Playing IFA Shield in pre-season was crucial for us: Coach Annese

Panchkula: Players in action during an I-League match between Gokulam Kerala FC and Minerva Punjab FC in Panchkula, Haryana on Feb 20, 2018. (Photo: IANS)

New Delhi, Dec 24 (IANS) Gokulam Kerala coach Vincenzo Alberto Annese on Thursday said he is happy with the progress the team has made so far in the build-up to the 2020/21 I-League.

Annese took over as coach of the team in August this year but he has been with the full squad for only over a month due to complications caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Gokulam took part in the IFA Shield as part of their pre-season. They played three games in the tournament as they got knocked out by Mohammedan Sporting in the quarter-finals on December 14.

“The full team has been together for almost one month now as the foreigners arrived around November 22 and 23. The IFA Shield helped us because we understand our strengths and weaknesses,” said Annese in a virtual press conference on Thursday.

“We have not played for such a long time so playing a competition was very important for us. When they asked us if we want to play there, I straightaway said yes because I want to see my players play. I believe that the more games they play the more they will improve and that will help prepare for the league. We have some more time to prepare and I am very happy, we have come a long way since starting our preparations. We are understanding what can be a good system for us and we are just looking to improve day by day.”

Annese admitted, however, that he would have liked more time with the players but he said that this is a problem that every club in the league has.

“Everyone has some problem or the other starting the season this year, even the organisers, not just the clubs. We also have a new coach here so there is a new philosophy for players to adjust to so of course i would like more months,” said Annese.

“But that is there for every coach and club. We selected players beforehand and so far I am happy with the job we have done. In the friendlies we have played so far I can see that players have started to understand my philosophy. They are also developing well physically which is important considering many have not played for seven-eight months.”

Annese also said that while it is important for the team management to make sure that players stay fit, injuries might be inevitable considering the truncated nature of the season this year.

“I believe every team (will) have problem with injuries and we might have them too. I can see the same happening in the ISL (Indian Super League), a lot of players have injuries there too so it is important that players are fit. Additionally, it is important that they understand what I want from them and adjust to my style of playing,” he said.

The I-League starts on January 9 and Gokulam face Chennai City on the first matchday.

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