Odisha FC assistant head coach Jacobo Ramallo has returned to the club with an intention to scale new heights at the club and forge an atmosphere to foster growth and development, and accomplish every possible target in the upcoming season.

Ramallo and Josep Gombau are back at the helm of the Kalinga Warriors after departing from the coaching department of the club before the start of the Hero ISL 2020-21 campaign. The duo were in-charge of the newly formed Odisha FC as it went into a catalytic restructuring that changed the dynamics and philosophy of the club.

Having finished sixth in the league standings during their last time out with the Bhubaneshwar-based side, Ramallo is extremely hopeful of bringing forth a change that sees the side challenging for nothing less than the top honours.

With big name foreign signings in Carlos Delgado, Osama Malik, Saul Crespo, Diego Mauricio, Pedro Martin, and Victor Rodriguez, alongside quality Indian signings in Raynier Fernandes, Narender Gahlot amongst others, the Josep Gombau-led side have a bold and fresh look for the forthcoming season.

Ahead of the upcoming Hero ISL 2022-23 season, assistant coach Jacobo Ramallo spoke in length about this homecoming to Odisha FC, the changing dynamics at the club, welcoming the fans back to the Kalinga stadium, and a lot more in an exclusive interview with Odisha FC.

Here are the excerpts from the coach’s interview:

What are your thoughts on coming back to Odisha FC?

I’m incredibly happy to be back here. Since the very beginning when we left, we knew we were coming back, and that’s something I told the Juggernauts. I’m also happy this season as football is returning to Bhubaneswar, at the Kalinga Stadium, so I think it’s a beautiful season for everyone.

Have you thought about the psychology, changing the atmosphere around the club?

That’s interesting because it was a hard and tough message that Josep sent to everyone, and I did like it. He said this club is not like a stopover or a step back for anyone to jump into something, this club is a place to challenge absolutely every single opposition team we have in the Hero ISL.

There is a starting point we all must consider and maybe we don’t have the resources of this club or the other club, but we want the people without any element, without any complex inferiority or any other stuff. Some of us have experience here, we have brought some experienced players. We are Odisha FC, with our bad things as well as good things, but we are sure that we can challenge absolutely everything in 95 minutes, if we focus on what we can control.

As Josep said, I want all the players to believe that Odisha FC is ready and capable of achieving all this stuff and that’s all we need to believe in.

What made you come back to Odisha FC?

First of all, the club wanted to rename Josep [Gombau] as the head coach, and since we are a beautiful, nice, married couple, I decided to join him. It is true that the club has improved. That first season when we were here in Bhubaneshwar, we were playing many games away, and it was the first year for the club, so everything was more difficult than it is now.

I think it was also in the back of our heads that the club has improved in the past two seasons, so that is also something that made us make the move. We were happy here and that’s not easy in professional football, so here we are again.

Is there a lot of unfinished business to complete?

I can’t speak for myself but if we compare that very first season here with today, the standard of the club has increased a lot. The training sessions, the people in the club, the coaching staff, the structure, everything has improved in the last two or three years.

In my opinion, our second year here was an important one for the club where we were sixth in the table and trying to make it to the semi-finals in the final rounds of the season. So, yes, it could be one of the unfinished business that we are maybe trying to complete this season.

What makes you confident that you and the coaching staff will bring success this season?

To be honest, I am not a friend of those kinds of statements or beautiful messages because you promised something as it’s too easy. Unfortunately, football is not easy, saying it a thousand times doesn’t make you closer to your goals. But, as I said earlier, there is a great difference between where we were and where we are right now, and that made me feel confident.

Trying to make the difference between promising anything else and talking about success but making sure that they feel confident, that’s a reality, that’s a fact.

There has been a major squad overhaul in terms of Indian players and the likes of Carlos Delgado coming back. What are your thoughts on that?

About the ones that we know well during our first stint here, they are obviously much better players today. After three years, every player is a better player, and players like Nanda [Nandakumar Sekar], Jerry [Mawihmingthanga] are of course better today than they were before. Even the young ones, when I see Zauva [Paul Ramfangzauva], or Sawhney [Deven], I remember them three years ago as proper kids and right now they are built, look strong. So, of course, everyone is better.

Coming to signings, I prefer not to say names but I’m sure we have brought more maturity and experience, and for me, that’s a massive difference. For instance, right now we have players that have already played for the national team, we have players who have already gone and won trophies. And it’s not just maturity or experience or the number in the squad, it’s because of the quality of the players we are bringing at the club.

What will be the first steps you’ll take as the coaching staff alongside Josep, Clifford [Miranda], and Pablo [Fernandez]?

About the coaching staff, we are pretty new to each other, only Josep and I were together but then the fitness coach is new for everyone, the goalkeeper coach is new for me and Josep, Clifford is also new for everyone. We were extremely surprised by the way things are going in a positive way.

For instance, today’s training session, which is just the fourth for us, is going well. The transitions between the drills are going smoothly, the communication between us is going well, and I’m actually very surprised. It is true that Clifford Miranda has been a massive asset. He was doing the internal pre-season with the Indian players and for three weeks, he was setting the boundaries and the standards, so when we arrived, it was even easier.

Pablo[Fernandez] and Manu [Patricio] are very easygoing, so they are always keen to help and to do the job, they are very good professionals in their areas. There were plenty of things to do but now everything is going very well, and the beginning has been very pleasant.

Do you think it will be a case of revolution or evolution for OFC this season?

I’d prefer to call it evolution. I know there have been many changes in the squad, the structure of the club, but I prefer to call it evolution because then I’m aware that some of the foundations that were built at that stage are still here.

What message do you have for the Juggernauts?                 

Everything is easy when the fans are behind us. When you’re into the game, there are people supporting you, rooting for you, and then you notice the stands, it’s just one of the most beautiful moments in professional football.