Owen Coyle: We want to be the outright top club in the Hero ISL

Having fashioned a miraculous turnaround to reach the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2019-20 final, Chennaiyin FC will be looking to script the perfect fairytale ending to their remarkable campaign when they clash against ATK FC for the title at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Goa on Saturday. Both sides involved are two-time champions and will be on the hunt for an unprecedented third crown.

Ahead of the crunch tie, Chennaiyin head coach Owen Coyle spoke at the pre-match press conference and looked back at his team’s incredible turnaround in the competition. He said, “When I came in, we were the team that probably needed to win every week because of the form of others and where we were. Even when we started to find form, Odisha (FC) were winning and the top three teams were setting pace. So, the rest were fighting for the fourth spot.”

“But the players deserve credit for the way they've taken our message on board, the way they've displayed it on the field, and their mentality to keep winning in difficult situations. I think we've shown good mentality and the captain (Lucian Goian) epitomises everything I'm talking about. And it's been so good to work with a fantastic group of players. And we don't want to come this far and stop. We want to see that through, against very dangerous opponents, a wonderful coach. But it's a game we are looking forward to. It's been an exciting season and we want to make sure we finish it on a high,” added the Chennaiyin boss.

Moving on, Coyle declared that his team will approach the final with the same mindset they had in every game of the season. “I think the mentality doesn't change. Even after we came into the semi-finals, we were still under pressure because of the quality of FC Goa. Everyone felt FC Goa would win. They were the number one team after the league phase for a reason. But from early January, we had been the in-form team in the league. We had accumulated more points than anybody else in the league since then. So, we were very respectful of FC Goa but we never feared them. We knew that if we were at our very best, we could win.”

“And it's going to be the same on Saturday. I've got nothing but the utmost respect for ATK, the quality of players they have, and an outstanding coach. But we know that if we are at our very best, we can cause anybody problems. So, our mentality for Saturday is to go out and play our game. We won’t change. We have a certain style and we will stick to that style, because we believe we can win games with it,” he added.

The 53-year-old also felt that his team’s defeat to the Gaurs in the semi-final second leg would have no implication in Saturday’s encounter. He stated, “It's always easy for people to look for negatives. But you also need to consider not many teams can beat Goa 4-1 like we did in the first leg. I think we were outstanding against Goa. In the second period of the second leg, when we got on the ball, we dismantled Goa, got the score to 2-2. Truth be told, my disappointment is that we should have won the second leg as well. When we got to 2-2, everybody knew the tie was finished. We had chances to make it 3-2, 4-2, but we never took them.”

Looking ahead to Saturday’s final, Coyle noted, “We know from our last game, that we need to do certain things better. Sometimes due to your subconscious nature, you start to protect what you have. But it has no relevance for Saturday. It is a clean slate. Two very good teams going all out to be champions. Two teams who have won the title twice in the history of Hero ISL - the two top teams. Somebody on Saturday night will be the outright top club in the Hero ISL. We want to make sure that it's us.”

Goian, who also attended the media briefing praised the impact Coyle has had on the team since his arrival. “When he came in, he changed our mentality and attitude that we had in training. I've seen that in football, the way you train, the way you play, makes a difference. In training, we were much more connected. We had much better attitude. He also gave us a lot of confidence. We had some positive results in the beginning, which also contributed to our confidence.”

“And after that, we had an amazing nine-game unbeaten run, winning against some very strong opponents in the league. We also became a much stronger group. We started to know each other more. It was not easy at the beginning. I think we showed in the second part of the season that we are a strong group. We have a lot of quality. We fully deserve to be here. This is an amazing reward for us,” the Romanian added.

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