Kerala Blasters FC head coach Ivan Vukomanovic expressed his appreciation for the unwavering support of the club's fans ahead of their upcoming Indian Super League (ISL) showdown against Jamshedpur FC on Saturday.

As the ISL resumes with a double header, Kerala Blasters FC gears up to face Jamshedpur FC at the JRD Tata Sports Complex, following Bengaluru FC's clash against Odisha FC at home.

Despite facing a challenging run of results since the league resumed in January, with just three points earned from their last six games and a lone victory against FC Goa at home, the Blasters currently hold fifth place on the league table with 29 points from 18 matches. They will be aiming to edge closer to securing a playoff berth with a strong performance in the upcoming match.

On the other hand, Jamshedpur FC has accumulated 11 points since the previous break in January and is also in contention for a playoff spot. Currently positioned eighth on the league table with 20 points from 19 matches, the Men of Steel will be also determined to boost their playoff aspirations.

As the Blasters prepare for an away game to resume their league campaign, they will be hoping to put a smile on the faces of their travelling fans. With the largest fan base in the country, the club's supporters have consistently shown their unwavering dedication, both at home games and during away fixtures. Vukomanovic expressed gratitude for the support, highlighting its importance in driving the team forward.

“Kerala Blasters FC to be honest in Kerala is kind of a state identity. It became something that people love and then when you give all your heart, of course you get the appreciation. Not faking those things and everything and that's why maybe we created that kind of emotion

that every time we give all of our heart, everything (on the pitch), our best. That's why I'm saying when you feel that emotion, when you feel that energy, the support, you want to give everything. You want to be part of that club, you want to be part of the community and that's why maybe it created the relationship that we have now,” he said in the pre-match press conference.  

“I'm grateful for that as a person, on a personal side and professional side. It's a great feeling that you get that kind of support. It only makes us more obliged to give even more every time we perform home or away. Whether we are in difficult moments, difficult situations missing players due to injuries or having no injuries,” he added. 

Vukomanovic further elaborated on the club's project and emphasised the vision of bringing more local players into the first team. Into his third season with the Blasters, he has consistently provided opportunities to players from the youth team during his time in India. 

Notably, Sachin Suresh, Mohammed Azhar, Mohammed Aimen, and Vibin Mohanan are among the local talents who have made significant contributions to the team's success in the ongoing season.

Vukomanovic further said: “Speaking about the owner, vision and community and kind of wanting to build up some new players especially from that region, guys who are now performing in the young national teams, that's also about thinking about the future. Because you think about your project, it's not like working from let’s say season to season trying to build up something and going back to zero.. That kind of appreciation people recognise and say we like having our team. The coaching staff, we are giving our best. I'm really grateful for all that feelings (from the fans) and the support. Till the end, we'll give our best.” 

Kerala Blasters FC has faced significant challenges due to numerous injuries throughout the season, with the most notable being captain Adrian Luna's knee injury in December. Despite recently returning to training with the team during the international break, Vukomanovic mentioned that Luna still needs considerable time to regain full fitness when asked about the possibility of Luna featuring against Jamshedpur FC.

"Luna will not be there (in the squad against Jamshedpur FC). He's still not ready to play this kind of game. He started practising, if I'm not wrong, a little bit more than ten days ago (after working) with the medical staff. Then he started a couple of days ago with us on certain topics of the training session. It's still risky. So now in the next period, we will choose the right moment because it will not be clever, you know, to take a huge risk throwing him in. At the moment he's still not ready. So we have to be careful because, you know, Luna is a captain, the guy who confirmed in the last two seasons proved his quality. We have to be careful with that. Because you know it's important. So tomorrow he will not be on the pitch."

We are in good spirits: Ishan Pandita

Forward Ishan Pandita, accompanied head coach Vukomanovic during the press conference.

Pandita has played just 175 minutes from 11 appearances. Pandita was asked to share his insights on filling the boots of Indian football team captain Sunil Chhetri in the future.

"There will be a big spot that will be open that needs to be filled after he is done playing. So it's anybody's opportunity to take it and I will do my best and hopefully, I can take that place," he stated ahead of their match against Jamshedpur FC.

The 25-year-old also shared his thoughts on the team's current form and the atmosphere in the Blasters' camp.

"We were going through a little bit of a (rough) phase since the break but we're training well. The team is in good spirits and we are ready. I think tomorrow (Saturday) will be a good day for us, hopefully. Football changes very fast. We've not performed to our best in the last few games.. we have only won one out of the last five maybe but we're in good spirits right now we're training well, the team is in good shape and tomorrow (on Saturday) hopefully we can do well and the second part of the question," he signed off.