Hyderabad FC head coach Thangboi Singto wants his players to fight for the honour of the badge despite the team undergoing a period of transitions. 

Hyderabad FC will begin their Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 campaign on Saturday against East Bengal FC in Kolkata and will take the field at the Vivekanand Yuba Bharati Krirangan with a brand new team. 

There have been a lot of changes in the Hyderabad FC squad after head coach Manolo Marquez left the team to join FC Goa. The new squad is taking shape under a new leadership group consisting of head coach Singto, first-team coach Conor Nestor and assistant coach Shameel Chembakath.

Despite the transition period, Singto believes the players must live up to the high standards set by the team in the recent past.

“Hyderabad had a bumpy ride in the first season but now as former champions, we are very excited. It's a transition period for us as we have ten new players, but that's football. Any challenge that comes now, we have to fight for the glory of the club," Singto said during the pre-match press conference ahead of the East Bengal FC clash. 

“The new players have bonded well with the others in the squad. We can see it in the ground, in training, in the dining hall and also in the place we stay. Our philosophy is the philosophy to win matches. For a coach to adapt, it takes time,” he added. 

The Yellow and Blacks were a tactically flexible team under Marquez that was able to adapt to the strengths of their own players and develop a strategy to nullify their opponents. Singto hinted that the new-look team could have similar characteristics. 

"A lot is based on the type of players you have before instilling a style of play - whether it's possession or direct football or anything. In the last few months, a lot of hard work has been done by everyone. Recruitment has been done that way by the sporting director, Conor (Nestor, first team coach) and the analyst," Singto said. 

In East Bengal FC, Hyderabad FC will face a team in a similar situation where they have a new coaching staff and plenty of new players in the squad. But the 49-year-old believes all games in the ISL are close and provide enough chances for either team to win it. 

"East Bengal also have a new coach with a lot of new players coming in. We have already played against them in a friendly and that helped us in knowing how to approach them. Every ISL game is a challenge as all the teams have equal opportunities to win games," Singto said. 

"When you are preparing for a team you have to consider all possibilities, both the strengths and the weaknesses. They have two players who have played previously with us. They know us and we know them," he added. 

Midfielder Hitesh Sharma accompanied head coach Singto at the pre-match press conference and spoke about the experience of playing in the Salt Lake stadium. 

"Salt Lake is a huge stadium. The dimensions are a lot bigger and we will see a lot of support for the home team. I think it's amazing for a footballer to play in such conditions. It really tests you to the core. I am looking forward to playing in front of such huge crowds," Sharma said. 

"East Bengal are a good side and we have seen that in the Durand Cup. We have prepared well and are ready for the challenge they will pose to us. We are looking to be as competitive as possible,” he added. 

Speaking about the changes at the club, Sharma feels he is focused on his task and ready to learn from the challenges that the situation could throw at him. 

"I think transition is always difficult but it is very good for an individual as you can improve a lot in this period. I feel like transitions are out of my control. The only thing in my control is to help the team as much as I can,” he concluded.