Steve Coppell is set to embark on a third innings in the Indian Super League (ISL), this time with the Kolkata franchise ATK.
At the jersey launch ahead of the fifth season of ISL, the ATK head coach spoke about his switch from Jamshedpur to Kolkata. "I am privileged to coach and manage a team like ATK. I faced ATK with Kerala Blasters in the final in 2016 and they were gracious in victory.
"The club is run superbly well. After Jamshedpur FC last season, I was undecided. I got a call about a possibility at ATK. After conversations with Raghu (Iyer, CEO) and Mr Goenka, I saw they were enthused to be champions again," he said.
He continued, "Kolkata is a hotbed for football. We have to embrace the footballing nature and culture of the supporters in this city as part of our journey to be ISL champions again. Maybe, it will be tough on occasions, but we will have to overcome it. Hopefully, we can deliver the right results."
ATK had a three-week pre-season camp at the Pinatar Arena in Spain during which they became only the second-ever ISL side to face a Premier League team. Delhi Dynamos had faced West Bromwich Albion a couple of years ago and earlier this month, ATK played Fulham in a friendly and lost 0-1.
"You have to look at it as a whole experience at Spain in a three-week camp rather than just playing Fulham. It came to us suddenly. It was the international week so some of the names were missing but they played most of the players that played Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium the following week.
"They spent £100 million in this window so even their squad players are still good enough at the world stage. Against Fulham, it was a case of competing hard rather than just trying to win the game. Slavisa Jokanovic organised his team well against us. They had 17 staff members and 16 players, shows how big a side Fulham is, it was fascinating."
"It was demanding, it was meant to be. By the end of March (next year), I would like to say that I had laid the foundation for a successful season", told Coppell about the Spanish sojourn.
Coppell now joins a very small list of managers in the ISL who will feature in three different seasons of the league after Zico and Antonio Habas. The former Manchester United winger hoped that the ISL could only get bigger and the table toppers after the regular season are also awarded some sort of silverware.
"The league should expand. There should be a trophy for the league winners. I also like the excitement of the playoffs and it is a totally different thing, it's terrific and a nice icing on the cake at the end of the season.
"The ISL should look to copy leagues from around the world and have 18-20 teams in it. This will also help the national team to climb up the ladder at the international stage," he opined.
ATK feature in the curtain-raiser for ISL's season five as they host Kerala Blasters, Coppell's former employers, on 29 September.