AFC Cup - Bengaluru FC's Michael Collins: 'I genuinely believe that we have the best team in the I-League'

The central midfielder praised Eugeneson Lyngdoh and Bengaluru FC's staff; wants to help the supporters forget Federation cup exit with AFC Cup triumph in Hong Kong...

Michael Collins may soon bid adieu to India, but the Bengaluru FC midfielder has stated that he's loved his time with the Blues of Karnataka and claims that Bengaluru have the 'best squad' in India's top division.

The Halifax-born Irishman was brought in as a replacement for the Ashley Westwood coached team's injured medio Josh Walker, and has impressed in the latter's position. Making 10 appearances in the I-League and five in the AFC Cup, the former Oxford United professional has won the League and helped the Bengaluru -based side progress to the knockout stages of the continental competition. 

Collins believes that Bengaluru FC's season has been very successful, despite an early exit from Federation Cup exit - a tournament in which they went in as defending champions - and that the AFC Cup tie against Hong Kong's Kitchee SC gives his team a chance to lift the spirits of the club's supporters to a whole new level. 

"We want to finish on a high and give the whole place a lift. When you step back and take a look at this season, you’ll see it’s been a successful one," explained the 30 year-old, to Bengaluru FC's website. 

"We managed to come from behind and win the League. We’ve got to take positives from that and forget what’s happened in the past few games. We know that we’re a good squad and what we’re capable of and it’s important that we put on a performance to show everyone just how good we are," he further added on how Bengaluru FC will play against their South Asian hosts. 

When asked as to how he'd sum up his team's travels in the AFC Cup, Bengaluru number eight expressed, "As a club, you’re always trying to progress. We know that the Round-of-16 is a marker for us, and now we have a great opportunity of progressing through to the final stages of the competition when we face Kitchee. There’s a lot of pride at stake as well, because there have been a few disappointing results since the League finished and the boys are looking to put it right."

The former Scunthorpe United medio believes that even though his team won the I-League, the bad taste of a Federation Cup exit still runs in the squad. 

"I’ve been very impressed since I’ve come over here. I knew that the ambition was to compete well in the League and to win it so I’m delighted that we managed to do that and that I was able to play my part. It was unfortunate that we didn’t advance through the Federation Cup, which was the only negative because I genuinely believe that we have the best team in the League. Our next objective is to go one step further in the AFC Cup," surmised Collins, when quizzed about the blues' domestic season. 

The Irishman also reserved high praise for his partner in the middle of the pitch and India's best central midfielder, stating they share the same wavelength. 

"I thoroughly enjoy playing alongside Eugene (Lyngdoh). He is, without doubt, one of the best players in the League and to have him in your side is a real bonus. He’s very comfortable on the ball and we’re on the same wavelength which helps us play really good football," claimed Collins.  

Though Lyngdoh missed a good chunk of the season through injury, Collins believes it's Bengaluru's thorough depth in squad that elevated them beyond the domestic competition. 

"When Eugene was unavailable someone else stepped up, which is the good thing about having the best squad. The boys here train right and when the opportunity comes some of the other boys will be raring to go," he stated. 

Collins concluded by praising the Bengaluru FC backroom staff for their diligence in ensuring the players have the right mentality. 

"I think it’s massive that we were able to put a slow start behind us but that also comes from having the kind of management staff and set-up that we do at Bengaluru FC. They don’t allow us to be down or sulk, it’s always about positivity and fighting," signed off Collins.

The Blues next play Kitchee in the AFC Cup on 25th May, at 5.30 PM IST.