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Chennaiyin FC coach disappointed by Gurpreet Sandhu’s comment post ISL final

Sunil Chhetri and Gurpreet Singh had pointed out that Bengaluru FC had won the league phase with the goalkeeper even saying ‘we are the champions.’ But Indian Super League (ISL) champion Chennaiyin FC coach John Gregory said play-offs are used in other leagues as well

football Updated: Mar 18, 2018 09:48 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times, Bengaluru
Chennaiyin FC,Gurpreet Sandhu,Bengaluru FC
Mailson Alves of Chennaiyin FC celebrates a goal during the final of Indian Super League against Bengaluru FC at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Saturday.(ISL / SPORTZPICS)

Before the fourth season of the Indian Super League (ISL), Steve Coppell had batted for recognition for the team that topped the league phase. After ISL4 ended here on Saturday, Sunil Chhetri and Gurpreet Singh pointed out that Bengaluru FC had won the league phase with the goalkeeper even saying ‘we are the champions.’ (ISL final highlights)

During an interview last November, Coppell had said: “I fail to see why the winner of league stage doesn’t win something. It’s one hell of an achievement. It emphasises the fact that week in, week out you were the best. There needs to be real value attached to that rather than the knockout-winners-take-all mentality.”

READ | ISL final: Chennaiyin FC stun Bengaluru FC, become two-time champions

Fast forward to the Sree Kanteerava stadium here and even though it was Chennaiyin who had the trophy, having won the final 3-2, Gurpreet was saying: “I want to say congratulations to Chennai, but we won the league. We are the champions.”

Speaking next, Chhetri pointed out: “The fact is that we had 40 points and won the league. Sadly, we couldn’t win today….” This was Bengaluru FC’s first defeat in 11 games.

When a question on the suitability of the format was put to Bengaluru FC coach Albert Roca, the Spaniard accepted it would be “too easy for him to say yes. I think even some of their (Chennaiyin) players came to us and said we shouldn’t have been in this situation.”

WATCH | Video highlights of Indian Super League (ISL) 2017-18 final between Bengaluru FC, Chennaiyin FC

But Roca followed that up by saying: “But the format is the way it is, and we cannot change that. It’s a shame, but it is not for me to say whether it is fair or not.”

When Chennaiyin FC coach John Gregory was asked for his thoughts on this, it was the first time in the whole week that he looked a little riled. “I was a little disappointed by the words he (Gurpreet) he used. I think we got the cup, haven’t we,” he said.

Gregory then drew on his vast experience as coach to point out that play-offs are used in a number of countries and that England have been having them for over 30 years.

“You could finish sixth in your division and still win promotion to the Premiership. You could finish 20 points behind the champion. In my years, we did it, we finished sixth well behind Portsmouth and then won promotion,” he said.

In The Championship and League One, the divisions below the Premiership, teams finishing third to sixth have a play-off with the winners gaining promotion. Huddersfield Town were fifth in The Championship in 2016-17 but were promoted to the Premiership because they won the play-off final while Reading and Sheffield Wednesday, who ended third and fourth before the play-offs, were not.

The play-offs are also used to decide the champions in the USA’s Major League Soccer and Australia’s A-League.

First Published: Mar 18, 2018 09:45 IST