Former Premier League manager John Gregory believes the decision to extend the national football calendar to nine months will bring Indian football in line with European countries and be beneficial for coaches and players, even club administrators and fans .
Gregory, who helped Chennaiyin FC win the ISL title in 2018, said: “For coaches, players and club administrators, extending the season to nine months is a much better format. It will be extremely exciting for everyone to be involved in a long-term project. As a coach or player, I would be incredibly excited to play the nine-month season. It will give you good recovery time after every game and therefore better performances from your players and of course more time for the coaches to implement their ideas and philosophies on the training pitches.”
Gregory spent two and a half seasons at Chennaiyin FC after joining the club in 2017. The Englishman praised the sport’s growth in the country since its inception into Indian football.
“The season now will be more in line with the kind of season that Europe is experiencing. I have no doubts about the future of football in India. I’ve seen it grow and grow myself since 2017. The game has captured people’s imaginations incredibly well, especially since ISL was introduced and world-class players came to the country and showcased their talents. Extending the season to nine months is a bold move,” said Gregory.
In addition to the two leagues – ISL and I-League – the clubs will also take part in two cup competitions, the Durand Cup and the Super Cup. Gregory believes the additional opportunities will support player development and foster a winning mentality.
“More cutlery on offer! Your career is often measured by how many trophies, titles or caps you’ve won during your time as a player. So more competitions mean more chances for medals. As you develop as a young player, you want to be involved in these big challenges. Playing in the semifinals and finals is important for your development as we saw in the ISL last season for players like Rohit Danu, Akash Mishra, Liston Colaco and Kiyan Nassiri. They will have gained a lot of knowledge and experience to play in the kind of environment they were in last season. They’ll understand that too when you’re in professional football. Victory is all that counts and you have to do everything for it,” said the 68-year-old.
Gregory believes the longer season will provide more opportunities for coaches to invest in youth and spot talent for Indian football. Gregory cited the example of his compatriot Owen Coyle, who won the League Shield with a youth-heavy squad in his second season at Jamshedpur FC.
“Owen Coyle was excellent at Jamshedpur last season in developing unknowns in his squad and giving them a chance to play in the ISL. Young and also unknown players cannot ignore that football can give you a wonderful chance in life to be somebody. Narender, Rehenesh, Ricky, Boris and Ritwik They all suddenly became Owen’s first choice because they all took the chance the manager gave them.”
“The head coaches are now starting to trust the local players. More and more players develop early and take their chance to play the beautiful game. Many parents are now discovering that professional football can bring their son or daughter a great life. Education is of course still extremely important, but playing 5-6 years in ISL and in the Indian national team can set you up financially for life if you are willing to dedicate yourself extremely hard to the game and take your chance.” said Gregory.