Despite collecting just a dismal 10 points from their 11 games so far, Bino George is still confident that his side can achieve a respectable mid-table finish in their maiden campaign.
“They are at the top and we are at the bottom. For us, this match is very precious. Last two matches we have played good and now the boys are eager to fight against NEROCA. For us, we want to finish mid-table and for that, we have to play a good game against NEROCA. We are working hard and we will get results hopefully,” he said at the pre-match press conference.
The Gokulam coach firmly believes that his side have slowly but surely, started to come to grips with top-flight Indian football.
“Slowly and steadily, the boys are getting the hand of the I-League. My squad is very young and inexperienced. Maybe only one or two of them have featured in previous seasons of the I-League and now they are getting the experience. After about playing nine matches, they have got to know what all is needed to thrive in this kind of a competition and with the knowledge, we want to work hard and get results,” George explained.
George was respectful of Sunday’s opponents but said that his side were in a different stage in their football development.
“NEROCA are a good side, they play hard. They have enough players in their squad and more or less retained the same team from last season, so they are familiar with each other and have continued the tempo. It is good for NEROCA and we respect them as an opponent,” he stated.
“But for us, we are in a different stage. We are in the bottom and we have to come up. Kerala got an I-League club after seven years and we want to at least qualify for the Super Cup. We owe it to our management and the state of Kerala, which is badly needed, to sustain ourselves in the I-League and play in the Super Cup,” he added.
NEROCA, on the other hand, are desperate for the three points themselves in their quest for the title though the Manipur side suffered two rare home defeats in the past one week..
Defender Varney Kallon expressed optimism despite the two losses and remained bullish about his side’s title chances.
“Yes we lost those two games but still the league seems in our favour. We start from tomorrow, and until the end of the league, we'll do whatever possible for us to become the champions,” he said.
"It was shocking to everyone because the past two years I played in NEROCA, I never lost any game at home. So when I lost two games at home, I was shocked but this I football.
“Whenever you are playing a league, you don’t go out to lose but when you do, you accept it. You change your focus to your goals for the end of the season. So our dream and concentration are to get done with the five remaining games in hand. Hopefully, we will do well, get the glory and wins those games. I strongly believe that we will be champions”, he added.
Assistant coach S. Premkanda also remained in a confident mood ahead of the clash and said that his side had played well in the defeats. He further added that his side had no injury concerns going into the game.