Bengaluru FC head coach Simon Grayson is determined to maintain and build on the winning mentality at Bengaluru FC as his team kickstarts their Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 season against NorthEast United FC on Saturday at the Sree Kanteerava stadium in Bengaluru.

Grayson who has already led Bengaluru FC to the Durand Cup will look to begin on a winning note in the Hero ISL but has warned his troops to be humble after their triumph in Kolkata.

Hero ISL 2022-23, Bengaluru FC preview: Buoyed by Durand Cup win, Blues look to get back to their best

The Englishman also expressed excitement at Indian football returning to normalcy with fans back in the stands for the first time in Bengaluru after two and a half years.

Grayson spoke to the media during his pre-match press conference ahead of the NorthEast United FC match.

Here are the excerpts from the press conference:

What do you feel about football getting back to normal with fans back in the stadiums?

It's fantastic, it's like normal football. The pre-match interviews are in person instead of via zoom calls. I've been getting a sense of all the work that's been going on. The walks around Bangalore are exciting too. Supporters themselves must feel like caged animals. I'm sure they can't wait, and I know that the supporters, the staff and more are really excited too.

What are you looking to achieve at Bengaluru FC?

When I first came to the football club, I made it clear that I wasn't coming here to have a period of coaching and not doing anything. I want to win as many football matches as possible whether it's in training, pre-season tournament or be it in Hero ISL.

We've got a winning mentality at this football club and I want to keep that going. We're certainly not over-complacent or over-confident. This is a tough division, but we believe in ourselves. I believe in the players. We have got a good mixture of experience and youth. We are quite level-headed. Even after the Durand Cup final, we haven't been getting carried away with ourselves that we are going to win every game, every trophy. We are certainly not going to underestimate the opposition. We will do whatever we can that is required to win as many games as possible and if that translates to winning trophies come to the end of the season, then we can look back with a lot of pride. But to do that in the Hero ISL we have to be competitive in every game.

What do you make of NorthEast United FC and how do you plan to tackle the challenges they pose?

I think the first few games of the season are difficult because you don't really get to know how teams are playing. NorthEast United FC didn't have their strongest team in the Durand Cup so we didn't really get to know how they are going to play We are going into the unknown a little bit but we respect them. They have a good coach, and a lot of new players. They have played a couple of pre-season games and we have a bit of information from those games. Everyone starts on a level playing field.

So we will focus on ourselves, stressing our defensive shape and structure but also work on the offensive stuff as well. Once the season is underway, we will have a better understanding of how the opposition is playing week in, and week out. Some of the players in our team will hurt the opposition defensively and offensively and that will hopefully contribute to a successful result.

What is your take on your team, Hero ISL and Indian football?

One of the key things that I've found here is that a lot of the teams in Hero ISL are honest teams that work hard.

What I've learned from the time I've been here about us is that from day one, my players are very thoughtful, hard-working, honest, and responsive to what I've been asking them to do. Whether it's a warm-up or a passing drill or technical or tactical information they try to take on as much information as possible.

I think the 10-11 weeks for me have been a great experience to get to know the group and understand them. My job is not just about the tactics and picking the team. It's understanding the individuals. So, I got to find what makes Sunil tick,  does he need a stick up his backside or an arm around him? I want to get the best out of the group.

In terms of Indian football in general, it's still progressing, there's a lot of work to be done. But as coaches in the Hero ISL, we have a duty to improve the individuals, to make them better and develop them for the future. Everyone wants Indian football to progress, everyone wants India to qualify for the World Cup.

How important was it to win the Durand Cup to give you a competitive edge going into the Hero ISL season?

Everyone had different objectives in the Durand Cup. My aim was to get all my players together, give me time with the players to work on things for the Hero ISL and also to win football matches. We could have stayed here and got friendlies with the local teams but they wouldn't have had the competitive edge. If you look at some of the tackles in the Durand Cup it was like a proper season.

When we finished the Durand Cup we felt that we have played halfway through the Hero ISL season. It was the longest pre-season ever for me. But as a new head coach, I'm fine with that as it gave me the opportunity to be with the players and also get some competitive games.

When you're winning football matches, it gives you confidence, but there is a fine line between being overconfident and being complacent. There is no complacency in our group.

There is no player in our group who thinks that, by the end of the month, we'll have won all our games. We want to be in that position, but we want to work hard for it. If we're complacent, football has a strange way of kicking you where it hurts most.