Want to see a reaction against FC Goa: Bengaluru FC head coach Simon Grayson

Bengaluru FC head coach Simon Grayson is expecting a reaction from his side as the Blues take on FC Goa in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL), at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, in Goa, on Saturday.

Bengaluru FC come into this game on the back of a heavy defeat against Mumbai City FC, and have lost their last four games. They are currently placed 10th in the Hero ISL standings, after just four points in six games.

Grayson, who was accompanied by midfielder Udanta Singh in the pre-match press conference, said he has seen a reaction from his players in training after the game against Mumbai City FC, but wants his players to replicate that on the pitch against FC Goa. He demanded his side to cut out their mistakes against FC Goa and said that one positive result could turn around the momentum for the Blues.

Here are the excerpts from Grayson's press conference:

How is the mood in the camp after the defeat to Mumbai City FC?

After the game in Mumbai, the players might have seen a different side of me. In the dressing room and publicly, as well. I've always backed the players, but the second-half performance didn't warrant any backing because it was not good enough.

But what I have seen as we trained since then, is a good reaction. There's a positive vibe around the players and they have a bit of an edge to them, which has been missing in games. Even the best players are kicking each other in training and going into challenges, which can be a bit frightening at times, but it's what we have to do sometimes. There has been a reaction in training, but ultimately, we have to see the reaction on Saturday in Goa.

What do you put that performance in the second half down to?

Confidence and belief is a big thing. We watched that game together on Monday, and I told them that at half time, if you were a neutral and took the two goals out, you wouldn't be able to tell who was winning the second half quite comfortably, because we played well in the first half. The two mistakes that we made for the first two goals gave Mumbai City FC a lot of confidence and belief. They probably don’t need much more than that because they have been on a good run and are the only unbeaten team in the league at the moment. Had it not deflated us and if we got a goal after half-time, it would be game on. But we gave away the goals.

From then on, it was difficult as Mumbai City FC exposed us a few times and we didn't work as hard as we could do. And that was the most frustrating part which affected our belief and confidence. I've been there as a player myself, because you're losing 3-0 and you want the whistle to blow because you can’t see a way to get back,, but you have to dig deep. You have to stay together and keep going till the very end.

The supporters, the owners are watching the game and you’re trying to stay in the game as a team and an individual as well. One thing I said to those players was that nobody can come and knock on my door if they are not picked for the FC Goa game, because the second half performance didn’t warrant anyone to be in the team if I chose to change it around. 

Is there going to be a massive change in the line up?

You'll have to wait and see the team that I put out there, but until the Mumbai game, we have been strong defensively. We'd conceded just one goal in most of the games and they have been by mistakes. No team other than Mumbai City FC in the second half opened us up too much. I’ve got to pick the right team too, given the run that we have been on. If not back to winning ways, we need to get a draw out of the game. We need to take small steps to get to the big step. I've seen a steely determination from the players, who want to correct what went wrong last week.

Is there an issue with the attitude of how players react to the game?

As a coach here, and around the world, you work on things, but when the players cross over the white line, it’s their decision making and it’s taken away from you. The decision-making was poor with all the goals we conceded (against Mumbai City FC).

Hopefully, it was just a blip, because we've defensively been very good so far. It is something we have to learn from and treat it as a one-off occasion. You don't just explain the defenders. We need to put pressure on the ball higher up the pitch. All the players are part of the defensive unit in this group.

What do you make of your squad in comparison to Mumbai City FC, Hyderabad FC - the top two teams on the Hero ISL table?

We’ve got a decent squad. It’s a squad I have inherited. Apart from Aleks (Aleksandar Jovanovic) coming in from Australia, we’ve had predominantly the same squad from last season with one or two new faces in Roy (Krishna) and Javi (Hernandez), who have played here (in the Hero ISL) and signed before I came here.  It’s not my group of players, but I want to work with these players, because we've got a really good group - in terms of personnel and types of people. They're nice, friendly lads.

We know we have to keep working hard and push each other. That comes from the players as well. I can motivate them, I can put in sessions, but there has to be an innate desire to want to chase back, to run forward, to tackle, to be ruthless when we get opportunities and hit the target. Put them all together, and you have got a better chance of winning matches.

