Petr Kratky took the helm of Mumbai City FC midway through the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 season, stepping into the shoes of Des Buckingham.

Being the defending League Shield winners, it was always challenging with expectations running high for the new season, and the change of head coach made things even more demanding for the Islanders.

The arrival of Kratky posed the risk of further unsettling the team, given the challenge of managing a champion team. With injuries to key players and the departure of key foreigners, things became even more daunting for the new coach.

However, he swiftly dispelled any doubts with his coaching prowess and former experience. Instead of trying out new things, he inherited the playing style from the previous coach and sought to build upon it.

His contributions to the team were not limited to his coaching abilities or experience; he also became a positive presence in the dressing room. Slowly, he began instilling his tactics, which helped the team make strategic adjustments that ultimately led to their success.

However, the Czech-Australian fell just short of defending the League Shield, losing it to Mohun Bagan Super Giant on the final day of the league stage. Despite the challenges he faced, the club's performance so far has been nothing short of successful.

In an interview with Scroll, he reminisced about joining Mumbai City FC as the head coach, marking his first duty as the head coach of any side. His first match ended in a 0-0 draw in an away game against FC Goa.

“When I reached Mumbai airport, I was told that I had to board another plane to go to Goa for the next match,” he told Scroll in an interview. 

It's been almost five months since Kratky assumed leadership of the team, and his tenure with the club has propelled them to the ISL semi-finals this season, clinching victory in the first leg in dramatic fashion.

When the former coach, Des Buckingham, departed to take charge of his boyhood club, Oxford United FC, Mumbai City FC were sitting fourth on the league table. Kratky, the former assistant coach of Melbourne City, reflected on the challenges he faced during those initial days.

“There were challenges, especially coming in after a successful coach (Des Buckingham),” Kratky said.

He continued, “I think that is the hardest part for the new coach, the expectations. You have to get people to adjust but also believe in yourself. In the transition, you just need to show them who you are.”

The head coach shared how his and Buckingham's similar coaching philosophies favoured him during the transition period. Like the previous coach, Kratky also relied on Indian players, while the foreign players often struggled with injuries.

His prior experience working with the youth team at Melbourne City FC proved beneficial for nurturing the young Indian talent within the Islanders' squad.

“I think that background really helped because I had already had thousands of conversations with players between ages 15 and 20,” Kratky said.

He added, “When they were injured or coming back from injury, or when they are struggling to get through the first team, or when they are on the bench or not selected. That transition is very difficult for a player and so they need to be guided through those hard times."

“But it is a process for two or three years and does not happen overnight. We have to manage our emotions. That’s why that background really helped,” he concluded.