Having taken NorthEast United FC to their maiden Indian Super League (ISL) play-off appearance last season, Dutch coach Eelco Schattorie is now looking to replicate the success at his new job at Kerala Blasters.
At the start of the 2018-19 season, Schattorie had equated NorthEast to a ‘Mini Cooper amid Ferraris' and had harped about the fact that the ‘Taj Mahal was not built in a day’ with regards to the task of rebuilding the club.
The new Blasters boss feels that the same approach will now be required at the Kerala outfit. Kerala had a forgettable campaign in ISL 2018-19 with the outfit eventually finishing second from bottom with just two wins in their 18 fixtures.
Speaking in an exclusive chat with Goal , Schattorie said, “My statements at the beginning of last season were based on the starting point of NorthEast United, meaning NorthEast never qualified for the play-offs before that which means structurally, there is something wrong.”
“To reach higher heights, it is not easy.
“It also means that in order for a Mini Cooper to compete with a Ferrari, you will have a lot of challenges. Building something that is stable takes time and that is the same for any club, be it NorthEast or Kerala Blasters.
The 47-year-old Dutchman is clear that the most urgent need of the hour for Kerala is stability.
“Kerala had a good track record in the first few seasons of the ISL. And last season, (they) suddenly went down and you need stability,” he said.
“My goal is the same thing as it was with NorthEast. In this case, we aim for the highest position. The most important thing is to have something that we can build on for the upcoming seasons and not just trying to win the title. For instance, Chennaiyin won the title in 2018 and then finished last in 2019. So, that means there is no stability,” Schattorie continued.
While Kerala Blasters have been one of the most well supported teams since the inception of the ISL, there was a drastic fall in the stadium attendance as the last season wore on. Schattorie is now hoping to get the good times rolling once more at Kochi and get the fans back on the team’s side.
“Kerala is known for having a huge fanbase. That should not be pressure because you play for the supporters. You need to bring in a brand of football that they like, that fits the culture, that people are pleased with. That is what I'm going to try to do,” he explained.
“The last season's attendance is in the past, I don't want to look into that. They are an extra player behind the team who makes it difficult for other teams to come and play in Kochi.”
One of the reasons for the decline in attendance at Kochi could very well be the team’s dismal record at home over the past two seasons and Schattorie wants to ensure that the side performs to the highest standard irrespective of the venue.
“It could be that the team is under pressure in front of the home crowd, that is possible. But that is something you have to deal with, whether you like it or not. I don't look at it like, 'Okay, players are scared to play in front of the home crowd,' it is better that I stay home,” he stated.
“Whether you play home or away, it should not make a big difference. It is the same field, same grass. The only difference is you have to travel. Of course, the home crowd can give an advantage in certain atmospheres but at the same time you are a professional and you need to know how to deal with these things, as a coach and also as a player,” Schattorie added.
When asked whether he will look to impart his own philosophy at Kerala or adapt to the strengths of the squad at his disposal, he replied, “You should stick to your philosophy.”
“The formation doesn't matter. That all depends on the quality of the players. But in that formation, you have to play according to your philosophy.
“But you have to be realistic as well. I cannot play a tiki-taka game if I have a defence-heavy team. Instead of a tiki-taka game, I try to say we play a progressive game. We look to go forward. Maybe that is done sometimes by a long ball strategy or sometimes by playing a possession and domination game. I am trying to figure out and bring the right players to make that happen at Kerala Blasters.”
It will now be interesting to see if Schattorie can repeat his exploits at Guwahati at his new surroundings in Kochi.