He may be one of Indian Super League’s (ISL) most successful coach – having led Kerala Blasters to the final in his inaugural season and debutant Jamshedpur to a fifth-place finish – but Englishmen Steve Coppell believes that past success doesn’t guarantee you a job, winning does.
“As a coach is your job secured? No. if you win people love, if you lose, you lose your job,” said the new ATK supremo at the ISL Press Conference here.
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“It’s black and white. There is no grey,” he adds. Coppell was talking about the life of a coach. He believes that while a victory brings love, a defeat will always fetch hatred. But there are no mixed feelings, nothing in between. Coppell was at the end of something similar of that “black” at the Kerala Blasters after his team lost to ATK in the ISL final in 2014.
“I wanted to stay. But it was someone else, who decided I won’t stay at Kerala.”
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The former Manchester United winger had decided it was the end of his coaching stint in India when he failed to guide Jamshedpur FC into the playoffs in the team’s last edition. He says, “That was the end. I had thought I will never return here again. The JFC management and I decided with a mutual consent that I will end with this season.”
But a call from the two-time ISL champions ATK and the sporting culture of Bengal was something Coppell couldn’t ignore and “here I am leading them seven days from here into the fifth season.”
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Coaching the former champions and Coppell’s countrymen Teddy Sheringham – another former Manchester United player – will tell him. The three seasons under Spaniards Antonio Habas and Jose Molina fetched the Kolkata franchise two titles in three seasons, but the next under Sheringham was a disaster.
ATK finished ninth out of ten teams, just avoiding the wooden spoon by five points. But Coppell refuted saying it was not coaches but the quality of players that define a season.
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“It doesn’t matter where the coach comes from, Steve states, “The style of the coach will not take over the club. It is about the individual players who will give the team a shape in his the season. The coach is there to direct the ship.”
Asked if the past record of one poor season under an Englishmen put him under pressure, Coppell said the pressure was not only for him but every coach before the start of the season will be under pressure.
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“Not just me, every coach is under pressure. Does not matter how good you prepare in the pre-season before the season starts, everyone is under pressure. So yes pressure exists but not just upon me,” he said.
All of ATK’s imports barring one have already played in the league before from Manuel Lanzarote to Kalu Uche. Even the Indian players in the side bring a lot of experience to the table.
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Coppell is anxious to start the season after what he believes has been a great pre-season for the former champions.
“I can’t wait for the season to begin. We have prepared well and I am motivated enough to win the opening game. Kerala has always been tough to play. They’ll be a strong side but we will be ready.”