Ishfaq Ahmed: Our season was marred by injuries

Kerala Blasters FC will be on the road to face NorthEast United FC at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on Friday. The Blasters have had an inconsistent Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2019-20 campaign so far, and currently find themselves third from bottom with just 14 points from 15 matches.

At the pre-match press conference, Kerala assistant coach Ishfaq Ahmed summarized the club’s season so far and stated, “When you change philosophy and the complete team, it takes time. New, fresh ideas came with head coach Eelco (Schattorie) to feed this new team. We played some really attractive football in most of the matches. We had more possession than the opposition. But it takes time. We have been really unfortunate with the injuries. One of our main Indian players who has been a mainstay for Kerala for the last five seasons, Sandesh (Jhingan), we lost him for the entire season.”

“This is one of these seasons where you are unlucky, you have a lot of injuries. We were never able to field the same team for two matches in a row. So, that was a little unfortunate for us. It can happen with any team. This time, it was with us. I hope in the future, if this team is staying, they will have better results,” he added.

Ishfaq also disagreed with claims that Kerala will hold the edge over NorthEast in the tie given Schattorie’s history with the Highlanders. He said, “I don’t think we have a bigger advantage. Eelco is tactically very strong. He reads all the teams very well. We will go according to his plan. He knows this (NorthEast) team. He knows these players. We will discuss more about that. We are prepared and I am sure they will be prepared as well. They must have studied our team. Everybody does that. I don’t think it gives us an advantage. On the given day, if we manage to play according to our plan, I think everything will be okay.”

With Kerala already out of the top four race, Ishfaq was asked if it would prompt a change in the team’s approach in the remaining games. “Our philosophy, we can’t keep changing. We will keep doing what we have been doing this season. Every match is important. We will keep it the same. We want to win all the three remaining matches and finish as high up the table as we can. That is the motivation for the next season also. Every player wants to win, every coach wants to win. Nobody wants to lose a match. Even if we try something new, we still want to win,” he replied.

Winger Seityasen Singh, who was also in attendance at the media briefing, said, “I was injured last year for the entire season. After surgery, I came back and signed for Kerala Blasters. We started the season. I just want to say that all our coaches, players, management, are all good. But the problem this season has been injuries. It has been an unlucky season for us.”

Read the Match Preview here.

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