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Kerala Blasters: Nishu Kumar 'ready' for debut after 'difficult, different' pre-season

04:13 GMT 19/11/2020
Kerala Blasters Nishu Kumar
Kerala Blasters' new signing Nishu Kumar is set to make his debut after joining from Bengaluru...

If it wasn't for the Coronavirus pandemic, Nishu Kumar would be getting ready to make his debut in front of a wave of yellow Kerala Blasters supporters, regardless of whether the team's match is being played at home or away.

But things out of anyone's control have denied him that experience. He will now most likely make his Blasters debut against ATK Mohun Bagan in the Indian Super League 2020-21 season opener on Friday behind closed doors in Goa. The whole process of getting ready to play football during the pandemic has been a weird one for players. 

"It (this pre-season) is definitely different and difficult because we can't go out, we have to stay at the hotel. At the same time, it is for our safety and we have to follow this," Nishu told Goal ahead of the season's first game on November 20. 

"We played friendlies but this year, we don't play a lot of (pre-season) games - that is the negative part. It is difficult but we have to follow the instructions."

The biggest problem with not adding a proper pre-season into the football calendar is how challenging it will be to maintain the players' fitness and get them to full match fitness before the first game. Fans only have to look at how things turned out last season after Eelco Schattorie's team had their pre-season tour to UAE cancelled. 

The former Bengaluru full-back feels players will take time to fully get into a rhythm but is glad that coaches have the option of making five substitutions per game. 

"I think the players may take a few games to settle in. We have a good fitness trainer and the coach (Kibu Vicuna) is very caring about our fitness. He is not putting a lot of pressure on us. Having five substitutions will help this season because now the coach has more options so that is a plus point. We are ready for the season." 

Nishu's signature cost Blasters a significant sum but the talented youngster is confident that pressure to perform will not affect him when he takes to the field. 

"We have a good squad. Experienced foreigners and young players. We have a good mixture and the coach Kibu was with Mohun Bagan who dominated the I-League - I am feeling very positive about this season. I am working hard to be in better shape. 

"I don't feel that much pressure. I feel that I have to do my best in training whichever club I play for. I am young and have to improve. The pressure is more like motivation to perform. I hope I can give my best this season also. We have good support so I have to give my best," Nishu said. 

Fans will be wondering about the position he will play under Vicuna. He usually plays left-back but can play on the other flank too. At left-back, Blasters already have Jessel Carneiro who registered an impressive debut season in ISL last year. Mohammed Rakip, who played right-back last season, left the club and signed for Mumbai City.

"I can play both sides. The coach knows that and he has tried me in both positions. I am comfortable with whatever position he wants me in," the 23-year-old revealed. 

He added, "Jessel is senior to me, I am learning from him. He is a very good guy and a good competitor. In training sessions, we are fighting for the spot in the first team. It is a healthy competition and will be good for the team."