Defending champions Chennaiyin head coach John Gregory is intent on replicating the heroic Hero Indian Super League 2017/18 season and using Sir Alex Ferguson for inspiration.
The Englishman guided Chennaiyin FC to the 2017-18 ISL title with a 3-2 win over Bengaluru FC in the final at the Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru and intends to now defend the crown, something that has never been achieved in the history of the league.
For that, he will draw on the former Manchester United boss’ relentless winning mentality.
“When Sir Alex won his first Championship, back in the ’90s, all he wanted to do was go and win it again the following season. And he did it 13 times. He won the championship 13 times,” he said.
“Now, that is the true sign of a champion – you don’t just win it once, you go back, defend the title, and win it the following year. Really, I’ve just tried to instill into my squad this season that real champions don’t just win it once, they go back to win it the following year and the year after that and the year after that and it really is more of a mental thing than a physical thing.”
It will be a tough call with previous winners not faring well the following season. After their inaugural triumph Atletico de Kolkata stumbled at the semi-finals the year following their success and Chennaiyin finished second from bottom during their title defence
“My first couple of days, I spoke to the players about being complacent and that there’s no room in our club for it. I told them, ‘You have to switch on mentally. You have to be strong. Whenever you get a punch in the face, you’ve got to be able to punch back. You’ve got to be able to get up and deal with it.’
“I have seen the training the first few days, and you can just see the attitude, and the hunger, and the desire that the players all have. They have come back with an even better attitude than they had 12 months ago.”