With Santosh Kashyap joining Mohun Bagan, and a host of players opting to not renew their contract, it is a period of transition at Air India, as they begin their preparations for the new season.
Godfrey Pereira is presently in charge of the side, though he has yet to sign a permanent contract with the Airmen.
Speaking to Goal.com before his side’s friendly tie against Churchill Brothers, which they lost 5-1, Pereira revealed, “We have already started practice, and are in the process of planning for pre-season. No concrete plans have been chalked out yet as we started practice from around 12 days back."
Giving more information about the playing squad, the former Indian international stated, “From last year’s squad, the prominent members that have signed up with us again are Ramandeep Singh, Allan Dias and Pratik Shinde. Prakash Thorat is also staying with us, while Santosh Koli as well as Abhijeet Shetty have rejoined us.”
“No foreign players have been signed yet,” he added.
“We have signed John Dias, Micky Fernandes and Johny Chandran Singh being amongst the experienced I-League players we have signed.”
Revealing the difficulty in signing established players on one of the smallest budgets in the league, Pereira confessed, “We have a very low budget and it is difficult to sign players, as players say they would like to come, but when it comes to money part, they dither.”
Though it looks like an uphill task for the new coach to fill Santosh Kashyap’s shoes, Pereira is looking forward to the challenge of building a team in his own image from scratch.
“Yes, we have to build a new team. We have to do loads of home work and see how the team shapes up. Hopefully we shall play a couple of tournaments before the I-League, so that we can get a hang of things for the season.”
“It is an exciting opportunity for me. I have been with the team for 2 years, but wasn’t an A-license coach. I was as an observer in the side, helping Kashyap. Being the coach is really exciting.”
His time under the now Mohun Bagan coach was helpful for the former Tata Football Academy (TFA) graduate, as he learnt a lot about player management.
“I learnt quite a bit, like how to handle players, how to talk to senior players, who are very different and need to be dealt with separately from junior players and how to mould a team and motivate them from him (Kashyap).”
The coach, who got his AFC “A” license in August, also rubbished any doubts about his team being potential “also-rans” in the I-League next season.
“We have got good capability as a team and have got several good players. We have to check out which player is suitable for which position, whether they can cope up with pressure and combine with other players, and accordingly plan for our season,” he concluded.
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