Sheringham: ISL fans drew me to India

In the run-up to the fourth season kicking off shortly, the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) held the Kolkata leg of the Media Day at the Novotel Hotel. ATK head coach Teddy Sheringham was among those who attended the same where he shared his thoughts regarding the league and much more during a candid interview session.

The former Manchester United striker said that the sheer number of fans who attend ISL matches was the biggest reason he agreed to come to India.

“I was initially skeptical and asked myself whether I needed to come all the way to India to manage. But then I spoke with people - Steve Coppell (Jamshedpur FC's current head coach) and even David James (former Kerala Blasters FC head coach) and they all had good things to say,” Sheringham revealed. “Then when I was told we will be playing in front of 60,000 supporters, I thought that's the sort of atmosphere I want to manage in.”

The defending champions play Kerala Blasters FC at Kochi in the opening match of Hero ISL 2017-18, and Sheringham said he was looking forward to playing against the 2016 season finalist, even though it could be a hostile atmosphere.

“It will be an obvious challenge but if it came down to choosing to play in front of 3,000 or 60,000, I would choose the latter,” he said clearly. “I expect a large number of fans even at the Salt Lake Stadium during our home games.”

 Sheringham was asked whether he would have preferred an easier opening game, but he saw the positive side in starting the campaign against Kerala Blasters in what will be a repeat of last season's final, which ATK won 4-3 on penalties.

“It will be good to start in the sort of atmosphere where I've wanted to pit my brains against other teams,” the 51-year-old stated. “It will be tough, but it will be great if we can do well in front of the 60,000 fans cheering our opponents.”

The ATK-Kerala Blasters rivalry has grown over the past few seasons, with the Kolkata side not having lost to the Kochi-based team in five matches. That being said, Sheringham earmarked the Blasters as the biggest threat to ATK's ambitions.

“I was asked very early as to who I thought was a very strong team and it came down to the one which has fans who act like a 12th man. Having passionate fans is a great thing but we've all faced in our career moments where they turn against you and demand more from the team,” Sheringham said of the Kerala Blasters.

He also confirmed that ATK’s star signing Robbie Keane, who is nursing an Achilles injury, will not be part of the opener.

“I won't lie. It (the injury) is a big blow to the team, but it’s a minor one and we hope that he (Keane) is back with us in two weeks,” he informed.

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