Want to win this competition to get into the AFC Cup: Bengaluru FC's Simon Grayson
Bengaluru FC head coach Simon Grayson is confident of his team’s approach when they take on Odisha FC in the Hero Super Cup Final at the EMS Corporation Stadium in Kozhikode, Kerala, on Tuesday.
Bengaluru FC head coach Simon Grayson is confident of his team’s approach when they take on Odisha FC in the Hero Super Cup Final at the EMS Corporation Stadium in Kozhikode, Kerala on Tuesday.
Playing their third final of the season – Durand Cup 2022, Hero ISL 2022-23, and the Hero Super Cup 2023 – Grayson wants his side to be proud of how far they have come this season and draw inspiration from it.
“We’ve got to another final and like the previous finals, we want to try and win it. Going into the competitions, making sure we’re giving the best we can, with the ultimate aim of winning it. We were obviously disappointed to lose the Hero ISL final on penalties (against ATK Mohun Bagan) after such a great run,” Grayson stated in the pre-match press conference.
“We mentioned after that game that we’ve still got more competitions to play with the Hero Super Cup and we’re trying to achieve that. There were real tough games for us to come this far, it’s a great achievement for us and we want to achieve even more things,” he added.
In their last meeting between the two sides, the Blues registered a 3-1 win over Odisha FC at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru. However, the stakes will be high as both teams have had a splendid run-up to the final. The Englishman highlighted how both sides will be beyond prepared to clinch the Hero Super Cup trophy.
“We will be trying to win it in 90 minutes and so will Odisha FC. We approach that problem as we go along. I think as coaches, you have to make sure that you have one eye on the extra-time situation, on the substitutions, and on how we play the game. As I said before, both teams will be trying to win it in 90 minutes, but if it goes into extra-time, both teams will be prepared in the right manner. Sometimes, a bit of luck here and there can win you football matches in extra-time or in regular time,” Grayson said.
The winner of the Hero Super Cup faces former Hero I-League champions Gokulam Kerala FC for a spot in the Group Stage of the AFC Cup 2023-24. As such, the team that wins the playoff tie will represent the nation in the prestigious intra-continental competition. The 60-year-old laid emphasis on how either of the two clubs can make an impact by winning the Hero Super Cup tie.
“It's a massive thing for both clubs to represent your country in a tournament of that magnitude and is very pleasing for everybody. Our football club has been used to that for a number of years, but over the last couple years, have not had much success. We've worked extremely hard this year to try and achieve success and we want to win this competition to get to the AFC as well. It’d be fantastic for either of our clubs to be representing India in that particular competition. As I said, maybe that's not a new thing, but it's another opportunity to sample playing a different style, a different culture, and different teams,” Grayson stated.
Bengaluru FC forward Sunil Chhetri accompanied the Bengaluru FC head coach in the pre-match press conference.
Having lifted the Hero Super Cup in the inaugural edition in 2018, the Blues are in a similar kind of scenario this time around. In the 2017-18 season – when Bengaluru FC made their Hero ISL debut – they lost 2-3 in the final against Chennaiyin FC and later on went on to win the Hero Super Cup. Cut chase to this year, the Blues lost the Hero ISL 2022-23 final to ATK Mohun Bagan, and face Odisha FC in the final.
Drawing similarities between their winning campaign in 2018 to this season, Chhetri highlighted how challenging the task is to win the Hero Super Cup.
“I think we were in a similar kind of situation where we lost the Hero ISL final on the last day against Chennaiyin FC and then we went to the Hero Super Cup. Again, it’s not easy especially when you have lost on the last day of Hero ISL. We were in the same situation here (losing to ATK Mohun Bagan in the final), it wasn’t easy but finally we have reached the last stage (of the Hero Super Cup). I hope we can do the same and get the same kind of feeling we got when we played the first edition. It’s never easy, we’re feeling the same way we felt before we played East Bengal FC in the final,” Chhetri commented.
Bengaluru FC are no strangers to the AFC Cup competition, having represented the nation five times (2014-15, 2015-16, 2016-17, 2017-18, and 2020-21) in the prestigious competition. In 2016, the Blues made history as they became the first Indian side to reach the AFC Cup final after defeating Malaysian side Johor Darul Ta'zim FC 3-1 where Chhetri scored a brace.
The 38-year-old shed light on the significance of playing in the Hero ISL and the Hero Super Cup and remained confident of regaining their club status as a regular in the AFC Cup.
“You want to be the Hero ISL champion because you want to be the country’s top most football club, and now that there’s an offer on the AFC Cup slot, a chance to play against the best teams. This is the ultimate thing. Everything else comes secondary,” he mentioned.
“We have been fortunate that we have played a lot of AFC Cup tournaments, we’ve made history. The last two or three years, we weren’t there, we know how it feels. So, we will do everything in our power to be back there. It (the AFC Cup) is the main prize of playing the Hero ISL or the Hero Super Cup because you get to represent your country, it’s that simple,” he concluded.