Speaking to the press ahead of East Bengal's upcoming I-League fixture against Shillong Lajong in Siliguri, The Red and Golds' coach Trevor Morgan has downplayed the league leaders' historically lukewarm performances in the games right after a Kolkata derby.
East Bengal have won just one game (against Hindustan Aeronauticals Limited) in the previous six games that have followed a Kolkata derby. "It’s not something that was in my mind. I did not know this until you informed me. We’re not thinking about the consequences of the derby. We’re only focusing on another difficult game tomorrow," said Morgan when broached on this topic.
"It is a good thing that this game has come so quickly. We don’t have to stew over Sunday’s result. We need to forget about that game and look towards this game," he added.
Though East Bengal's six-game winning streak came to an end after the goalless draw on Sunday against Mohun Bagan, Morgan chose to focus on the positives. "We are unbeaten for 8 games now - six wins and two draws. We want to make it seven wins and two draws. There’s no negativity in the squad. The players have given it their all and we have kept three clean sheets in a row. It is a fantastic achievement by the players," he remarked.
The 60-year-old stated that he would be keeping the changes to his starting XI absolutely minimal as he felt happy with the conditioning of his team. "I don’t think it (Kolkata derby) was physically a taxing game. It was more taxing mentally because of all the media and fan pressure. From what I have seen in training and games, the starting players have been performing well and I don’t see many changes tomorrow," he stated before adding as an afterthought. "The back four are working well as a unit. I don’t think a change is required there. The midfield players are working hard and the forwards are scoring goals."
When he was queried as to whether fringe Indian players like Jackichand Singh, Rowllin Borges, Romeo Fernandes etc would be given adequate chances to stake a claim for the Indian squad for the upcoming Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup qualifiers, Morgan felt his job was to safeguard the interests of East Bengal and not the Indian national team.
"No. My job is to help East Bengal. I have to do what’s right for the club. If it unfortunately, does not help the Indian national team, I can’t do anything about that. They are good players and hopefully, they will get games going forward. But, at the moment, it is very difficult for them to get a spot in the team," he stated bullishly.
He also confirmed that new Australian striker Chris Payne will be part of the matchday squad on Wednesday.
The Englishman went on to assess his opponents for Wednesday's game and expressed faith in his team's defensive capabilities to stop Aser Dipanda, who is the league's top scorer with seven goals in eight games.
"There are no easy games in the league. They are a good team and have the top scorer of the league. They have good players and it will be tough. We don't have specific plans for Dipanda but when such dangerous players get to dangerous areas, we expect our defenders to be there. Defensively, we have to play a very good game. We have people in the team who can deal with that," he assessed.
"For us, it is an opportunity to get three points and we need to go with a positive frame of mind," he concluded.