The Yellow Army got off to a poor start season under former Manchester United coach Rene Meulensteen and James was roped in midway to steady the ship. Much of the blame for the poor results were placed on the signings. Players such as Dimitar Berbatov and Wes Brown failed to make the desired impact and the club topscorer Iain Hume was injured for most of the season.
Under James, Blasters ended sixth on the table and he was awarded a new three-year contract. After his first ever preseason as a coach, the former Liverpool goalkeeper believes he has made the right additions to the squad.
"The U-17 World Cup last year in India has influenced Indian football with the quality of young players coming through. Looking at the Kerala Blasters side three or four months on, it doesn’t resemble anything to the squad I took over last season.
"It's always an interesting time when you are bringing in players with regards to the expectations. First of all, are you bringing in finished players? Our recruitment wasn’t about bringing in finished players. It was about getting the best quality from local players," James stated.
Blasters have roped in the likes of Seiminlen Doungel, Halicharan Narzary, Anas Edathodika and Dheeraj Singh to strengthen their Indian contingent. When it comes to the foreign players' quota, the club has opted not to go after big names like in previous years.
"It's more about players being the right fit for Kerala Blasters with room for improvement. Anas Edathodika likes Kerala so that’s very important. We wanted players who are excited about playing for the football club. It wasn’t about signing big players with big money but signing the right players for the right price and I think we have done that.
"The recruitment was important. We can get the best players who are not particularly great people. We recruited good players who were great for the team. I think the bonding over the pre-season has been very good. What I want to see is 100 per cent commitment in training and 100 per cent commitment on the pitch.
"We have a lot of young players in our squad with our average age being around 22.6 if I am not wrong. The older players make up not just for the lack of experience but for the quality of communication and team togetherness.
"It’s a wonderful bunch we have together and we have a chance to get our hands on the trophy after missing out twice," James concluded.
Kerala Blasters will open their account against familiar foes ATK in Kolkata on September 29, 2018.