We have a good side and can match anyone in this league: Derrick Pereira

Updated: Jan 04, 2013, 09:53 AM IST

Kolkata: Coach Pereira talks about Pune FC`s title ambitions and the controversy surrounding Mohun Bagan...

Second in the league and serious title contenders, Pune FC has gone a long way since its inclusion in the I-League. Goal.com caught up with head coach Derrick Pereira as he epitomized his team’s display this season.

5 wins and a draw in last 6 games, which includes the annihilation of the current champions Dempo SC, has seen the Red Lizards work their way up the standings to the second spot. With 13 games done, one can certainly determine Pune FC as a genuine title contender.

The media has already built up Pune’s challenge for the title but head coach Pereira was modest in his comments as he commented, “We take it match by match.

We have a good side and can match anyone in this league. The boys are only getting better and if we win the league that will be nothing like it.”

Jeje Lalpekhlua was reportedly injured as he was substituted in the game against Shillong Lajong.

Pereira brushed off such rumours as he said, “Jeje just had a niggle and is already training with us and is fit. We are monitoring (Othallo) Tabia’s situation and he should be okay in the next two weeks.”

The recipe for the Red Lizards’ success this season has been the perfect blend of experience and youth.

“The academy has done well to produce good talent. Nikhil Kadam is an academy product and is very much part of our plans,” said Pereira when asked about the emergence of young players from the academy.

The January transfer window is set to open and with most teams looking to add that missing element, the Red Lizards would not be active in this window.

The ex Mahindra United coach believes he has a strong enough squad as he commented, “We have a good squad consisting of talented players. If we feel we are lacking we may look upon the prospects the academy provides us with, otherwise I am happy with the squad.”

The controversy surrounding Mohun Bagan has been hogging the headlines ever since the untoward incident took place at the Salt Lake stadium.

Now that they have been declared withdrawn from the current season and banned for the next two editions of the I-League, opinions are varying from it being a harsh decision by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to some stating that it was a fair call.

“If we follow the rule book, the decision is right. Banning a team like Mohun Bagan is a big decision though. It is a big blow to football in India, but will help professionalize the sport,” he opined.

The Red Lizards have been unfazed by whatever challenge the league has thrown at them this season. It is definitely more than luck, and they deserve every bit of appreciation. Derrick Pereira is a proud coach and is confident of more success.

“The players are playing as a unit. They are determined to do well and have a fighting spirit. They focus on results and overall are a confident bunch of players,” he signed off.