Want to restore East Bengal FC’s pride, but I’m no magician: Stephen Constantine
East Bengal FC head coach has pleased for patience from the fans as he attempts to steer his team to a higher-placed finish in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) this season as compared to the last two campaigns.
The Red and Gold brigade finished bottom of the table in Hero ISL 2021-22 and second from bottom a season before that and the former India head coach believes his staff and players would need time to be competitive at the top end of the table in the league after a big summer overhaul.
Constantine though views the match against FC Goa at the Salt Lake stadium which will give the East Bengal FC fans a chance to see their team in Hero ISL for the first time as an opportunity to prove themselves.
The 59-year-old addressed the media ahead of the match against FC Goa.
Here are the excerpts from the press conference:
FC Goa didn't play their first team in the Durand Cup so just like Kerala Blasters FC, there isn't a lot of information available on them. How will you approach this game?
Whether we are home or away we will always try for three points. We are in this game to try and win games. We don't have big information on FC goa. They have a new head coach and I'm sure he will try to impress but we know enough about them last season and they have many players from last season. Obviously, they have a new head coach, and maybe new ideas. We will have to see.
You can't disrespect your opponents irrespective of what you feel. You have to play them and beat them on the pitch. Then after that, you can talk.
What areas of your team do you want to improve after the first match?
We are together as a team for the last four weeks. I thought for 70 mins against Kerala Blasters FC who are together now for two years, I thought we were okay. Other teams would have surrendered and conceded 4-5 goals. But we didn't because we are not that type of team. We had two players Tuhin Das and Lalchhungnunga play for the first time in Hero ISL.
Of course, you can't build a team in two weeks but we can improve in all departments. Every game we are going to get better. That is certain.
We are in a rebuilding process. We finished last, last year, second to bottom two years ago. We got some moments in the first game. I don't say we are anyway near where we will be at the end of the season but how you start the season is not how you finish it. The players will have a better understanding of what they have to do. They are working very hard with the atmosphere of the team and the camp. We have six solid foreign players and a group of Indian players who have something to prove, so we will work and continue to work and hopefully, we can grab the three points against FC Goa and move on.
With six playoff spots available in the Hero ISL this season as compared to four last time, does it put less pressure on you?
We are not thinking about four, two, three or six. We are taking one game at a time. We do not have the luxury of some of the budgets that other teams have. We do not have the luxury of having two and a half or three months of pre-season. We have had four weeks. If people are expecting that after four weeks of training to be in the top six or the top four, then you have to be a bit realistic. In the last two seasons, we haven't finished anywhere near this. So what has changed? We have new players, a new team, a new coach and new staff. We need time.
You said your team played well in the Durand Cup against Mumbai City FC. So why you weren't able to find that rhythm against Kerala Blasters FC?
We had 18 players when we started the Durand Cup. They were friendlies for us and we didn't use the Durand Cup to qualify or win it. We used it to develop fitness and give them game time. Against Mumbai City FC, we knew they were a top side, they had played all their best players and there was the motivation for us and the boys did well. But it was the Durand Cup and not Hero ISL. Since then we have played 4-5 friendly games and we did well. But the quality of the opposition wasn't the same as the Hero ISL. I think any team going to Kerala is going to have a big task to get anything from the game. They have a settled side. It was our first game. We were nervous. I think we will get better as the season goes on and hopefully we can be where everybody wants us to be.
Being an East Bengal coach is a pressure job. How much are you enjoying this challenge?
It's a great privilege to be in this position as head coach of East Bengal FC. I know how important the team is for the community. My old friend Subhash Bhowmick would tell me you need to come and coach East Bengal FC one day. It would be good if he was here to see this. It's a massive responsibility, none more than the Indian team. I led the country for seven years. I would do everything I can to restore East Bengal’s pride. But I can't do this in 4-5 weeks. It will take time. I want the fans to support us. We will have some bad times for sure this season. We are not going to win 19 matches in a row and win the Hero ISL. We need to understand this. if the fans are patient, I will give them what they deserve in the end. What I can promise is that I will work 48 hours a day to make things right but it takes time. If we are impatient and we want miracles to happen, then we will have a problem.
Do you feel the goals that you conceded against Kerala Blasters FC were more of individual errors that structural problem?
I think most goals are from individual errors. The question is whether you can fix those. We have worked on it all week. We need to be a bit more tight in marking. They weren't great goals from our perspective. Obviously, people need to picked up and they weren't and we paid for this.
Your teams have always been defensively solid. With limited resources available to you at this point, can we expect you to focus more on building a strong defence and then slowly making the attack stronger?
We have to be compact, we have to be solid and we can't afford to make silly mistakes. I think this is my philosophy with any team. I have a group of players who have a lot to prove, mostly the Indian players because they have been rejected by all the other clubs or not able to find other clubs. It's a big challenge for and all the players, Every game that you have is an opportunity to prove yourself. We have a game against FC Goa and we will try to prove ourself. This is football. No one goes to play and wants to lose. We are going to do all we can to make sure of that. There is belief in the staff, the players that we are doing things that haven't been done before. But these are other things. What counts in the game against FC Goa is the result and we will give everything that we have to win this game and that's all we can say. I'm not a magician but we are working hard and will continue to work hard and with the supporters we have hope.