Lucian Goian: Coyle’s positivity and encouragement gave us confidence
Romanian defender Lucian Goian was part of the dream team that fought against all odds to make it to the final of the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2019-20. Having joined the Marina Machans from Mumbai City FC ahead of the season, Lucian Goian captained his team’s comeback from the bottom of the league into the top four and went on to beat Hero ISL League winners FC Goa over two legs of the semifinals to reach the Final, where they succumbed to eventual champions ATK FC.
The two-time Hero ISL champions started the season on a poor note having scored just four goals in six matches. The arrival of head coach Owen Coyle saw their fortunes take an opposite turn with Chennaiyin winning seven of their 12 remaining matches and scoring 28 goals in the process. Speaking to Anant Tyagi in the latest episode of ‘Let’s Football Live’, Goian gave his fans an insight on his team’s comeback under the influence of Coyle, “I think he gave us a lot of confidence. He gave confidence to every single player, doesn't matter if he was old or young. He was trying to be as positive as he could. It was not easy for the players, but he was encouraging them. The players felt that they had the support of the coach and the coach trusted them, and that gave us a lot of confidence.”
During their interaction, Goian also spoke about his debut season with Chennaiyin while showering praises on a few of his teammates for their exemplary performances. Here are excerpts from their conversation:
The season gone by
The future of the Marina Machans seemed bleak before the arrival of Coyle, with the Chennai-based outfit enduring a barren run in front of goal. Goian spoke about the environment in the dressing room before Coyle took over the reins, “We were a completely new team with different players. We didn't know each other well and that was difficult because for that you need time. The other teams that qualified this year like Bengaluru FC and FC Goa retained most of the squad from last season and that was an advantage. We started badly; we weren’t scoring. This was an added pressure for the attackers. We were conceding goals too, and that was killing me because I was not used to conceding so many goals.”
Coyle’s arrival brought in a significant change to the team’s performance, though it took some time to get back the momentum at the start, “We drew in Jamshedpur after conceding a late goal before losing to FC Goa and then Odisha FC. Then we went to Hyderabad where we won by three goals and probably that was the start. We became more serious and we started to win. We started to defend much better. We were building team relationships. That was an amazing run of nine games.”
The influence of Coyle and the club owners
Goian was also very appreciative of Coyle’s influence on the team. “Coyle had some guts to take over the team that we had. He said that he trusted us, and he was talking about us being champions while we were last on the table. He encouraged us to train harder to become champions. We were looking at each other and thinking and this guy's talking about us being champions while we had scored only two goals. He knew when to reach out in training. He knew when to stop the training and to have a chat with us if we were not training well, and probably that was the start," the defender commented.
The Romanian defender also heaped praises on Chennaiyin owners, Vita Dani and Abhishek Bachchan for their confidence in the team during those hard times, “The owners were with us till the end. We were last on the table. Miss Vita Dani came for every game, even during Diwali when everyone was staying home. She came and spent the whole day with us in this hotel, and before we left for the game, she said two or three words to encourage the players. Even though we were last on the table, she had her trust and confidence in us. For an experienced player, that was amazing.”
Chennaiyin as a team
The 37-year-old defender established himself as a team leader in the Chennaiyin dressing room. Among his teammates were young guns like Anirudh Thapa and Lallianzuala Chhangte, as well as Edwin Vanspaul, who arrived at the club ahead of the 2019-20 season and instantly established himself as a mainstay in the first XI. Speaking about them, he said “They had an amazing season and I'm very happy for them because they scored some very important goals. They are young and the national team needs players like them. Thapa has some very good qualities; he is a very intelligent player and he needs confidence. Germanpreet and he make a perfect couple. The goal he scored against Goa was amazing. I think that was the cherry on the cake. Chhangte, they call him the Mizo Flash, and he has played quite a few games and gained experience. That makes him better in every game.”
“Vanspaul struggled initially during the training sessions, but he worked very hard. He started as a right-back but shifted into the midfield because he can play very well in both positions. I was very happy when he was called to the national team. I told him to work harder and make it to the first XI because he has the ability and deserves to be there,” Goian added.
Rafael Crivellaro and Nerijus Valskis were the lynchpins of Chennaiyin’s attack, with the latter going on to win the prestigious Golden Boot award as well. On these players, the Chennaiyin defender said, “Rafael has amazing technique and a great left foot, and Nerka is always at the right place at the right time. He scored some goals from some very difficult positions. When he was unable to score in one game, I told him, listen, be patient, the goals will come because we are working hard. You are learning a lot so take your time.”