Indian Super League: Need more incentive for topping league phase - Steve Coppell | football | Hindustan Times
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Indian Super League: Need more incentive for topping league phase - Steve Coppell

Steve Coppell, coach of debutants Jamshedpur FC (JFC), says one of the things the Indian Super League (ISL) could change is acknowledge the team that tops the league standings.

football Updated: Nov 14, 2017 19:25 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Jamshedpur FC Coach Steve Coppell before the training session at TFA ground at Jamshedpur in Jharkhand.
Jamshedpur FC Coach Steve Coppell before the training session at TFA ground at Jamshedpur in Jharkhand.(Samir Jana/HT PHOTO)

India got an idea of how far Steve Coppell has come from his first year as manager, which he described as “blind leading the blind”, when Kerala Blasters overcame a poor start and were a couple of penalty kicks from an Indian Super League (ISL) title.

Coppell, 62, has moved to debutants Jamshedpur FC (JFC) now and said one of the things the ISL could change is acknowledge the team that tops the league standings.

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“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,” Coppell told Hindustan Times here.

A bonus for the winners this time would be an AFC Cup berth in 2019 but given that he has never set long-term targets as manager, it fit that Coppell would say “we are not looking at anything beyond the first match, away to North-east….”

ISL4 starts less than three weeks after the under-17 World Cup. But comparing the standard of the World Cup to the ISL would be like finding similarities between cakes and sandwiches because they are in the same shop, said the man who finished his economics degree while playing for Manchester United.

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“I think the standard of the World Cup could be better than the ISL because some of those teenagers will go on to become the best in the world. Also, the way England played was proof of the meticulous planning that went into preparations. Football in the ISL may not be as manicured but it doesn’t mean it would be any less exciting,” said Coppell.

The absence of an airport here means JFC will have to travel more but Coppell said that would not be an issue.

READ | Indian Super League: Jamshedpur FC sign Steve Coppell as head coach

“It’s an elephant in the room we are never going to talk about,” he said, the sun-burnt face breaking into a smile. “We are never going to use our geography as an excuse. We will try to give ourselves an extra day when we can.”

JFC must go to Kolkata, a four-hour journey by trains that often run behind schedule, or Ranchi, a three-hour drive away, to fly out for games.

Unique challenge

For a man with over 1000 games as manager in England, Coppell said ISL throws up a unique challenge.

“We have players who have played for 20 different clubs, players of some eight nationalities and in three weeks we need to make a team, have one heartbeat. This is one of the biggest managerial challenges you can get,” he said.

And that is why Coppell said he has no regrets at being overlooked in England. “The wheel has turned. Doing something totally different such as this is more appealing,” he said.