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ISL: NorthEast United's Rupert Nongrum - Mood in ATK dressing room wasn't the best last season

11:15 AM GMT+4 09/09/2018
Rupert Nongrum Jamshedpur FC ATK ISL Season 4 2017/2018
The Shillong Lajong academy product reflects on a poor season with Kolkata side ATK as he begins a new journey in Guwahati...

Rupert Nongrum had been part of the Shillong Lajong setup since 2010 before he made a permanent transfer to ATK. However, the move did not go as expected as his side ended up finishing second from bottom.

However, Indian Super League (ISL) 2018-19 brings a new and almost a tougher challenge for the Meghalaya-born as he joins last season's wooden spooners NorthEast United

"Well, I've always wanted to play for NorthEast United since I am from the region - Shillong, which is only two hours from here (Guwahati). I always wanted to play at home (in the ISL)," the 22-year-old told Goal.

He continued, "I am really grateful to the management for bringing me here and I am hoping that I will give my best. Hopefully, we can do something great this year."

Nongrum rekindles his partnership with another Lajong alumnus Redeem Tlang on the wings as the Highlanders undergo pre-season training in the city itself. "It is always good to play with familiar faces. I have played before with Redeem. There are also new players and we have been gelling really well so far. 

"We have been working hard together and we hope to help the club do something that it has not done yet - to reach the semis this season and give something back to the fans who have been so passionate and been supporting the club since the first season. The aim is to reach the top four," he said.

The winger started half of the league games for ATK last year as the team endured its worst season ever. "We had a really good squad of players but what killed us last year were the injuries. If one was back from injury, another one was down. It was like that," opined Nongrum.

He further revealed, "Last season with ATK, when we were losing a lot of matches, most of the boys were not feeling so positive about themselves. The mood in the dressing room was not very good."

However, there was an upside to his time with the Kolkata franchise. The Malki-born got the opportunity to pick the brains of legends like Teddy Sheringham and Robbie Keane, an experience which he hopes to utilise in the future.

"Yes and also from Teddy's assistant Kevin Watson. They have been playing football at the highest level so working under them was a real honour for me."

"I learnt so much and hopefully, I can learn even more now from Eelco (Schattorie) and Arthur (Papas)", he concluded.

NorthEast United play their annual pre-season friendly with I-League side NEROCA FC in Imphal on 15 September before they kick off their season by hosting FC Goa at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on 1 October.

Nongrum will pay a visit to his former employers right after that as ATK host the John Abraham-owned side on 4 October.