ISL 2017: Chennaiyin FC's John Gregory - 'Indian players have not been given the opportunity to prove themselves'

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The new coach of the 2015 champions wants 100% commitment from his players while also admitting to have been bowled over by the club's fan base...

Indian players in the Indian Super League (ISL) have not really been allowed to prove their mettle, according to the new Chennaiyin FC coach John Gregory. 

The 63-year-old coach was speaking at his official unveiling in Chennai, days before the all-important Indian player draft. "Some of the Indian players in ISL have been in awe of the foreign players and have possibly not been given the opportunity to prove themselves," said Gregory to the media. "If it's a choice between foreign and Indian players, the foreigners always get selected.

"Which is why I'm impressed with the new regulations that allow for only five foreigners in the starting XI. That's a positive step. That will ultimately improve the national team."

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The champions of the 2015 editions of the Indian Super League have undertaken a big shift in philosophy after parting ways with Marco Materazzi after a three-year stint and appointing Englishman John Gregory in his stead. 

Vita Dani and Abhishek Bachchan, the co-owners of the team, felt that a change was desperately needed after a disastrous 2016 season when they finished seventh during the group stage. "The last three seasons have been very memorable. Last one wasn't to our expectations and that is the reason we have John (Gregory) here. Looking at our framework, I'm sure John will add a lot of value to the club," Ms. Dani said. 

Gregory, a former Aston Villa manager, praised the growth of the ISL and was extremely complimentary of the club's fans. "I believe ISL is growing quickly and back in England, I've seen how it started three years ago and now there is world wide interest in it. Also, I'm joining a club and following the footsteps of Materazzi. He has left a big pair of shoes for me to try and fill. 

"Also, I was humbled and overwhelmed by the attention. The thing that hit me was the support from the fans who came to the airport at 5 AM to receive me and I'm gobsmacked!" he added. 

John Gregory Chennaiyin FC ISL 2017

Chennaiyin FC, who have retained two senior players in Jeje Lalpekhlua and Karanjit Singh will only be able to enter the player draft in Round 4, owing to the fact that one of their U21 retainees (Jerry Lalrinzuala) already has an international cap.

The coach went on to state that he doesn't consider that to be a disadvantage, despite the fact that around 14 players would already be gone by the time they enter the draft. "I think we have an advantage because we have 4 players already which is four more than what Delhi (Dynamos) have. Also, I have assistant manager Sabeer Pasha alongside me who will help me pick Indian players as I don't know many Indian players. However, we couldn't afford to let go of players like Jeje Lalpekhlua who has proven himself on the international stage," he said. 

"The draft is gonna be an unusual situation for me but we'll certainly go into it with expectations. By Sunday I hope we have a good team."

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The coach, when asked to explain his philosophy in coaching, reasoned that all he wants to instil in his players is to give 100% for the team. "One thing I want is if you wear the Chennaiyin shirt, you have to give 100%. You have to commit yourself completely to the team. That sort of players will get my support. I expect discipline and players conduct themselves properly on the pitch and dont get involved with the referee or opposition," he asserted.  

Meanwhile, Abhishek Bachchan went on to explain the reasoning behind the management's decision to appoint John Gregory. "We wanted a technical proficient coach and somebody who would fit in to the family.

"We were very impressed with John. He has managed a lot of teams and he is also interested in blooding young talents. He ticked all our boxes. He has the attitude we want. He is a leader," Mr. Bachchan said of the manager who launched the career of former England striker Darius Vassell at the age of 17.