Chennaiyin united in quest for a successful Hero ISL 2019-20
Chennaiyin FC saw their title defence go terribly wrong during Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2018-19, as they faltered repeatedly and finished rock bottom in the league table. With the 2019-20 season presenting the two-time champions with a chance to start afresh, head coach John Gregory and the players are determined to put the disappointment of last season on the rearview mirror and put on a good showing in the season to come.
"We’ve made necessary changes to our squad for the coming season, and there’s a lot of positivity in the camp. We’ve had a great pre-season in Ahmedabad and Jamshedpur, and the boys have come together really well, as a proper unit. Now it’s important for us to carry this preparation and momentum into the new Hero ISL season," said Gregory during an interaction with the media.
With Mailson Alves leaving the club, Chennaiyin will be on the lookout for a new captain - a decision which Gregory stated will only be made on the eve of the team's opening match. "I’ll obviously have to see what the starting line-up is first. And anybody that’s captain material obviously has to be in the starting line-up. So, until we officially announce the team for our match in Goa, it’s out in the open! I’ll decide before that day. I do have 4-5 players who are captain material, but I do like to believe that all my players will play like captains anyway," the Englishman revealed during the interview.
Possibly one of the leading candidates to take over the captain's mantle will be former Mumbai City FC ace Lucian Goian. The Romanian joined Chennaiyin during the summer window and is looking forward to a successful campaign with his new team. "From the first contact I had with the club, I trusted that I could come here to fight to win the Hero ISL. This club has won the trophy twice. I trust the project. I trust the coach (John Gregory) to put together a good group of players. And I am very happy to be here. After three years spent in Mumbai, I needed a new challenge, and I do believe that Chennaiyin FC can be the challenge that I need,” he commented.
Another huge boost for Chennaiyin going into Hero ISL 2019-20 will be the return of local hero Dhanpal Ganesh. After playing an incredibly crucial role in Chennaiyin's Hero ISL 2017-18 triumph, the defensive midfielder missed the entirety of last campaign with a knee injury. The midfield dynamo is, however, set to return to the fold this season and will be looking to restore his home state club's tag as champions. "My aim will always be to start for the club, play in all matches. Last year was very difficult for me through injury. Surely, I am focused this year, a new team too with a lot of new faces. We are working very hard and are focussed. We are sure we will pick up good results," the defender commented on his move.
Ganesh's Chennaiyin teammate Jeje Lalpekhlua, however, is nursing an injury himself and facing a race against time to get fit ahead of Chennaiyin's opening match of the season against FC Goa. Providing a positive update on his status, the Mizo sniper said, "Yes, everything is going well and on track. I hope I will be back on the pitch soon, hopefully before the opening game of the season. Not only me, it is also important for the team to have a good season."
"The main objective is to win the trophy and become three-time champions of ISL. Yes, we need to do well as players. We need to stay together and be a team. At Chennaiyin, we have always been a family. We need to do everything right on and off the pitch. Personally, for me, I need to be back as soon as possible and score more and more goals for the team," added Chennaiyin's all-time highest goal scorer.
Chennaiyin's first test of Hero ISL 2019-20 promises to be a tough one. Gregory's men are due to face off against last season's finalists FC Goa in an away match on October 23.
You can check out the full fixture list here.