Chennaiyin FC are a team that has come to be known for backing young talents to perform in the six years of its existence. The Indian Super League (ISL) outfit has played a huge role in the development of talents like Jerry Lalrinzuala, Anirudh Thapa, Tondonba Singh, Germanpreet Singh and more.
However, their commitment to youth development extends also to their reserve team and age group teams. Reserves head coach Santosh Kashyap was at pains to underline the support he receives from the team management in making sure his batch of youngsters produce first team players.
"The reserve team is more about development because it is not a result oriented category. We participate in tournaments but the focus is on the development of players. The management understands that very well and they have given me a free hand," Kashyap told Goal.
"We have excellent residential facilities in Chennai. My players have three-to-four star accommodation. We have a Volvo bus, good food arrangements and an excellent pitch. Whatever I require is provided by the management including video analysts.
"It is a big gap between the reserves and the first team. We mainly have U19 players and the ISL features experienced and mature players. Even then, it is a big thing for the management to say they want to give more chances for the young players."
Kashyap joined Chennaiyin only in October 2019 and has been in charge for around seven months. But the former Mahindra United player is an experienced campaigner, having taken charge of I-League sides like Royal Wahingdoh, Air India, Mohun Bagan, Mahindra United, Salgaocar, Mumbai FC, Aizawl FC and more.
The 53-year-old revealed that he did have to face a challenge immediately before the 2019-20 season when six of his players were called up by the Indian Arrows (Samik Mitra, Ajin Tom, Hendry Antonay, Saurabh Meher, Rohmingthanga and Lalliansanga Renthlei), leaving him to scramble to put together a competitive side.
"I’ve worked with youngsters before and this was another chance to do that. Within two months time, we prepared a batch. But Arrows needed players and six of ours were selected by them. Then I had to rebuild the team. We started with trials and we had only some 10-15 days to focus on the I-League second division which was our main focus.
"After six players joined Arrows, we invited selected players for trials since we did not have time to conduct open trials. We called 50 players and we took seven players from them.
"We did well. We beat Bengaluru, Mohammedan Sporting, We drew with Hyderabad. It was a good season. I expect three-to-four players will get a chance to play for the senior team which is our main aim," elaborated Kashyap.
The Chennaiyin FC reserves do have a problem though, in terms of the number of matches they get to play. They played just nine matches in the I-League second division last season apart from five practice games they managed to cobble up during a trip to Bengaluru.
The lack of a functioning league in Chennai also restricts game time for Kashyap's boys. (Chennai Football Association's top division has not taken place for two seasons now for a variety of issues. But the coach reveals that he tries to make up by playing matches against college teams in and around Chennai every week.
"We get very less matches. We played just nine matches in the I-League second division. Five games we played as practice matches when we went on an exposure trip to Bengaluru. I also ensure we play a match every week with college teams in the city. From a coaching perspective, youngsters should play at least 1-2 matches every week.
"That gives them match temperament and match fitness. It will be better if we can play the local league in Chennai. It has not been happening for the last two years. If these youngsters get to play more matches in that competition also, it will make a definite difference to their progress," Kashyap added.
Kashyap also outlined the training programme he has devised for the reserve team, with at least two sessions lined up for the players each day. He also makes use of modern techniques like video analysis and more.
"I combine a lot of sessions like strength training, gym sessions, video sessions, technical training and more. We generally have two sessions every day. One will be on the field and one will be off the field.
"We show them videos, record their moves and tell them where they have to improve. Depending on the intensity of sessions and their recovery, we do give them an off day once in a while," he revealed.
Kashyap, who last worked at Aizawl FC before the Chennaiyin stint, also explained why he makes it compulsory for his charges to go to ISL games and watch the matches of Chennaiyin FC.
"I show them top matches of European teams and ISL games too. I’ve made it compulsory for them to go to ISL games in Chennai and watch. I want to show them what their target is. I tell them your target is to prepare for the ISL and not for the second division of the I-League. So, they need to know their objective."
As far as scouting process goes, Kashyap feels the management's plan is to ensure the club get the best talent in the country.
"The club wants players from all over the country and it is very important that we get the cream of India and we help them develop."