I'm never going to be over critical of players, because I like working with them. We’re all in this together. The momentum can change very quickly. All we need is one result to get us back on track and we need to kick on. We’ve seen teams have bad starts and then go on runs and get where they want to, come the end of the season.

Any update on the departure of Hira Mondal?

Hira is a player who was signed before I came to the club. And it was a surprise that I got a call from the management that Hira asked to be released from his contract. I've had no conversations with him regarding football or anything else. He felt that he wanted to be somewhere else and decided that that was his best option. What I would say to that, and it's something I've said to the players a few weeks ago; if somebody doesn't want to be here, I won't keep them. I won't hold it against them.

Hira decided he didn't want to be here, and went to the relevant people and moved on. These things happen in football and we deal with it. We're a man down in the squad that we have, but that gives someone else an opportunity. The people who are in the team have to keep working hard to stay in it.

What is your take on Udanta Singh’s performance?

With Udanta, I think he is one of the players who need to believe in themselves more. He’s had a fantastic time at this football club and he needs to be more confident, because I will allow players to be expressive and do what they want. There are a few more players who I know there's more to come from. I can motivate and give them belief and confidence, but they need to take that from themselves as well.

I think Udanta's slowly showing what he's capable of doing. He’s not performed at his best in the past two seasons and he was excellent before that. With more belief and confidence in himself, you will see the old Udanta and he will get there soon. He is moving towards that. Like all the players, the more confidence they get, the better players they become. It is down to them to keep believing in themselves. I have a lot of trust in them.

What’s the most important thing as a team when you have to bounce back from a run like this?

We have to keep together. We cannot change it any other way. I'm constantly working on that all the time. I'm trying to watch World Cup games, but I’m also watching FC Goa against Kerala Blasters, FC Goa against ATK Mohun Bagan for the second and third time; to make sure I’m doing my job right. We have to work hard together. When things don’t go right, there are groups that get disorganised and there’s a lot of back-biting, etc. But I don't think we've got a disorganised or a dispirited group. We're genuinely all in this together. The players need to look at themselves rather than somebody else after every game, regardless if we have won, lost or drawn. We have a genuine group of players working hard, which is why I do believe we will get results very quickly. And we will get back to where we have to.

How do you see this game playing out?

When you look at them in comparison to the previous seasons, FC Goa are a team who are possession-based. Now, they are mixing it up. They do keep the possession, but they also have pace upfront and play longer balls if they need to do it. And that’s a good combination. They have had a good start and they got some good players. If we turn up and play against Mumbai City FC, especially in the first half and cut out mistakes, there’s no reason why our forwards and midfielder can’t hurt the opposition. On paper, we have got some talented players, but we are not showing that talent at this point of time. The moment something clicks very soon, you can see all that happening again. 

On Prince Ibara’s injury..

I'd like to offer an update on Prince, who has not been available for us so far this season. He had an operation last week in Mumbai, which has ruled him out for the rest of the season. He had a hamstring injury, and had to get a tendon repaired, which means he will be out for the rest of the season. We've been working on a replacement for the last few weeks, and we're close to getting somebody in really soon.

Here are the excerpts from Udanta’s press conference:

What do you make of your performance so far this season and the game against Mumbai City FC?

Individually, I had a good performance (against Mumbai City FC), but we didn’t win so it's not enough to perform alone, because football is a team game.

Your form has been up and down over the seasons. Have you prepared differently this year?

I'm working hard on the pitch and off the pitch to get into the starting eleven. I should be working hard. It's not that I'm a senior player or anything like that. I have to work hard and fight for the team.

You have been here for nine years. Now you’re one of the seniors in the team, how are you handling that responsibility?

I have to step up for the club and perform for the team and myself. We need to work hard and take it one game at a time.

We have been training well for the past three days after the game against Mumbai City FC. We are ready and looking forward to the game against FC Goa.

You have been part of this Bengaluru FC squad that has won titles, but has the winning mentality of the club eroded away during the past couple of seasons?

It’s not just my job to push the other players in the team. As a professional player, you have to be mentally strong and it’s not just about juniors or seniors. If you are in the first team, you have to perform well. And players need to perform for themselves as well. So it’s not just about mentality.

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