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ISL 2017-18: The man with the midas touch - Avram Grant has set foot in Indian Football

4:51 pm AEDT 26/1/18
Avram Grant NorthEast United FC FC Goa ISL 4 2017/2018
The former Chelsea manager spoke exclusively to Goal about the Indian Super League challenge, his new club and more...

Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea Football Club, roped in a certain Israeli as the Director of Football at the club in July 2006. A few months later, the same Israeli replaced Jose Mourinho as the manager of the Blues and oversaw a one-year interim stint in England that helped the London-based club reach the final of the UEFA Champions League.

History has repeated for Avram Grant as 12 years after his mid-season intervention at Chelsea, he agreed to join Indian Super League (ISL) club NorthEast United. Grant met with the club's owner  John Abraham and was convinced about the ISL challenge to take over as the head coach at NorthEast United. But taking charge at a club in the middle of the season is not easy. 

"It is always difficult. I always like to build for myself. From the training, choosing the players, choosing the system, choosing the players that can fit the system. When you come in the middle of a season, it is more difficult because you have a game and you need to improve. The work is a little bit different," Avram Grant said in an exclusive interview with Goal.

The NorthEast United squad that he has at his hands was put together by former head coach Joao De Deus who failed to churn out results. Under de Deus, NorthEast struggled to score goals and that ultimately signalled the end of the Portuguese tactician's tenure in India. 

"It was not a secret that the team did not score goals. We were working on this in training. And also the mental side that needs to improve. The players responded to it very well," said the former Chelsea manager who believes he will need more time to assess the talent at his disposal better. 

"I need to more time to think about how they are. How they are under pressure, how they are when winning or when losing. We tried to put in some modern stuff that will improve the team. The team responded very well. Every individual is better. But we need to continue with this process. To analyze players, I need more time."

Further, Grant added that he doesn't think too much about getting his team into the playoffs. Instead, the immediate focus is on trying to win as many games as possible.  For somebody who helped Chelsea pull off a near-unbeaten run after he took over midway through the season, the challenge here is not impossible. 

"I don't think about this (playoffs) too much. The target is to win as much as we can and what will happen will happen."

Why would a former Israel national team coach come to India?  Because the football in the country has caught the eye of people around the world. Grant reveals that he has been watching the progress of ISL ever since its inception.

"(Indian football) is very interesting. (I was) curious to see what's happening. I was watching the development of the Indian league since it started. I agreed with owner John (Abraham) to come and see for a short time how it is. I am very happy that I am here."

"ISL impressed me. It is better football than I thought. Many teams are playing good football. The players who come here are experienced. The Indian players have a lot of ambition, they are hard workers," said Grant, who is on a mission to turn the tables at NorthEast United. 

Avram Grant has overseen young talents come and go in a coaching career that started with the youth team of Hapoel Petah Tikva in 1972. The 62-year-old knows what it takes to succeed at the highest level in the world of football.

"There are good talents (in India) but also because they are starting football very late, they are a lot of things to improve. If Indian football wants to be good, they need to open academies. I think they are trying."

Avram Grant's arrival has spread renewed hope amongst the ardent supporters of The Highlanders and the man with the Midas touch has set foot in Indian football.