Super-sub to impact striker: Pandita eyes more game time and a semi-final berth at Jamshedpur

Striker Ishan Pandita was a feisty customer to deal with for most defences in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2020-21 season. Having been used as a substitute in most games for FC Goa, he racked up 4 goals in the 131 minutes he came off the pitch. And now, Jamshedpur FC have acquired the marksman’s services ahead of the 2021-22 season.

In an exclusive interview with indiansuperleague.com, Pandita shared his thoughts on the upcoming season, his life at Jamshedpur FC and much more.

Sharing his experience thus far with the Red Miners and their gaffer Owen Coyle, he said, “It’s been fantastic from day one. I’ve settled in very well and have been loving life in my new team. We’ve got a good bunch of boys and a great coaching staff so it’s been all good. Training under Owen is superb. He’s always pushing us everyday in training and being a striker, I’ve had a lot to learn from him already.”

Pandita received the tag of being a ‘super sub’ last season for FC Goa, as he chipped in with important goals at crucial junctures in several games. Addressing his performances of the previous season, while also laying out his aims for the upcoming season, he mentioned, “Last season, I made an impact every time I came onto the field but hardly got any minutes. This year is going to be different. In addition to the goals I’m looking forward to getting solid minutes and games under Owen Coyle.”

Pandita’s exploits with the Gaurs last season earned him a first-ever call up to the national team for the international friendlies held in March 2021. The striker has been unfortunate to miss out on the subsequent national team squads, but he is undeterred by his exclusion.

“Playing for your country is always an honor but currently my head is at Jamshedpur FC. I’m looking to put in some solid performances and help my team reach where we want to be. If the national team comes calling, then I’ll obviously take it with open arms,” he quipped.

For the upcoming Hero ISL season, the 23-year-old is a part of a formidable Jamshedpur attacking unit consisting of experienced campaigners like Nerijus Valskis, Jordan Murray and Greg Stewart among others. Despite the competition for places upfront, Pandita said he was learning from the trio.

“We have some top quality players up front this year. Valskis, Murray and Greg have all been great. Sharing the field with them day in and day out, I’m always looking to take the best out of them,“ he remarked.

Jamshedpur FC also have some great future prospects in their ranks, and the mix of experience and youthful exuberance at the club has impressed Pandita. “The whole squad is fantastic. I would mention everyone if I could but to name a few younger boys I’d say Narendar (Gahlot), Komal (Thatal), Boris (Singh Thangjam), Jitendra (Singh), Sandeep Mandi, Mobashir (Rahman) and Vishal (Yadav) have been good,” he said.

Since their debut in the Hero ISL, the Men of Steel have been agonisingly close to qualifying for the top four since their inception, failing to do so in the previous four seasons. But this time around, Pandita is optimistic of his side’s chances to go all the way.

“The mood is good. We’ve gelled very well as a team. We want to be up there on the top where we belong. Jamshedpur FC have been close but this year we’ll be looking to make it happen. I saved FC Goa last season in reaching the playoffs and will be doing everything I can for Jamshedpur this year,” he said.

Jamshedpur FC kick off their Hero Indian Super League campaign against SC East Bengal on 21st November, in what will be a crucial first game for two teams who would be aiming to put their disappointments from last season behind them.

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