Williams thinks Kerala Blasters FC will come hard this season, also speaks of where ATK Mohun Bagan can improve
Just like last season, Kerala Blasters FC and ATK Mohun Bagan will kick off the upcoming edition of the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL). In the 2020-21 season opener, Roy Krishna’s goal separated the two sides but David Williams believes Kerala Blasters FC will come hard this time when they face them on November 19 at the PJN Stadium in Fatorda.
“It’s a good fixture. Kerala have a huge following. It’s a special game for the fans and hopefully it’s an exciting one. We are going to be ready; they are going to be ready. They started training some weeks ago so they are going to be fully prepared and they will be looking to have a much better season than they did last season. They would have been disappointed as a whole with the kind of squad they had, they probably should have done better. [But now] Getting back early, getting the team working together, it can only work in a positive way for a big club like that. We are prepared and looking forward to the first game,” the Aussie said in a club interaction with the Hero ISL recently.
Kerala Blasters FC assistant coach Ishfaq Ahmed too expects his team to improve in a big way under new head coach Ivan Vukomanovic. The Blasters started their pre-season on July 30 and are at present participating in the Durand Cup.
“We were expecting that [regarding the opening fixture], the same thing will happen. It’s always good. When I was a player, I always loved those kinds of fixtures. Two big teams, they go head-to-head and prove their superiority. I think it’s a good match-up. If you get a good result, you can set the tone for the entire season. I still remember the first match of the last season, we played well but the quality of Roy Krishna, everyone knows that. He didn’t have many touches in the game but one of them was a crucial one. So yes, we are looking forward to that. So far, it’s been good. We started our pre-season early and everything is going according to plan,” he said.
Williams reminisced about his first Hero ISL match in India in the 2019-20 season, which was against Kerala Blasters FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi. “I still remember my first season when I arrived to play in Kerala. I was amazed, the atmosphere, the passion. It was a huge spectacle, it’s just sad we couldn’t see it last season. This season too we are playing in a bubble. I don’t think a lot of players will be happy until we can play in front of fans. But it is what it is. Hopefully, we will have exciting games for them to watch on TV,” he said.
In 2020-21, while ATK Mohun Bagan went on to play the final, Kerala Blasters FC finished a disappointing 10th on the points table just ahead of Odisha FC, including a second defeat against the Mariners despite leading 2-0 at one time.
Last season Williams scored in both legs of the semi-finals as well as the final. Ahmed believes Williams is an important player for Antonio Lopez Habas’ side and any team will feel good to have such a player in their ranks. “He is one of the best Asian players playing here in the Hero ISL, in India. Without any doubts, he has played at the highest level. He is a very important player for ATK Mohun Bagan. His work rate and the goals he scores… it’s important for any club. I wish him all the best, hopes he stays safe and injury free but we won’t let you win this time [with a chuckle],” he said.
Last season for the longest, ATK Mohun Bagan looked on course for the League Shield but towards the end of the league stage they lost the plot and Mumbai City FC under Sergio Lobera pipped them to the top spot. Both sides faced each other in the final, and again ATK Mohun Bagan narrowly lost the game. Williams wants to address this in the upcoming season.
“…We consider it as a failure, we could have won some silverware. As we are getting closer to the Hero ISL, I am sure we will be talking about that,” he said.
The 33-year-old also pinpointed as to where the Mariners could improve in 2021-22. “We have to score early, cement our position in the games quite early in the first half. Last season we struggled to score goals in the first half. We didn’t take control as much as we would have liked. If we are being picky, I think we want to be the first team to score and keep pushing instead of chasing,” he said.