Ahead of the next game against ATK Mohun Bagan at the Fatorda in the Indian Super League, Odisha FC head coach Stuart Baxter said that the draw against Jamshedpur FC gave the team more energy and belief. He also went on to add that these initial games are just the beginning of the developmental process in the squad.
Odisha FC is a team which believes in the development of young Indian players and Coach Baxter is of the opinion that the Indian players have approached the new normal of playing in the bio-secure environment in the best way possible.
Speaking during the pre-match press conference, the OFC head coach said, “I think certainly that gave us energy and little bit of belief. We are still very realistic and know that now it’s the beginning of the process of development in the squad. Yes, it gives us a bit of energy and belief but we will keep our feet on the ground and make sure that we keep up the good work.”
“We come down here into a bio bubble. We had very little time, we have very little game time to put ideas into practice. So we are literally using the league games as a way of improvement. That’s massively difficult for top-class Italian players, Spanish players and English players. I think the Indian boys have approached this in very very good way. And, we are a work in progress. I think they are approaching in the best way possible. It will, hopefully, improve but what we also have to do is we have to get results at the same time because if we don’t that steals belief and steals confidence and the process takes a lot longer. So hopefully we can pick up points on the way as we are developing,” he further added.
Odisha FC started their season against Hyderabad FC with players like Hendry Antonay, Saurabh Meher, Thoiba Singh and Premjit Singh getting game time. Speaking about the newcomers in the league, the 67-year-old Coach expressed, “Of course, you can’t expect young players to walk into an environment and get used to a new coach. And, immediately they started. So what we are hoping that during this time of their gaming experience they can learn and they can still give a performance which will strengthen their confidence and which will also help the team.”
ATK Mohun Bagan started their campaign on a very good note with two wins in two games and Coach Baxter did admit that his opponents for the next game is a well-balanced side. However, he and his boys will really give a go at it.
"They are a balanced side, have been together for a while and have a set way of playing that is difficult to play against. They have good players who can hurt you if you leave some space behind and if you don't do that, they are very solid defensively. We are going into the game buoyed and we feel that we can have a real go at it.”
"We have to make sure that whilst we are throwing players forward, and they do have a well-organised defence, we have to take away the spaces as well that they want and make it difficult on them," the former South African Manager explained.
Explaining Odisha FC’s previous game against Jamshedpur, in which the team came from behind and scored two goals in the second half, the experienced coach said, “I thought in the first half even we were 2-0 down we were still playing a lot better than we did against Hyderabad. So I was relatively pleased with the way we approached the game. We were much more compact, we were breaking out and playing through the lines much better. And, we gave away two sloppy goals which put us on the back foot. In the second half, the players approached the game in a correct way and kept their confidence and kept their belief.
“Of course, the free-kick when the goalkeeper (Rehenesh TP of Jamshedpur) was sent off was key because we scored at that moment. Everybody was hunting for that second goal and (when) we got the second goal we were really pushed to get the third," he further added.
When asked about whether he wants to start with Diego or Onwu, the OFC Boss joked that no coach will reveal the starting XI that early before a game. He concluded by saying, “Diego did make a massive impact when we came off. I think Manuel plays really well with the other players. So in my mind I have to decide whether I start with Diego who makes an impact or Manuel who plays well with other players. That’s the call I have to make again.”