Building a strong squad depth at Kerala Blasters is a high priority for new coach Eelco Schattorie following the difficulties he faced at NorthEast United in the latter stages of the 2018-19 Indian Super League (ISL) season.
The Dutchman guided the Highlanders to their maiden ISL play-off qualification but his team struggled at the business end of the tournament due to a spate of injuries and suspensions.
The 47-year-old is keen to ensure that the mistakes at NorthEast are not repeated at Kerala.
“It is not too difficult to understand that in football, a team which has squad depth, you have more options to choose from,” Schattorie told Goal in an exclusive chat.
“That can also sometimes be a disadvantage because you can disappoint more people. But you have to see it in a structural way. We have a first team and a second team behind it.
“NorthEast only had the first team and the squad was not that big. Anything happens, any problems, nobody to fall back on. You have 25-28 players, that is a big squad and then if something happens, you can go to your second team. This was not applicable to the NorthEast and that is why it was more difficult to reach a certain level.”
“Most other clubs have that opportunity,” he continued.
“We are trying to form that team. We are busy with it now where Kerala also have a backup team. We will also try to bring in some players from there.
“During the season, we can look at those players to have a full group on the training pitch.”
Two Kerala players in particular that Schattorie is excited to work with are defender Sandesh Jhingan and midfielder Sahal Abdul Samad who both signed contract extensions recently with the club.
“Sandesh is a National Team player who is an example in Indian football so I am very happy to have him. Sahal, I spoke few times on social media. I can see that he is a very creative Indian player. I am always in favour of creativity in football. So very happy to have them both on my team,” the Dutchman stated.
22-year-old Samad drew rave reviews for his performances for Kerala in 2018-19 with Schattorie being one of the many vocal admirers of the young midfielder. The former NorthEast coach is expecting the youngster to play a big part in his plans for the season at Kerala but has refuted any suggestions of building the team around the midfielder.
“Sahal is a great player. I don't build a team around any player, I don't believe in that. In the end, it is a matter of puzzle, a team is a puzzle. And that you try to fit (solve) the puzzle as well as possible,” he explained.
“The perfect puzzle doesn't exist. If I want to bring a certain player I really like, if his contract is not free (free agent) or if he is financially not able to get (not feasible) you have to look at other options and I have already put pressure on the puzzle.”
Lauding Samad’s talents, Schattorie continued, “Sahal is a player I think should always play.”
“He is a player with potential. He will be a player within that puzzle. He should always play unless he does not train well or he becomes lazy. He should always play in my team if he performs well in training of course.
“But it's not like I am going to build a team around him, in the end, it's 11 players. I am happy that he has some extra qualities that it makes it easier for the team. I am going to do everything I can to make him the best midfielder in India.”