Chennaiyin FC head coach John Gregory has stressed the importance of putting up a stern defence of their title in the fifth season of Indian Super League (ISL).
The Marina Machans defeated Bengaluru FC in the final of last season's ISL at the Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru. The champions are set for a rematch in their season opener on September 30, 2018.
Champion coach John Gregory believes the expectations on the team will once again be high this season. "The champions become a target. You cannot be complacent. You have to be aware of what you did last year and if we have to do it again we can show no complacency whatsoever. This season is going to be even tougher to retain the championship."
"A lot of it (being champions) is mental. It is not always the physical side. We have to be mentally tough. The great Sir Alex Ferguson won his only championship back in the 90s. And then he did it 13 times. That's the true sign of a champion.
"You just don't win it only once but go back and defend it. The thing that I am trying to instil in my squad is that champions do not win only once, they go and defend it year after year. It is more of a mental thing.
"My boys have always been physically fit but there is a mental toughness that you must have. We started working on it from the first day of pre-season. They have come back with a better attitude. We just see it in the way they train or look after themselves. They all have the same kind of desire and hunger that they had 12 months ago. Obviously as the leader of the group I have to ensure that they maintain the hunger and professionalism," the English coach said.
Gregory also feels that the departure of players like Henrique Sereno has not affected the squad.
"We might not have the best players but we have the best team. We have lost our captain Henrique Sereno and (there have been) some backroom changes but once we get back to training there's still that amazing atmosphere among the players.
"They are very much together. That was one of the reasons why we won the championship as everyone gets together so well. We have healthy competition in our squad which never really allows you to put your feet off the gas. If you aren't playing well then someone else will be there to replace you. That competitiveness is also one of our chief ingredients," he concluded.