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The East Bengal custodian reveals to Goal.com about how the chance to train with Wigan came about and also speaks about India's U-22 campaign in Oman...

As revealed on Sunday evening, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu is set for an almost week long training stint with English Premier League side Wigan Athletic.

Speaking exclusively to Goal.com, Gurpreet gave more details about how the opportunity came up for the trip to England.

The East Bengal keeper revealed, “Actually I met John Burridge during the derby clash between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan last season. He was immediately interested in me and told me he will help. Then he also met me in Dubai, where I had gone for the national camp and yet again met me in Oman, where he assured that he would arrange something for me.”

“Then he introduced me to Ali Al-Habsi, and it was a great opportunity (training at Wigan) that he (Al-Habsi) helped me get,” he added.

The 6 feet 5 inches tall custodian is also under no illusion that a permanent deal in England is not possible, due to India’s lowly FIFA ranking, which makes getting a work permit to play there next to impossible. Gurpreet stated,“Well you know to get a work permit, we (India) need to be in top 70, so even if it was a trial, it would not be possible for me to go there (on a permanent basis), but as a training stint it’s a great opportunity.”

Giving more details about his itinerary and the reaction of his present club, East Bengal, the former Indian Arrows keeper disclosed, “I am leaving on Wednesday (18th July) and coming back on 24th July. My club East Bengal is happy. They know it is a good opportunity for me, as I shall get better training out there, which shall be helpful for me. When I go to England, I will be representing East Bengal and India.”

The keeper has also received advice from Subrata Paul, about what to expect during his stint with Wigan. Gurpreet said, “Though I have not spoken to Wim Koevermans or Arthur Papas about this, Subrata spoke to me about the trip and gave me good advice, as he has had trials in Canada previously. He encouraged me to fully utilize this chance and told me about how it would be out there.”

Speaking more about his playing style, Gurpreet emphasized that he had a lot to improve on, in his bid to become a top class goalkeeper.

“I am still discovering myself as a keeper, so I don't know what my plus points are. But I definitely know my weak points. I think I am a bit slow, so maybe quickness and with the ball on my feet, I could improve.”

Gurpreet Has Stood Out As A Leader With The U-22 Side....

The Indian U-22 side had a great outing in Oman recently, as although they failed to qualify for the AFC U-22 Championships, their performances and most of the results made people sit up and take notice of the side. Gurpreet elaborated, “It was really good to play under Papas. We surprised everyone with our performances, as no one expected us to be such a good side. It was a great experience for us under Papas.”

He also was grateful to the Australian for appointing him as one of the leaders of the side. With Jeje Lalpekhlua largely sidelined due to injury, the East Bengal player often led the side out.

“Yes, you know leadership helped me. The coach said these (he and Jeje) are the two leaders of the squad in a team meeting. It was a good feeling to lead and to get to be the voice of the team.”

Gurpreet felt he had not played to his potential last season in the I-League, but is already looking forward to making amends.

“I'm never satisfied with my performances and I'm always looking to improve. With East Bengal, last season I felt I wasn’t as good as I could have been.”

“My aim for next season is to keep cleansheets, and as many as possible. I think in the long run, if I can keep cleansheets, it shall help me establish myself in the senior national side too,” he concluded.

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