyin FC at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan Stadium on Thursday.
Just as unprecedented was Westwood’s elevation from Technical Director to head coach of the team, was Teddy Sheringham’s dismissal after all the words the former Manchester Untied great had spoken of the management not putting any pressure on him despite the results going southwards.
In 10 matches that ATK has played so far, they have won just three and for a team that has seen more defeats than victories — four losses –a turnaround in a flash would not be an easy task. But Westwood remained hopeful in his experience of coaching in India.
“I’ve been a head coach before, coached for four years; three years full time in India, so I don’t see any difficulty. I am confident in what I do and confident in the team. This is part and parcel of football. It’s not difficult at all,” he said in an optimistic tone.
But ATK’s season has been more plagued by injuries than defeats. Marquee signing Robbie Keane has spent more time travelling back and forth to Ireland than on the football pitch, while Eugeneson Lyngdoh lasted just three matched before injuring himself in the next, which has left only Zequinha, Prabir Das and Connor Thomas as the only three players who have played every single minute for the defending champions. Chennaiyin’s number on that aspect is double — six players started all the 11 games that Chennaiyin has played.
When Raphael Augusto missed matches, Rene Mihelic proved his worth and such a depth in their 25 men squad explains why they are third in the table with 20 points from 11 fixtures and may well climb to top of they beat ATK at home.
It was 3-2 to the ‘Marina Machan’s’ favour when the teams last met in Chennai and come Thursday the scoreline may be even worse given what coach John Gregory said.
“25 of my players want to play tomorrow night. They are fired up. It has put me in a difficult situation because I have choose a playing 11 and then the substitutes from the remaining 11, because all of them wants to play,” said the Englishmen. He had left three players at home to keep them fit.
The reigning champions contrastingly do not have the full squad but one team that looked the most balanced after the auctions but has so far failed to deliver. “I will have to be careful of not changing too much, too soon,” concluded Westwood.