Former Kerala Blasters technical director and manager, Terry Phelan is confident that the ISL side would finally win the title, especially after the transfer window they have had. The former Leeds United and Chelsea player believes Durand Cup could have seen more ISL teams fielding first team.
Joining the Blasters as their academy manager as well as the technical director back in April 2015, Phelan has been cognizant to their fall and rise for two years before he left the ISL franchise. The 2015 season, which saw the club finishing at the bottom of the table, had Phelan as their interim manager for seven games spanning over a month.
Though he could win just two of those matches in a failed managerial stint, his stint as the technical director saw the club getting real success the following year when they finished second on the table and went to the final in the playoffs. And like all Blasters fans, who are hoping for a similar pattern to unfold this season as well after a dismal performance last time, Phelan has predicted that his former side will go one step ahead to lift the trophy.
After finishing ninth last season, Kerala have gone berserk this time. Believed to have one of the best transfer windows in ISL’s history, the franchise has roped in midfield maestros Mario Arques and Sergio Cidoncha from Jamshedpur FC, NorthEast United FC’s last season heroes Eelco Schattorie and Bartholomew Ogbeche, and defence leader Gianni Zuiverloon from Delhi Dynamos.
Apart from the proven few of ISL, the Blasters have also brought in Senegalese midfielder Moustapaha and Brazilian defender Jairo Rodrigues. And Phelan believes they are the clear favourites to take the trophy home.
“I think they are the triple favourites to win the title this time. All I would say is bring the trophy home. They have been on two finals, losing both. They have had a couple of poor seasons as well and now would be a fresh start for them,” said Phelan in an exclusive interview with SportsCafe.
However, Phelan wasn’t so ignorant as to completely overlook what the other sides have done. The likes of ATK and Bengaluru FC have done great business as well with the Kolkata-based franchise bringing in big fishes like Michael Soosairarj, Jobby Justin, Roy Krishna, and Bengaluru getting in Ashique Kuruniyan and Raphael Augusto.
“The other teams have spent as well and they have gotten stronger too. Especially, Bengaluru FC, who would be a strong unit and we all know that. For the Blasters, it’s going to be hard for sure as they would be needing time to adjust to what the new coach wants them to do. But, on paper, they have a really good chance,” added Phelan.
The Durand Cup was restarted this year again and while most of the I-League sides fielded their strongest possible sides, the likes of ATK, BFC, and FC Goa competed with their B teams. None of the top tier sides made it to the knockouts and many fans were infuriated with the disrespect shown towards the 129-year-old tournament.
Phelan, too, is of the opinion that while some of the sides had players out injured, there were many others who could be tested some of their senior players in the tournament. “I have always said that you want your best players playing football. It was an ideal opportunity for the ISL clubs to get their players back early. And why not play the top teams in there? It gives the players motivation and desire,” asked he.
“Some of the sides even had new managers coming in and it would have been the ideal time to have a look at his players. There were exceptions in sides, like who didn’t have their overseas players ready or the infrastructure was incomplete for that matter, and they did right y playing the U-23s and U-18s. But, there was enough opportunity for clubs to test some of the first team players,” Phelan added.
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