James ‘pleased’ with players despite barren run and mounting problems

Kerala Blasters FC return to Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2018-19 action with a tricky away fixture in Guwahati where a determined NorthEast United FC await them. With seven points on the board from seven games so far, time may soon run out for David James’ side to make the play-offs. Nevertheless, the Blasters’ decent away form will give their fans some hope ahead of Friday’s clash.

Before the fixture, James spoke to the media in Kerala’s pre-match press conference. The Englishman explained that even though results haven’t gone their way, he was content with his players and felt that they deserved better. “Football is about winning games to qualify for the play-offs and stuff. But I think the performances have been decent enough, bar one match which I think was the Goa game, the last game, where we didn’t perform well enough against a very good side and we got punished. You accept that on occasions teams are better than you and you will lose. But for the other six games, even in the Bengaluru game where we lost, they were decent performances,” James opined.

He continued: “We didn’t get the rub of the green in some of them, but I think, as I say, we want to win every game, we want to qualify and win the ISL but, I also think the way we structured our recruitment, it was more of a longer-term plan than an instant hit. Comparisons were made in the first game against ATK who I think had gone the other way. Gone for more of an instant success. So, I’m pleased with the players, pleased with their application. Training today was excellent and as a head coach what you want from your players is to be raring to go for another game. So, I think because of the international break that’s helped us. But of course, we need three points, we need many more three points if you like to reach our goal of getting to the knockout stage.”

Dheeraj Singh started the season as Kerala’s number one but has since been replaced by Naveen Kumar, who James believes is in good form. “He (Dheeraj) had missed some training sessions because of a slight knock. Naveen had an opportunity to come in and performed well. So, I’ve got 25 players and there will be rotations from time to time. Sometimes for your performances in matches or due to injuries. Both keepers were brought in with the intention to be able to play in the first team for Kerala Blasters in the ISL and not one just to play and the other to be back-up. So, no problem,” James remarked.

The Blasters have failed to find their best 11 this season and James argued that unavailability as well as injuries have played a part. “Dynamics are often determined by availability. As mentioned about Dheeraj, you’ve got a player who misses training sessions due to injuries or knocks. Then he gives someone else an opportunity to play. Again, with the recruitment, it was never going to be 11 players with 14 assistants in the squad. It was always going to be about competition for places. I think, Anas (Edathodika) is a prime example,” James said.

“We brought him in for three games and he was banned so we couldn’t use him. He’s had his chance to come in and play now. It’s about finding that best balance that meets the performances and as I say, from seven games, results wise and point wise, you could argue that it hasn’t been ideal by any stretch. But in the performances, I’ve been pleased with the way the players have applied themselves. So, we are finding the balance. It’s a tough league in one sense as it’s a long 6-7 months but there’s only 18-21 games. So, it’s not a lot of games. A lot of downtime, a lot of training time to work out that magic formula,” the former Liverpool custodian added.

When asked for an injury update, James replied, “Yes, I have (injuries) but I won’t name them for obvious reasons. But we’ve picked up a couple. These are sort of players who have been injured before. So, its not so much a new injury worry. But yes, the international break has been good because it gives you more time to work on the training field, but it also means there’s a lot of time without football. I think the intensity then becomes an issue. So, not concerned in the sense that we got 25 players who are all capable of playing in the ISL.”

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