"A fresh start with a tough first challenge" – Excerpts from the pre-FC Goa press conference

Head Coach John Gregory and new signing Edwin Vanspaul address the Goan media at the Bambolim Stadium ahead of Chennaiyin’s opening game against FC Goa tomorrow.

Below are some excerpts:

Q. FC Goa in the first game. They’ve had a consistent squad the last two seasons but your team has had to go through changes. Thoughts ahead of the game?

JG: It’s always a good venue to come to, Goa. Yes, we almost have a brand new team. Edwin (Vanspaul) here is one of our new players. We had seven foreigners last season, and we’ve replaced six of them. Eli Sabia the only one to continue. We’ve also signed the likes of (Lallianzuala) Chhangte and Vishal Kaith. And we have the likes of Anirudh Thapa and Dhanpal Ganesh continuing with us. I’m very happy with our domestic contingent as well. They’re part of the future of our club. We hope the foreigners have the same kind of influence as season four. Under Sergio (Lobera), the FC Goa squad has been pretty much the same with changes here and there. So it is a tough game for us to start with.

Q. With the ISL league toppers set to get an AFC Champions League qualifying spot, is there any change in approach?

JG: It is obviously a big motivation for the ISL league toppers to get the AFC Champions League qualifying spot. It’s a much more sensible change, to be honest. But I think it will be the prime objective for every team to qualify for the playoffs, however to give the AFC Champions League qualifying spot to the ISL league toppers is a common sense decision, if you ask me. The approach won’t change much to ISL matches though in my opinion.

Q. It could be your first match for Chennaiyin FC, versus FC Goa. So how are you looking forward to it?

EV: As Head Coach John (Gregory) said, this will be a big game to start off with. It will be huge for me to make my ISL debut. It will also be special to come up against a good side like FC Goa. I am looking forward to implementing the coach’s plans on the pitch. It’s a new team, a new start, a new challenge for me. I am learning a lot with every training session. And if I make my debut against Goa, it will obviously be a big day for me personally.

Q: How much will the changes in the squad, especially the foreigners, help your team react psychologically in matches?

JG: We just didn’t get the performances from everybody last season. Going into last season as champions, we didn’t play to our ability as a group. We didn’t reach the standards we’d set in the previous. We thus made wholesale changes in the summer. And now we feel we have made the right changes in the right areas. For instance Edwin here knows how to win a gold medal. We feel the likes of Edwin, Chhangte, Vishal, Thapa and Ganesh are the future of this club over the next few seasons. We’ve basically started from scratch, you could say. Reaching the Super Cup final did help us get some pride back, but we didn’t win at the end of the day. So it is a fresh start now, and it will be a new experience, especially for a number of the new foreign boys. We had that in season four and they performed exceptionally well. So I hope our new group will be the same.

Q. Who will be the captain?

JG: Lucian (Goian) will be the captain. He will lead us out tomorrow out there, wearing the armband. But as the old saying goes, every single player needs to perform like a captain. But yes, Lucian will lead us out. I hope he can continue his journey well in India. He led Mumbai to the playoffs last time and had a good season. We’d like to think he will continue his good form by leading us out tomorrow.

Q. Will Jahouh’s absence for FC Goa be helpful to CFC?

JG: To be honest, Jahouh has always been one of my favorite players to watch in the ISL. I think Sergio has used him very well. He’s always been the outstanding player in the Goa side. So yes, I am very happy he won’t be playing against us!

Q. What was the reason to sign for Chennaiyin FC?

EV: I consider Chennaiyin to be a home club for me. I believe I can gain more experience here at Chennaiyin and take my career to the next level. I didn’t have any other ideas or doubts when the opportunity came up to represent CFC. As for AFC tournament participation, if we win here in the ISL this season, I can represent Chennaiyin at that stage!