29 Dec A new age Chennaiyin side
Back in late-July, when the ISL Draft was conducted, we witnessed the birth of a new League. 10 Teams, AFC and FIFA Recognition and a relaxed schedule. Fast-forward 5 months, mid way into the season, Chennaiyin FC find themselves at a comfortable position, at the top of the league table. The signings of Henrique Sereno, Inigo Calderon, Mailson Alves has re-installed the ‘fear factor’ at the Marina Arena and have propelled Chennaiyin to the heights of title challengers once again.
When Chennaiyin FC appointed John Gregory, the reaction was a mixed one. Some of them pleased with an experienced man taking over, some still reeling under Marco’s exit. John Gregory though had a clear vision. He stated, “Chennaiyin has been one of the most consistent teams in the ISL so far and I want to continue the great work done by Marco Materazzi in the first three seasons. I am determined to help the club win the ISL trophy back for the people of Chennai and Tamil Nadu.” These words might sound similar coming from any new mangerial appointment. But, John has proved his intent on the field. The club stands at first place after 8 gameweeks. with 16 points; the most by any ISL side after 8 games.
For a man with extensive experience at the helm of affairs, it’s fair to say John has been doing a great job at Chennaiyin. On November 19th, at HT, Chennaiyin were trailing 0-3 to FC Goa, at their own home ground. People were writing off this team then and there. But the spirit the boys showed to comeback into the game was nothing short of amazing. The game ended 2-3 in favour of the away side, but Chennaiyin came close to stealing a point from the game. The major takeway from the game were the words from the gaffer. “I accept the responsibility that we put out a wrong formation in the first half. With that shape, we exposed ourselves more than we should have to Goa. We needed four midfielders which we brought in the second half and the game changed,” John said at the post-match press conference.
This truly shows his commitment. How often do we see a manager accepting his mistakes. Marco Materazzi never spoke much, so we never knew what he actually felt. With John though, we have a father figure, who owns up for his mistakes openly and someone who would go to any extent to protect his players. For example, take the case of Jeje. Jeje wasn’t particularly impressive in the starting stages. But John defended him throughout, “He works exceptionally hard despite not scoring goals. He’s unselfish and plays for the team. If he continues to work hard and do things he does best, the goals will come,” Gregory exclaimed reassuringly. Jeje repaid the faith with a brace against ATK.
“We are not a long ball team”, John explained before the start of the season. In the past 3 seasons, Chennaiyin didn’t play any particular brand of football. Some could argue saying we were playing some shade of total football, but I beg to differ. We were not organised well at times, putting in aimless long balls and what not. We showed glimpses of some amazing football, but it was never consistent. The short duration of the league didn’t help the cause. One year later though, with John at the helm and a longer duration league, things have changed for the good. Aimless long balls have stopped, organised defending, quick passes and an evident style of play are the major takeaways.
We look like a proper football team now and the performances stand proof to this. For the fans coming to the stands, it has been a feast to watch Chennaiyin play. Agreed the quality is nowhere near the European or East Asian counterparts, but where we have reached in 3 years is noteworthy.
On the field, the players’ contribution has been commendable. Right from Karanjit Singh, at the goal line, to Bodo, at the other end, we have seen some impressive efforts go down. The players are what makes the team and they have been bonding closely on and off the field. The side has managed to stay composed through the 90 mins and have worked till the end to see their team go through with 3 points; we have managed to score more than 5 goals after the 80th minute mark, most by any team this season. We have witnessed a contrasting approach from John towards local hero, Dhanpal Ganesh, whose recent form can only be taken as a consequence of the manager’s faith and public praise of the Chennaite. Dhanpal has been a revelation. Bikramjit and Dhanpal have established a solid midfield that lacked in the past seasons. Germanpreet and Thapa’s contributions only indicate how good our squad depth is. Raphael Augusto has stood out with his dominating performances inside the attacking third. The last line of protection has been nothing short of brilliance. Sereno, Inigo and Alves have formed a formidable partnership at the back, helping the side win games comfortably. Chennaiyin has always been a club that promotes youngsters and this season has been no different. “If you are good enough, you are old enough.”, John said before the season. Indicative of this statement is the fact that he started Bodo in the opening game against FC Goa, the youngest to play an ISL game and regular game time for the likes of Germanpreet, Bodo and Thapa.
The faith shown by the manager and the displays on the field, we can rightly say that this is a new age Chennaiyin side. With a combination of young and experienced players, headed by John Gregory, Chennaiyin looks a solid team. One that can go all the way.
Elsewhere. the Chennaiyin age group teams have been performing brilliantly so far. The 3 sides, U13 U15 U18, remain undefeated in all 3 youth competitions. Some impressive scorelines as well, 18-0 against Oyyabo sports, are indicative of the quality of these young lads. Tougher tests lie ahead, but we can be right to say that these boys are on the right track. All that I’d wish for, at the end of the day, is for these boys to make it to the senior team in the future.
2017 has been a fantastic year for the club. Youth Teams, Longer ISL, AFC Spot were some of the major positives of the year. Let us hope 2018 is no different. Here’s wishing everyone a Happy New Year.
Up the Blues
Chennaiyin FC stand 1st in the ISL table after 8 Games with 16 points, with 5 wins 1 Draw and 2 losses.
Chennaiyin U13 stand 1st in the U13 Youth League Chennai Zone, after 5 games with 15 points.
Chennaiyin U15 stand 1st in the U15 Youth League Chennai Zone, after 7 games with 19 points.
Chennaiyin U18 stand 2nd in the U18 Youth League South Zone, after 1 game with 3 points