Grant thriving under pressure at NorthEast

Taking over the reigns at a new club mid-season is not an unfamiliar situation for NorthEast United FC’s recently appointed technical advisor Avram Grant. The Israeli will be applying the same principles with the Highlanders that he used at Chelsea FC, when he took them to the final of the UEFA Champions League in 2008 after taking over from Jose Mourinho half way through the campaign.

Grant missed out on the grandest prize in club football after Chelsea lost to Manchester United in a nerve-wracking shootout that year and now finds himself at NorthEast after long-time friend John Abraham sought his expertise following his club’s dismal start to the season. The former Chelsea manager’s influence was evident for all to see in his first match with the Highlanders, where they looked like a transformed unit as they beat FC Goa 2-1 at home.

“One thing that I pay attention all my life is the mental side. You need to be strong mentally when things are not going well. That’s what I told the players. I am sometimes advisor to big (business) companies and that’s what I emphasise. In football, there is a lot of pressure from people outside. My team was strong. Even when FC Goa equalised, my team showed good spirit and mentality,” said Grant, who last coached the Ghana national team.

NorthEast were in a dire run of form when Grant took over with four defeats in a row and four points from their first seven games. They now have seven points after the victory over the Gaurs and can hope for a turnaround in fortunes in the second phase of the league stage, despite the pressure.

“Pressure is the name of the game. If you are at the top, there is pressure to stay there. If you are at the bottom, pressure is to come up. All my life in different places, different countries, the pressure is always there in football. It’s good because it pushes you to do more and more. We had four points before this game, so there was pressure. We took three points and there is more pressure. It’s good, I like it,” said Grant before expressing his satisfaction with the effort and attitude of his players. “The players want to learn and give everything for the team,” he added.

While India may seem a bit of an odd destination for a manager who has coached three Premier League teams – Chelsea FC, Portsmouth and West Ham United – the man himself doesn’t see it that way. “I had decided a long time ago that if I get a top club, I will be at a top club. But I wanted to see football in different places. I was in Thailand, Serbia, Africa; I enjoyed very much. I enjoyed seeing countries that want to develop and India wants to develop its football. I think they are doing the right thing. There is a lot to do. It’s a process but for me I came for a short time to see how it is and share my experience. It’s an easy decision,” said Grant

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