Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 season was not a memorable season for Chennaiyin FC as the team failed to qualify for the playoffs for a third straight season. However, unlike the last two seasons, all is not lost for the two-time Hero ISL champions.

Under head coach Thomas Brdaric, the side have unearthed many promising players this season. Among the young talents, the club has found a quality goalkeeper in Samik Mitra, who is scripting a new chapter at Chennaiyin FC. The 22-year-old player, who has been part of the Marina Machans since 2017, grabbed the opportunity of becoming the first-team goalkeeper after a wait of over five years. 

A breakthrough season for Mitra, the custodian kept two clean sheets across 10 games for his team. He saved 27 shots and had 9 clearances to his name. Since his first start against Mumbai City FC in December 2022, he has been the first name in the teamsheet under Thomas Brdaric. The goalkeeper reveals his motivation behind his selection after a patient wait.

"The thing is, as a player, you always have to be ready to play, even if you're not in the matchday squad, sitting up [in the stands] in the stadium. I always thought 'When I get my chance, I will play. I have to wait for the chance, keep working hard in training and if I get the chance, I'll give it my all and prove that I can play," he said in an interview with Sportskeeda.

Mitra's love towards the game is inherent as his father was also a goalkeeper. A part of the goalkeeping squad that included veterans Debjit Majumder and Vishal Kaith, the 22-year-old made just one appearance in the previous season. After the departure of Kaith to ATK Mohun Bagan, he earned his position in the starting XI by replacing the experienced Majumder. Mitra opened up on the camaraderie with his compatriots and explained their influence in his performance.

"As a young goalkeeper and a Bengali, I have seen him (Debjit Majumder) playing a match against East Bengal in a derby against Mohun Bagan. Watching him play that time and then sharing the dressing room with him is a big deal for me," he said.

"I [also] had Vishal Kaith with me. Two seasons with him was a huge deal as I liked him a lot as a goalkeeper. And then, obviously, my father. I used to watch him play a bit, not much, as much as I remember from my young age," he added.

In the 2021-22 season, the shot-stopper made his Hero ISL debut against ATK Mohun Bagan. Mitra was gutted as he failed to help the team win on his debut as Chennaiyin FC lost the match by a solitary goal. A year later, Mitra made his home debut at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai against the same opponents in front of the fans and earned the team a vital point by keeping his first clean sheet in the Hero ISL. The young keeper recollected that match as his personal favorite in this season as he saved eight shots and credited the fans for their support.

"When I was in the reserve team, I used to watch the senior team play from the stands and I dreamt that I would play over there. The match against ATK Mohun Bagan, I played under the fans. It was a great experience for me and the fans were very supportive as they always are. I think we have one of the best fanbases in the country." he commented.

The Marina Machans have tasted silverware on two occasions and among many reasons for the success, an impregnable goalkeeper proved to be a crucial factor in both the occasions. Edel Bete won the Golden Glove award in the 2015 season and Karanjit Singh was influential in the 2017-18 season. Like his predecessors, Mitra is on a mission to bring the Hero ISL trophy back to Chennai.

"I love Chennaiyin FC. I joined here at a very young age, like 16 or 17, as a teenager. They taught me and I learnt how to be, not just a professional football player, but a good person. This is a second family for me and I will always remember this club. It's the club's decision obviously at the end of the day, but I would love to stay here for a long time," the goalkeeper added.

Chennaiyin FC finished the Hero ISL 2022-23 season in the eighth position with 27 points. It is the third successive season where the Marina Machans have found themselves in the eighth position. Brdaric's men missed the top-six spot by just three points. With the side gearing for the upcoming Hero Super Cup, the goalkeeper expressed that the team is in the building phase under Brdaric and hoping to reap the benefits soon.

"We have faith in ourselves and the fans also have that in us and the club that we'll do well. It's not that we're going downward; we are in a process and we are improving. We will reap the benefits of that in the future," he said.

"It may not be happening right now, but maybe next season. We'll keep pushing, keep going. No matter what happens, we'll keep showing up and working hard and the benefits and results will come," he concluded.