Owen Coyle – We are well aware of the qualities of Kerala Blasters

Owen Coyle

Jamshedpur FC have already claimed the ISL 2021-22 League Winners Shield after a 1-0 win over ATK Mohun Bagan in the previous game. The Men of Steel are currently on a seven-match winning streak in the build-up to the double-legged semi-finals. The Red Miners are in red-hot form going into the semi-finals, defeating every team they have faced recently. Coyle’s men ended the league stage at the top by collecting a total of 43 points from 20 games.

Kerala Blasters FC, on the other hand, is playing a semi-final after six years. The Tuskers come into the tie after playing a 4-4 draw against FC Goa in their last clash, as they finished fourth in the league table. Vukomanovic’s team comes into this game having won just two of their last five matches. They ended their league stage campaign in the fourth spot with 34 points from 20 matches.

The contests between the two sides have been evenly fought with six out of ten matches ending in draws. Jamshedpur FC have recorded three wins while Kerala Blasters FC have managed one. The last time when both these teams met, Jamshedpur FC came on top beating them 3-0 in the league stage match. Owen Coyle‘s men are unbeaten against the Blasters this season.

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Jamshedpur FC head coach Owen Coyle and midfielder Jitendra Singh addressed the media during the pre-match press conference ahead of their semi-final first leg game against the Kerala Blasters on Friday at the Fatorda Stadium in Goa. Below are the excerpts of gaffer Owen Coyle.

Owen explained his decision to bring Len in place of Boris in the first half against ATK Mohun Bagan in the last game.

“Firstly, we wanted to freshen up the team into a big game because we’ve been asked to play an extraordinary amount of games in a short period of time unlike anybody else. We had to play 6 games in 17 days and then the last 3 games in 6 days and every game was a high-pressure situation. So, there weren’t any games where we could have relaxed because we couldn’t afford to do that.”

As good as the form that we had going, every other team also kept winning at the same time. ATK Mohun Bagan were on a 15 game unbeaten run, Hyderabad FC, Kerala Blasters FC, and Mumbai City FC were winning to stay in the race, Bengaluru FC were on a 9 game unbeaten run.

“Even though we won 9 out of 10 games, we had to go and win ourselves the prize we all wanted. So, every game was a high-pressure game, and to answer the question, we wanted to freshen up the squad and we did that by bringing Boris and Jitendra back in, Greg Stewart was back available. So, as I said we had to freshen up the team, aim to bring back the energy we had before the injuries.

“Peter Harley was rested the game before this and then he came back in as well, Greg had already missed a game before due to suspension, so we just tried to get some freshness into the team and Boris and Jitendra were desperate to get back into the squad.

“Boris felt a little niggle during the game and I did not want to take any chances. Len was available to play so we got him in and we looked a bit more solidified and didn’t want to take any chances with Boris’ hamstring. But we were a little bit nervous in the first 20 minutes and I think it was the occasion and not the game we were playing that made that happen because what was going to happen was going to happen anyway and we have to focus on our game.

After that period, we settled down into it and deserved to win the shield on that night and the whole reason behind that substitution was that we did not want to take any chances with Boris and we knew that Len was ready to step in instead.”

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Coyle spoke about the Tuskers being a big challenge despite Jamshedpur FC being unbeaten in 4 matches played this season.

“Kerala Blasters are a huge challenge in the league and the qualities of the teams in the season are there for everyone to see and the top 4 teams have finished in the spots that they should have while we are the best team in the country which has been determined by the number of points we’ve gained, winning streak we’ve been on and by the club records that we’ve broken in the season as a squad.”

But when you come in a cup competition, anything can happen on any given day, so we are wary of the opponents that Kerala Blasters are and they are a fantastic team and we’ve played them twice in this season as well as the pre-season.”

“I know Ivan very well and have a great relationship with him, who is a wonderful coach and an outstanding man off the field as well. So I know it’s going to be two really tough games and they know that as well as they know the quality of Jamshedpur FC. So, on any given day I feel any team is capable of winning the playoffs. What’s been great in the course of the 20 league games is that we’re the best team in the country, that’s there for everyone to see what we’ve achieved here.

