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ISL: 'Can’t wait to play in front of East Bengal fans in Kolkata', says Robbie Fowler

ISL: Can’t wait to play in front of East Bengal fans in Kolkata, says Robbie Fowler

The Bridge Desk

Published: 10 Oct 2020 1:48 PM GMT

Newly appointed SC East Bengal head coach Robbie Fowler addressed the media in a virtual press conference on Saturday afternoon alongside assistant coach Anthony Grant. The Liverpool and Premier League legend answered a number of questions ranging from the club’s history, team composition and potential signings to questions on the Indian Super League (ISL) itself. Here are the excerpts:

Q. We are looking at a situation where for the first time, a tournament will involve a 6-month stay in a bio-bubble for players and officials. How do you think the team will cope with that mentally?

Yeah I know that is going to be a big challenge but we have to be able to adapt to different situations. From the coaches’ perspective, we will try to do everything possible to make the players feel comfortable. That involves not going down the players’ throats all the time and giving them time to understand what we are trying to achieve. We have to be sensible to be able to make the players enjoy their game. Beyond that, the players have to understand that we are here to do a job that involves doing everything to ensure that the players are ready for the season.

Q.How much do you know about the club and their rivalry with ATK Mohun Bagan?

In football, rivalries matter a lot. They drive players and teams on. They help clubs perform at their very best and give a lot to fans to be passionate about. I know about the history between the two clubs in the I-League and for me, this being our debut season in the ISL, I think we should try and use this to spur our ambitions and for the fans to enjoy some good football.

Q.Have you been following the ISL and what are your thoughts on the league?

Of course. We are football people and it is our job to follow the game in different countries and continents. I have got nothing but admiration for the ISL. It’s a relatively new league but the fans are passionate and a lot of good players are coming in and enjoying playing here. Hopefully, with us joining the party, we can make the league a little more challenging and strive for success ourselves.

Q.How difficult is it to assemble a good team in such a short period of time?

It’s definitely a challenge but having faced a similar situation previously in Australia, I’m confident that I and my coaching staff can do a good job. I know there has been a delay in getting things started for the season with new ownership and investors coming in, but now we have to look ahead and build a team that can make life difficult for our opponents in every game. It is going to be difficult but if we can get the preparation and methods right I think we will be successful.

Q. What is your coaching philosophy?

My coaching philosophy is to play good, attractive football and to most importantly WIN. Football is all about playing the right way and getting the right results. We will struggle together, we will work hard together and hopefully good things will come out of it. As I said, we did a good job in Australia with Brisbane in a very short time, changing the way the team plays and improving the team drastically and we look forward to doing the same here.

Q.Having coached in Thailand and Australia before, what are your thoughts on coming to India and the Indian players?

I feel it is going to be similar. I know that the players are tactically astute and it is then upon the coaching staff to improve them both individually and collectively. I have spoken at length with my Indian assistant coach, Rennedy Singh. His stature in Indian football is absolutely massive and we have been in constant conversation regarding the players that are right for the way that we want to play. But I am more than happy with the Indian contingent that we have here at the club and look forward to working with them.

Q.Why SC East Bengal and why now, in the middle of a pandemic?

My question is why not. Football still needs to be played, people still need to feel happy watching the game they love. We know how difficult it has been amidst the pandemic and we want fans to be happier in the coming months, and when I got the opportunity to come here and be part of an interesting project in an interesting league, my response was why not. I know the fans won’t be there just yet, but I can’t wait to go back to Kolkata and play in front of the fans because I know how much it means to the fans back in the city.

Q.Tell us a little bit about the team composition and the kind of players that we can expect to see at the club in the next few days.

In my opinion we have a very strong squad on paper in terms of both domestic and foreign players. Of course, you all will know more about this in the next few days as some of the names are announced officially. But I would say that the fans can be excited because we have managed to get some really good players on board. Now it is up to us to improve and become a team where every player plays like a marquee player.

Q.Have you spoken about the league with players or coaches who have been in India before?

Over my playing career I have come across a number of top professionals, some of whom have played in India before. I know Owen Coyle had a great season last year. I know David James had a very successful time here as a player and a coach. So yes, I have spoken to a few people and I am all ears if anyone has to share their opinions with me about how the league and overall footballing culture is in India. I also hope that we can have a successful season and put smiles on the faces of fans and that you (pointing to the media people) are good to us over the course of the season. The outpouring of love and affection in person and on our social media has been incredible and we cannot wait to get going and meet up with the team.

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