Q: How have the preparations been for the match?
John Gregory: The mood is very good in the camp. It has been a bit strange as everyone else is on vacation but we’re back, continuing our training. But we wouldn’t have it any other way, to be honest, being involved in the AFC Cup. We have two important games coming up against Minerva (Punjab) and Manang (Marshyangdi) in Nepal. The professionalism that my boys have portrayed is first class. And they are all aware of the task at hand.
Q: Your team is just a couple of steps away from the AFC Cup knockout rounds. How high are the stakes?
John Gregory: We certainly know what is at stake. To be honest, we have faced a number of challenges in this competition. We weren’t able to play in our home stadium in Chennai. That was also something we have had to overcome. And it is also a challenge, with the gaps between matches. So despite everything, given the position we are in, if we win our two remaining group matches, we 100% qualify for the knockout round. What is great is that it is in our hands. We control our destiny. Win two matches and we qualify.
Everyone is in good shape. Our season is still going on. We’ve been together since August last year and it has been a challenging journey. One of my boys Anirudh Thapa has been playing continuously for the last two years with us and the national team, without much of a break with all the travel. It isn’t easy, but this is what we want to do and are paid to do. And if we qualify for the knockout round, it will be a fantastic achievement and moment for everyone at the club.
Q: As players, how will this break affect things?
CK Vineeth: You might say we had a break but we actually didn’t. Before we went away, we were given this big book on fitness and conditioning by our team. And we have ensured we stay fit and in shape. We are focused on getting all three points tomorrow and inching closer to the knockout round.
Q: What effect do you think such a long season has had on the players?
John Gregory: Honestly, it won’t affect the players too much. The way they have been in practice, the way they have looked after themselves is testament to that. They are all really focused. Like CK (Vineeth) said, a fitness programme was given to them to ensure that they are all in shape. And every player has worked fantastically hard to follow that. They’ve worked really hard. Even in their off time if they’re thinking about what will happen to them next season, they’re still working really hard. They’re fully focused on the two games at hand. Qualifying for the next round will be a huge achievement for everyone associated with the club.