“What we want to do in the tournament is to do a double and try to win the trophy which is even tougher now because we’re the bigger target as we’re the champions and the other teams get a bit of motivation from that. So, we have to make sure we are at our very best and if we are then, of course, we can qualify and make it to the finals. If we don’t be at our very best then it’ll cause us all sorts of problems because they have very good players which makes them a very good team.”

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Gaffer Owen Coyle gave an update on the injuries in the team.

“Currently, we have 5-6 possible injuries with Farukh and Komal missing as we know. We had Mobashir suspended but he is available to play now which is great for us as he will bring some freshness into the squad in the midfield. Young Jitendra played through the pain barrier the other night and we had to have 2 foreign center-backs on the field which made us sacrifice Alex Lima who has been the best player in our previous 2 games as he has been outstanding.”

But then we wanted to have Greg Stewart playing in the midfield behind Daniel Chima and we’ll have to see if we’ll follow the same strategy as we do have the option to bring Alex Lima in the midfield who is a wonderful player.

“Murray is now coming back to full speed and even he came back in the game as he did before and when he gets to his 100%, then he can start for any team in the league because he’s such a great striker. So, we have options but we have equal numbers of injuries with Dinliana being one of them as he had a shoulder injury before half-time which originated in the previous game.”

We have to be careful that we don’t do any more damage to that, so we’ve done a scan on him and we’re just waiting for the final report to come in and then there’s 1-2 more with Boris being one of the major injury concerns who we’re trying to protect as he’s fresh. A few others have some bumps and bruises like Greg who took some kicks and whacks during the game and Chima who gets battered from his back in every game and he has very little protection against it but he’s a wonderful player regardless of that.”

Owen shared a message for the fans as the team play their first-ever semi-finals since the club’s inception.

“To our fans, hopefully, you’ve enjoyed what you’ve seen this season so far and there’s more to come. But everyone here is delighted to deliver the league shield and we were able to show that we’re the best team in India at the highest level. Obviously, with that comes other opportunities like the AFC Champions League and more possibilities to come. What we want to do is get the fans the double on the trophy and we’ve to play well again because we’re going against very good opponents.”

“We thank you for the unstinting and unwavering support you’ve given us and we get to know about your love through the social media team which shows us how much love and support you have to offer to us from Jamshedpur and the state of Jharkhand. I said at the outset of the season that we wanted to give the fans a team that represents the fans and hopefully you are seeing that with the amount of quality, excitement, and hard work we bring to the table because we are such an exciting team who score goals and work so hard.”

We’ll try our best to take it to the next level but again to do that we’ve to keep winning and we’ll do our very best. So, thank you for your support and it is very much appreciated, and let’s keep this momentum going. Jam ke Khelo!”

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Below are the excerpts of midfielder Jitendra Singh who was also present in the press conference.

Jitendra shared his thoughts on the historical match against ATK Mohun Bagan.

“It was a tough match because ATK Mohun Bagan are one of the strongest teams. Each one of us gave our 100 %, plus ATK Mohun Bagan’s main injured players too had returned to play this match so that was one of the pushing factors for us to perform apart from the fact that we were competing for the shield which in itself became a motivational factor for us. So yes, we gave our all, and it was a great feeling to grab up all the 3 points and the prestigious trophy.”

Singh spoke about the feeling of entering and battling in the semifinals for the first time.

“This is a crucial phase for us. Our first target was to achieve the Shield and we did it. Now, our sole focus is on the next match against Kerala Blasters. They are a good side and they have been playing excellently this season, so yes, we have to get back into things and start focusing on our next target which is the semifinals.”

Jitendra spoke about his professional growth as a footballer.

“Working with Owen Coyle has given me the required time to grow. I want to thank him because I know that while I am doing well, I believe I can do even better. I just want to keep improving with every passing game and remain consistent so that I can be better in future tournaments as well. I want to thank Jamshedpur FC as well for giving me the opportunity to perform for the club in this league.”

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Singh spoke about the team’s approach for the semi-final legs against Kerala Blasters FC.

“As I said, Kerala is a strong team and we have felt that during every encounter be it preseason friendly or during the season. It has never been easy and they have always given us a tough fight and we fully respect that. But now our focus will be on how we prepare ourselves for this big match because I fully believe that if we maintain our form, we will be able to win the 3 points.”

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