Chennai/Ahmedabad: Two-time Indian Super League champions Chennaiyin FC are delighted to announce that Head Coach John Gregory has signed a new deal that keeps him at the club till the end of the 2019-20 season.
In his first season in India, John led CFC to a second ISL title in the 2017-18 campaign, thus helping them become the first side from the competition to qualify for the prestigious Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup. And despite a disappointing 2018-19 ISL campaign, Chennaiyin went on to finish as 2019 Super Cup runners-up last month and currently occupy top spot midway through the 2019 AFC Cup group stage.
“It truly is a great feeling extending my stay with the Chennaiyin family. My journey so far in India has really given me the whole range of emotions and experience, after the ISL title triumph in the first season followed by the disappointment in the same competition last season. And I feel I have some unfinished business here. The objective is to reward our loyal and unconditional supporters with a memorable AFC Cup journey and the chance to challenge for a third ISL trophy. We will all fight together and certainly come back stronger than ever before to achieve these goals,” said the Englishman as he celebrates his 65th birthday with the contract renewal.
The success in his first season at the club along with the unity and togetherness displayed, especially during a difficult second season is largely down to John’s ethos and philosophy as a leader. John was presented with the esteemed League Managers’ Association (LMA) Special Achievement Award in May last year for becoming the first Englishman to win the ISL title. Then in July 2018 he was also awarded the ISL Coach of the Year trophy by the Association of Indian Football Coaches (AIFC) for winning the ISL in his first-ever coaching stint in India.
John and Chennaiyin went on to endure a disappointing 2018-19 ISL campaign, finishing in the bottom spot. But the troops also bounced back under John’s watch and put together a memorable cup run, progressing to the 2019 Super Cup final where they lost by a narrow 2-1 margin to FC Goa.
At the same time, Chennaiyin made their continental bow under John’s guidance in the 2019 AFC Cup. It has been a steady show so far with Chennaiyin currently in top spot midway through the group stage, with two wins and a draw. John’s Chennaiyin has kept eight clean sheets in their last eleven games in all competitions and is yet to concede a goal in five AFC Cup matches, including the qualifying play-off round against Colombo FC earlier in March.
Chennaiyin FC co-owner Mrs. Vita Dani was delighted with the latest development. “John continuing to lead us is fantastic news for everyone associated with Chennaiyin FC. Despite a difficult ISL campaign, the team has displayed incredible resolve to turn things around in the Super Cup and now the AFC Cup under John’s tutelage. His professional attitude and commitment to the Chennaiyin cause is exemplary. We look forward to a memorable AFC Cup run before fighting it out for a coveted third ISL trophy next season.”
Youth continues to be given a platform to flourish and develop with John at the helm, as three players from the CFC youth teams – defender Hendry Antonay (U-18 & B team), midfielder Zonunmawia (B team) and winger Bedashwor Singh (B team) – were promoted to the senior team ahead of the 2018-19 ISL campaign. It is a trend that has continued in the AFC Cup campaign as well, with Hendry, Zonunmawia, defender Reamsochung Aimol (B team), forward Bawlte Rohmingthanga (B team) and goalkeeper Samik Mitra (B team) part of the CFC squad. The club’s young talent continues to progress through the ranks, from the age-group teams right up to the senior team.
John’s first challenge after renewing terms will be the club’s first away AFC Cup group game as they take on Abahani Limited Dhaka at the Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka, Bangladesh on Wednesday 15th May with kick-off at 6:30 PM IST. The team departs for Dhaka on Sunday 12th May from Kolkata; arriving there from Ahmedabad on Saturday.