Kolkata, September 28: David James is no stranger to Kerala Blasters’ rivalry with ATK in the Hero Indian Super League. He was the player-manager for Kerala when ATK triumphed in the inaugural edition, and since then his record against their rivals hasn’t really been encouraging.
“I am not sure my record is that bad with ATK. The rivalry between ATK and KBFC is on different levels which I cherish. Winning every single game is important. We want to set the record straight with ATK,” said the former England goalkeeper who has won just once against their arch rivals.
Although both teams have quality Indian players, many of them national players, it will be the international players who will possibly have the biggest say. ATK have signed tried and tested big names in the ISL, while Kerala have opted for younger legs.
“I was very involved (in the recruitment) from beginning of their season. They (ATK) have poured in players with ISL experience. We have roped in players with a longer strategy, looking at the future of the club. We are looking to win the ISL not only this season but in future seasons as well,” explained James.
His opposite number, Steve Coppell, has also been unlucky while sitting in the Kerala dugout against ATK. He lost the 2016 final in tiebreaker in front of the home crowd and is now aiming to help the two-time champions get one over Kerala, first in the opener.
“Just before the start of the season everybody thinks that you are ready but until you play you don’t know if you are ready.
“We are looking forward to the game. It is good that it is against Kerala. They always bring a great atmosphere. So, I am hoping we will enjoy the game and start judging ourselves against other teams,” said the ATK coach.
The former Manchester City manager has a terrific squad at his disposal and he is eager to get going right from the word go.
“I think the big advantage in the ISL is the continuity. If you have continuity of coaches and selection of players, the coaches who have continuity of same core players who have been in the squad. This year for ATK is almost a new beginning with a new coach. We have a very different squad from last year. So, I am hoping we will gel together very quickly.”
Coppell will be handicapped by the absence of right-back Prabir Das, Arnab Mondal (knee) and Andre Bikey (thigh muscle) for the opener, but possibly the biggest set-back before they start their campaign tomorrow would be the absence of Nigerian striker Kalu Uche, while defender Anas Edathodika is suspended for the visitors.