Odisha FC head coach Clifford Miranda revealed how a change in confidence and improved decision-making played an instrumental role in Nandhakumar Sekar’s success this season. Sekar was one of Odisha FC’s most important players during the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 season, contributing six goals and an assist while helping his side reach the Hero ISL playoffs for the first time in history. The Chennai-born winger continued his sublime form in the Hero Super Cup, netting four goals as Miranda’s side went on to clinch the title.

Miranda, formerly part of the FC Goa coaching staff, recalled interacting with Sekar during the Hero ISL 2021-22 season and spoke about his admiration for the winger. When Miranda moved to Odisha FC as assistant coach the following season, he got a chance to closely work with Sekar and provided him key inputs on his game.

“As coaches, we can help them with small details here and there and with the experience that we have had and with what we can see from outside. I remember meeting him last year when I was with FC Goa (during the Hero ISL 2021-22 season) and I always liked him as a player. I like wingers who can take on defenders one-on-one,” Miranda said on The Injury Time podcast.

“Next year I was his coach (at Odisha FC) and when I met him I told him that he needs to improve certain things and most importantly, his decision-making. He used to do everything and his decision-making was not so good. But it is something you can improve on being only under pressure. We gave him a structure of two-three or four-five options where you can do things in that moment after which he starts to think better. This is what I did to help him grow in confidence,” he further explained.

With improved confidence levels and with end product to his game, Sekar produced his best-ever season during the Hero ISL 2022-23 campaign. He finished the season as Odisha FC’s second highest goal contributor, only behind Golden Boot winner Diego Mauricio.

His tally of six goals were the most he managed in a single Hero ISL season, a significant improvement from the Hero ISL 2021-22 campaign, where Sekar recorded only one goal. During the five previous Hero ISL campaigns before Hero ISL 2022-23, the 27-year-old could only muster four goals.

Miranda spoke about how he encouraged the winger to keep taking on players while keeping the faith in him even during difficult moments.

“The most important thing was building his confidence. Giving him the confidence that it’s okay to make a mistake when you are dribbling one on one, because it is the most difficult thing in football. And if he makes a mistake, encourage him. This is what I did with him and mostly all of the players, especially wingers and offensive players. Going forward is an art and creativity should not be curbed, but encouraged. This is what I did and thankfully, he has done well. I hope he does it for many years to come wherever he is,” Miranda said.

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