Overcoming and outlasting all the obstacles thrown at them, ATK Mohun Bagan emerged victorious as the champions of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 season. A rollercoaster ride that was filled with plenty of turbulence pertaining to not just squad drawbacks but also criticism from fans and pundits alike, head coach Juan Ferrando stuck to his plan and struck gold at the end of the season.

Injuries, goalscoring issues, and criticisms were at the centre of the Mariners’ 2022-23 season after they faced an early exit from the Durand Cup and endured a sloppy beginning in the Hero ISL season. In that due process of lifting the laurel, there were several shortcomings which hampered their hopes of making it to the playoffs. A major chunk of it was the side’s 1-0 loss against NorthEast United FC away from home. A defeat against the bottom-placed team in the league standings felt like a rock bottom juncture for Ferrando.

However, the Spaniard – on the very night of losing against the Highlanders – reassured the ATK Mohun Bagan management that his team will make it to the final. Backed by his champion mentality, Ferrando walked his talk.

“I was sure our squad was good enough and we could do it despite all the circumstances. I don’t know how to express it, I just felt it that way and I told the management,” Ferrando spoke to KhelNow in an exclusive interview.

“It was Christmas time. We were all upset and looking to add some players to the squad because we only had three foreigners fully fit. It was then that it became clear that the need to incorporate these players had to be a priority,” he added.

After three years of pursuit for the coveted trophy, the Green and Maroons achieved their hard-earned fruition this season. Setting a new milestone for themselves, the path only leads upwards from here. Featuring for the first time in the upcoming Hero Super Cup, the 42-year-old added that his side have to keep the momentum going.

“Winning the ISL must be a motivation for all of us. For me as a coach, for the staff and for the players in their effort to excel. We are a professional team and we have to behave as such,” he said.

Long-serving defender Tiri and midfielder Joni Kauko missed the action on the pitch owing to their respective injuries, but were present to support the team during the Hero ISL Final in Fatorda. The Spaniard provided an update on the injury status of the foreign duo.

“Tiri may be able to recover for the Super Cup, but I think Joni might need a little more time,” he mentioned.

The departure of prolific duo - David Williams and Roy Krishna raised questions over a quality striker who can fructify similar or better results for the Mariners. Ferrando responded with the signing of Australian forward Dimitri Petratos who impressed everyone with his excellent finishing attributes alongside his impeccable off the ball movements. Despite Petratos’ high-flying numbers - 19 goal contributions in 23 matches, the Mariners were collectively struggling to find the back of the net regularly.

Being overly criticised for the inferior attacking numbers, Ferrando, yet again, struck true to his plan and placed his faith in his new signing. “In football, as in life, when you believe in something, you must try to carry your idea to the end. If there were no obstacles, perhaps the prize would not be so sweet,” he commented.