Gurpreet Singh Sandhu: It’s a very delicate yet important period of transition for us
It has been a mixed start to Igor Stimac's reign at the helm of the Indian national football team. With one win and two losses in his three matches in charge so far, one might argue that the results haven't quite gone his way. On the other hand, the intent to play positive free-flowing football and the focus on youth has been quite evident, providing the silver lining to the somewhat disappointing results. India goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, however, reckons that the sub-par results are somewhat expected with the team being in transition and with time and hard work, Stimac's philosophy can turn into the foundation of a very fruitful future for Indian football.
Ahead of India's Hero Intercontinental 2019 match against DPR Korea, Gurpreet, during a media interaction, stressed the importance of giving the transition its due time in order to reap the long-term benefits. "I have been lucky enough to experience a lot with the national team and right now, it is a transition period because we have a new coach, a new setup, new players. It takes time when a new mentality and a new system comes in," he said.
"This transition can take time but it is a very crucial period for the team to learn what is required from them and make sure that we put it out on the pitch because if, as a team, we perform with all the tactical awareness that is being provided, I think we can do really well. This period is very delicate but very important," he added.
The team's loss to Tajikistan in their last outing was particularly painful, considering the Blue Tigers were 2-0 up at half-time but conceded four times in the second-half to land up on the losing side. Gurpreet claimed that the manner of the defeat wasn't a big concern, as it was a part of the team's steep learning curve. "We have done our analysis from the last game and we have seen what we did good and what did not go right. We can fix the things that went against us. There is nothing for me as a player and probably for my teammates as well to worry about. I’m pretty sure that everyone is ready to learn, which is important. As I said, we need to make sure that this transition period goes well and we will get stronger day by day," he said.
Asked about how he himself was adapting to Stimac's new style of football, Gurpreet stated, "It is pretty good, to be honest. I’m not new to this kind of football - keeping the ball, trying to have possession and looking to play out from the back. This is not new for me because I have done that for Bengaluru FC for the past two years. So, it’s not very difficult. The only difference is that we have new and young players, so we need to make sure that everyone knows what they are doing."
The injection of a host of young players into the squad has been one of the trademarks of Stimac's short time at the helm so far. With the new blood coming in, Gurpreet opined that the senior players in the team need to take up the added responsibility to guide them properly. "We have had young players before as well, but the role that the young players now in our team is very, very important. The coach believes in having young and senior players together. As a senior player, what I have learnt from my senior players with the likes of Sunil (Chhetri) is to lead by example and make sure you are trying to do the right thing because that is how young people learn. They don’t learn by someone talking to them because they lose concentration. It is important for players like me, Sandesh (Jhingan) and Sunil (Chhetri), who are already doing it for years, to lead by example," remarked the 27-year-old.
Gurpreet further fleshed out his thoughts about the young players like Sahal Abdul Samad, Narender Gahlot, Brandon Fernandes and others and said, “The young players who have come through the system (are) very very talented and they are technically very good. They know how to play with the ball, which is very good. Players like us have missed (that guidance) at a young age. To see that the new players are confident with the ball and try to play is a really good sight. I hope the only way up for them is to learn more and lead us through the years to come.”