Pune: If Dempo emerged champions of I-League
2009-10, debutant Pune FC`s third-place finish was the success
story of the season.
The top brass of the club attributes the success to the
cohesive factor and not to individual brilliance of Subrata
Pal under the bar or the finishing abilities of Edmar Figueira
or the tactical manoeuvring of coach Derrick Pereira.
"The secret has been our team work. I don`t think we
would have achieved the same had we not worked as a bunch of
individuals. We maintained a professional approach and never
interfered in anybody`s role and had faith on each other`s
abilities," says club head operations Chirag Tanna.
Tanna also gave credit to the supporters who stood beside
the club despite a slow start.
Pune FC`s first win in the I-League came in the ninth
round -- an away 2-1 win against JCT, which Tanna feels was
the turning point of their success.
Unlike the Kolkata teams who tend to change the coach
immediately after few poor results, Tanna stood beside Pereira
who has a three-year contract with the side.
"We had six draws and two losses in first eight matches
but there were some narrow misses. We outplayed East Bengal in
the first match but had to be content with a goalless draw, we
were leading against Dempo and conceded a late goal (in a
round six match), while against Lajong we conceded an
injury-time equaliser," he recalls.
"But we did not panic. Derrick is a seasoned coach and we
had full faith on him and the team as the turning point came
against JCT in Ludhiana, a victory that led to a four-match
winning streak," Tanna said.
But he had never expected to finish third, the best by
any debutants in the 13-year league (NFL and I-League).
"I had never in my wildest dream had thought of finishing
third. The I-League was so close, a couple of results against
us would have meant a sixth-seventh place finish.”
"But the big (4-1) win over reigning champions Churchill
Brothers (in a round 18 match) set the tone as we climbed
second spot," Tanna says.
It was a match to be remembered as their custodian and
India`s number one Pal also scored from a penalty in a season
where he only conceded 23 goals, the lowest among goalkeepers
of the 14 teams.
As the transfer window opens next week he hopes to retain
most of his players, even as Tanna is not happy with the
AIFF`s new foreigner policy.
Asked if his club will aim for the title next season,
Tanna said, "We do not want this feeling to get into our head.
We will think realistically next season and want to be as
competitive as we can."