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Longer league welcomed with open arms by coaches

11 November 2017ISL Media Team
Longer league welcomed with open arms by coaches

Mumbai City FC head coach Alexandre Guimarães completely changed the fortunes of the Maharashtra-outfit last season in the space of a little over two months. A club associated with an inconsistency and often leaky defence was transformed into the league’s meanest backline, which helped Mumbai finish top of the table, keeping a staggering nine clean-sheets along the way. If the Costa Rican’s method can make such a difference in a little more than 60 days, then imagine this year's Hero Indian Super League, which is two months longer than previous seasons. The extended duration of the league assures Guimarães and other head coaches ample time to impart their respective philosophies on their squads in a more effective way.

"I think this season, there will be enough time for recovery, preparation and even try different styles. A longer league means every manager will have more time to impart their ideas to their team and know players better," he said.

Guimarães is the only returning head coach except for Alberto Roca, who was in charge of Bengaluru FC when the club played in the Hero I-League last season. And while Guimarães had no second thoughts before accepting the offer to coach Mumbai for one another year, FC Goa midfielder Bruno Pinheiro said that a longer season was his biggest motivation behind returning to India. Pinheiro played for the Gaurs in the inaugural season and is back following a two-year absence.

"One of the main reasons for me agreeing to come back is the extension of the league. The biggest advantage of this is for the players, who need time to recover and a longer season means better performances," the Portuguese said.

Chennaiyin FC manager John Gregory also offered his frank assessment while discussing the length of previous Hero ISL seasons.

"I remember seeing the fixture lists from previous seasons and there was a point where Chennaiyin played three games in six days. That was too much to ask for from players. As for training drills, I won't do anything different compared to England, where Championship clubs play 46 games in 38 weeks along with (midweek) cup games as well. But a longer league gives coaches and players enough to know each other," the 63-year-old said.

Iain Hume, who has become synonymous with the Hero ISL and is the league’s leading goal-scorer, said that he would have returned for another season irrespective of the duration, but was keen to stress that a four-month long duration meant that "earlier the ISL was a tournament, now it is a league."

The Canadian striker also said that he doesn't see a longer league being an obstacle in attracting top names to the Hero ISL and that the likes of former Manchester United players Dimitar Berbatov and Wes Brown signing up for the league emphasizes his point.

"More teams and a longer league mean that the league will become more and more established," added Hume.

Meanwhile, Serbian Ranko Popovic, who takes over from Antonio Habas at FC Pune City, admitted at being impressed with how receptive the Indian players have been to his methods thus far, before adding that shorter leagues mean "too much vacation time."

"That was the only surprise for me that players have to come back from such a long vacation. In Europe, we get a month or two, and that is the way forward for the Hero ISL," he said.

Pune's winger Kean Lewis also added that it’s a big plus for the welfare of the players, who’ll have longer periods of employment.

All the head coaches who were present at Hero ISL's Media Day in Mumbai on Friday were categorical about the number of ideas they want to implement, while agreeing that all these ideas require time to execute.

With the league now set to last for double that of its previous editions, this will be the season that ushers in the latest chapter in Indian football.

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