Chennaiyin FC have had the worst home record this season having picked a mere point from their five matches. The Marina Machans once again failed to convert their chances and paid the price as they conceded two penalties.
Coach John Gregory pointed that he has given loads of chances to his players in order to make a difference this season. However, their profligacy up front has come to hurt them.
“When you’re not winning, you have to make an improvement to improve your team. There are a few players who have come and say you’ve not given me a chance. In particular, we have played everybody. We have given Jeje plenty of chances. Carlos (Salom) has had chances. Thoi (Singh), Francis (Fernandes), Issac (Vanlalsawma) have had all opportunities. (Andrea) Orlandi has got games. The goalkeepers have also got chances. The players can’t say they haven’t got chances. We have supported them.
“But when you get chances in matches and not finish them, that’s the difference between winning and losing. We had chances even before the Jayesh Rane goal. He never scored one like that for us. He will never score one like that again. It is a once in a lifetime thing. It was a fantastic strike. Our goalkeeper (Sanjiban Ghosh) had nothing to do in the second half against one of the richest clubs in the league. It’s disappointing we did not have something from the game.
“I have to take it on the chin again I’m afraid and stand up for my team. You look at my team and they can’t give any more than what they gave. We were camped in their half at the end,” said Gregory.
However, the coach believes that his players will pick themselves up when they travel next to Mumbai to take on a high flying Mumbai City FC.
“Defensively, Mailson (Alves) and (Eli) Sabia worked fantastically. There were quite a few others who didn’t deserve to be on the losing team.
“If you saw our morale at the end, it was very good. It has been like that always to be honest. If we ever lost that, we would lose everything. The captain (Alves) led the team well tonight. He was a big voice in the dressing room. He’s acting and playing like a leader. That side is very good but it is hard to accept the defeats. Particularly, for the boys who were with us last season. It is hitting them in particular. They’re hurting badly. It won’t stop them from picking themselves up and going again for Mumbai,” he mentioned.
Gregory believes that although Chennaiyin FC have had a terrible campaign so far, he wouldn’t let pressure get to him.
“I try and shield my team from everything I possibly can. I can’t allow pressure on them. I’m 64-years-old and can’t let pressure on my head. I feel huge disappointment for everybody associated with the club. I carry hurt and disappointment rather than pressure. It hurts me the worst. That’s how I feel. Having had the amazing 12 months I had prior to September this year, it hurts me the most. That’s what comes with the job. I care about my whole squad. It’s not pressure. I carry the weight of expectations more than anything and that’s hard when it doesn’t happen. Tonight’s result will stay with me for a couple of days,” he reflected on their shoddy campaign.
On being asked if he expects an overhaul of Chennaiyin FC squad given the disappointment of the current campaign, he said,” I don’t contemplate futures. I get up every day and get on with it the best I can. I just keep going and I don’t run away from stuff. It’s my fault where we are at the moment. That’s something I will always maintain.”
Gregory still hasn’t given up hope of his team making it into the top four.
“AFC Cup becomes the focus if ISL goes out of focus. We still have 24 points at stake. We can get to 29 to 30 was the cut-off last year. You’re praying for a miracle here,” he said.
The former Derby County coach affirmed that his team have given a thought to adding reinforcements ahead of the AFC Cup.
“That’s something we have thought about but haven’t discussed about it yet. The first game is on 6th of March. It’s another competition for us. It will be a massive challenge to win it. By the end of this month, we will have a really good idea of whether our play-off hopes are completely over. It is a huge ask for us to catch-up. We have a lot of contracts that finish in May. The first four matches in AFC Cup will be inside everybody’s contract. The last two games will be a problem. We might have to think about it in January. I probably won’t think about it tonight,” he signed off.