Chennaiyin FC co-owner Vita Dani announced that John Gregory had signed a one-year contract extension with the club, keeping him here until the end of the next season.
“We have signed a one-year contract with him. To begin with, we have made it a one-year deal. That is how he prefers as well,” Vita said during a press conference on Sunday. Gregory also lavished praise on local player Dhanpal Ganesh. After a forgettable campaign under World Cup winner Marco Materazzi, who eventually parted ways with the club in March 2017, CFC was on the lookout for a new manager.
It was Gregory who penned a contract with the Chennai-based unit in July last year and there started the journey. Italian Claudio Ranieri began his fairytale run with the then Premier League champion Leicester City FC in 2015-16 when he was 63. Gregory managed to achieve the same feat at the same age but in a different tournament.
He also became the first Englishman in the league to guide his team to the title after his side defeated Bengaluru FC 3-2 in the Indian Super League 4 final. Gregory spoke on a variety of topics to the media after returning from Bengaluru.
Thoughts on Sabir Pasha (Assistant coach) and Dhanpal Ganesh: Sabir is very close to the squad and obviously works a lot with the Indian players. His knowledge is invaluable for someone like me who is pretty ignorant on the Indian football scene. He is my go-to man if I want to know anything about junior football. Ganesh had a season which he wouldn’t have even dreamt of. I didn’t know much about him when I first came into the club. He was our surprise package this season. He was a threat to the opponents even since his start against NorthEast United FC. He is such an asset to us, both defensively and offensively. He played a big part for us this season.
On the contribution by the Indian players: The general perception is that a few Indian players give away the ball too easily while the overseas ones will take more care of it. Every local player has certainly improved when you look at how he was at the start of the season. Some have improved a lot while the others have done a bit.
On the members of the squad: There were so many nuances which I had to get used to. I have got good Indian staff around me and people within the club have helped me a lot. Without them, it would have been a huge struggle. We have got a team here and I never get bored talking about them. Everyone within the club, we are like a family and we are very close. And I am very proud to talk about it. We have so many professionals who run the dressing room on their own. I am very lucky to have worked with a good people.
On the turning point of the season: There were a few. Once we made it to the play-offs, we knew we could make this season a good one. Delhi Dynamos did do us a favour by beating Mumbai City FC. We managed to have a clean sheet against Pune, which had Marcelinho and Emiliano Alfaro who were guns blazing at the start of the season. That basically informed me that I had a pretty solid defence. Suddenly, we started to believe and we progressed after that.
On becoming the champion: It was an amazing experience. This is just the first time I am here. Vita (Dani) and Abhishek Bachchan have experienced it one already. It was more than I ever anticipated. It’s a proud moment for me. It was fantastic to manage a team like Chennaiyin FC.