Chennai, December 3, 2019: Chennaiyin FC on Tuesday announced that 53-year-old former Burnley and Bolton Wandarers manager Owen Coyle has joined the club as Head Coach for the ongoing Hero Indian Super League season. Ahead of his arrival to India, Coyle got on the phone with the club’s media team to share his initial thoughts and excitement after signing on the dotted line. Below is the full transcript of his conversation:
Firstly, congratulations on joining Chennaiyin FC as Head Coach. What are your initial thoughts on signing with the club?
It’s fantastic. I must say I’m very honoured and privileged to be the Head Coach of this brilliant Hero Indian Super League club. A club that’s already had success with two ISL titles. I now have the chance to come in and work with some very good people and a fantastic fanbase. I know the fans are passionate and love the club, which is great. I must say I’m really excited and looking forward to the challenge.
What made you believe in the Chennaiyin project and make the decision of moving to India? Is there anything you can share with us on your conversation with the club co-owner Vita Dani?
I’ve had some very good conversations with the club co-owners Vita Dani and Abhishek Bachchan. I could tell how passionate they are and how much love and care they have for the club. And I think that’s very important. There’s no doubt they are honourable people, which was a big attraction. Their ambition, passion and the outline for the club struck home to me that this is a club on the way up; that has had success but at the same time wants to get back to that level again. I look forward to coming in and playing my part and helping the players and the club in continuing to build the brand. Ultimately, you want Chennaiyin FC to be known globally. The only way to do that is to keep building. There’s a good solid platform here. We have to enhance things and make them better.
Have you been following Chennaiyin FC, especially this season? What are your thoughts on the squad? And what are your objectives from the outset?
Obviously I’ve followed the Hero Indian Super League over the years, since its inception, truth be told. As there have always been many friends and colleagues involved in it. I have played with some of the coaches who’ve been at the ISL, Steve Coppell and Phil Brown for instance. Phil and I played together at Bolton Wanderers and even competed against each other in the Premier League. There’s also a few of my former players here currently. So I am aware about the League and how the brand has grown over the years. And this is another wonderful opportunity, coming to a wonderful club like Chennaiyin.
Looking at the squad, I think there are some very good players here. Our job is to try and get them to the maximum level. They have showed potential but now we have to get the level of their performance up, to turn those draws into three points. And when you can win games, it’s obviously shown that you can catapult up the league. The other thing that is very important in football is momentum. If you can get on that run it would be great. The club has shown that in previous seasons, have found the momentum and gone on a winning run. Obviously, we start with two tough away games (against Jamshedpur FC and NorthEast United FC), but it is important to instil that positive mentality and belief. That as a group we can win. I think we have talented individuals, but our strength will be as a group always. It’s a team sport, it’s about everyone pulling together in the same direction and giving their absolute everything, on a daily basis on the training ground and in the matches. And they are backed by fantastic owners and more importantly a fanatic fanbase who absolutely love the club. We have to make sure that as a group we are representative of that fanbase on the pitch. So that means hard work, dedication, professionalism, a fantastic attitude and a real desire to win games. We want to win but we also want to be entertaining while we’re doing it. My teams have always played an attractive brand of football and it will be my endeavour to see that continue at CFC.
What are your thoughts on the Hero Indian Super League and Indian football in general?
Like any league, there’s been a lot of good work done from the beginning, there’s a solid base. I think foreigners coming in now need to recognize there is huge talent there with young Indian players. And I’ve always loved developing young players. Part of my objective is looking to develop the infrastructure while developing our own young players. As that also helps build the identity with the fans, they see a boy who grew up locally and now is everything the club stands for. I think there’s a lot of good work going on.
A message for your players and staff, who we’re certain you’re looking forward to meeting up with on arriving in India?
Ideally, you’d want to work with players in a pre-season to put plans in place. But when you inherit a squad, it’s important the players understand it’s obviously a clean slate. Everybody has the opportunity to get into the team. And if you’re good enough, you’ll play. Some players will rise to the challenge, and ultimately it will be up to them to show their quality. And if they have the quality we believe, then they’ll play. The challenge is for the players to show that they want to be a part. It will be hard to ignore anyone who does well in training, honestly! The one thing we pride ourselves in is making sure the players have given their everything for the football club when they take to the pitch. When they come off the pitch after the game, they should’ve given everything physically and mentally to win the game for our fans. And that’s what we’re looking for. Ability alone will win you nothing. First of all we need to set the premise of hard work. We’ve got to come in every day with a smile on the face. Players should be bursting through the door with a smile on their face, to have a career in football. To be a part of a wonderful football club. And that’s when the hard work and ability kicks in.
For our curious fans, if you could tell us a bit about your philosophy and the style of football they can expect?
I think the fans will see a team that excites them, and more importantly a team that represents them. A team they can feel proud of and think “I love being part of this club”. We want everyone who walks through the door to feel the love for the club, that connection. The team, the owners, the fans, for that connection to be very strong. This is a special club and to be a part of this club is a real privilege and a great feeling.
How much are you looking forward to the experience of coming to India?
I’m excited about the challenge of a new country. I’ve obviously coached in the USA in the MLS, worked in England and Scotland. And I’ve played for Ireland. I’ve been out and about, but this is a new challenge of a wonderful country with really good people. And a fantastic club backed by a great fanbase. It’s up to us to give the fans something to be excited about. We can’t take them for granted, we have to show them this is your team and we will do the right things. When you’re playing well and entertaining and your fans are with you, that’s the best sight in football.
Lastly, if you had a message for our fans at the moment, what would it be?
I would say thank you first and foremost for being a fantastic part of the football club. I look forward to bringing to you a team that can try and win games and be exciting, making chances and scoring goals, and entertaining while trying to win.