Man with a plan

"I had a feeling that I had been away from professional coaching for a long time. I just could not say ‘no’ to the offer from Chennaiyin,” Vijayan told DT Next on Saturday
Man with a plan

CHENNAI: ‘March 17’ will forever be etched on the hearts of Chennaiyin FC fanatics. It was on that very day in 2018 Chennaiyin added a second Indian Super League trophy to its cabinet. On the same day this year – Friday – CFC made it doubly special by announcing the arrival of ‘Indian Football’s Golden Boy’ Raman Vijayan, who has been recruited as assistant coach to help end the silverware drought. Local hero Vijayan has returned to the country’s top-flight football after seven years, having last worked at the now defunct Delhi Dynamos FC in the Indian Super League 2016 season. Now that he is back to doing what he is “passionate” about, the 49-year-old Vijayan is showing childlike enthusiasm. “I had a feeling that I had been away from professional coaching for a long time. I just could not say ‘no’ to the offer from Chennaiyin,” Vijayan told DT Next on Saturday. During our interaction, Vijayan also spoke about the discussions he had with the management, the task ahead and more.


On being appointed assistant coach of Chennaiyin FC

  • Ahead of the inaugural season of the Indian Super League, I was chosen to pick the Chennaiyin squad at the draft. I went to the draft as a special invitee. I should have joined Chennaiyin as assistant coach back then; I had a few discussions with the management. At that time, I was working at South United [in Bengaluru], so I missed the opportunity. After many years, I got an opportunity again. I am glad to handle my hometown (Tamil Nadu) club.

On how the deal materialised

  • All of a sudden, I got a call from the club. I was asked if I was interested in becoming an assistant coach. I took about an hour and responded positively. I had a feeling that I had been away from professional coaching for a long time. I was doing a lot of management activities for my academies (Raman Vijayan Soccer School and Noble Football Academy)… doing things as a football director… commentating. When I got the opportunity, I could not say “no”. If the offer had come from some other ISL club, I may have thought about it for a little longer. Since it was Chennaiyin… I thought about developing local (Tamil Nadu) talent. I just could not say “no” to the offer.

On returning to coaching at the highest level after seven years

  • I initially thought about the other commitments I had and how I would prepare myself. I was thinking, “I am not going to do something I had never done in the past.” I am passionate about coaching. There is a lot to learn… we are handling players who are at the top level. I need to sharpen myself to deliver at this level. There is a lot to do in the future.

On replacing his good friend Sabir Pasha

  • Sabir and I played together a lot of times; we were roommates. Both of us know a lot about Tamil Nadu football. We have come to the top via different routes. As a coach, he has handled teams. His style of handling is completely different from mine. In my opinion, the way he handled the Chennaiyin players is not of much importance now. I am focusing on how I am going to do my job. Keeping the situation in mind, I am focusing on what best I can do to make the team better. That is very important for me.

On the conversations he had with the management

  • I spoke about how I looked at Chennaiyin from outside. I gave my honest opinion and explained how I could improve the situation. I also explained what I would contribute to the club. I have a plan and a long-term vision. There are things I would like to achieve in the coming years. I included those points in the presentation I came up with. The management members were satisfied; they understood what I am capable of doing. They told me that they would give me the freedom and support.

On which area the club needs to work a lot on

  • I felt that Chennaiyin could have scouted players from districts [in Tamil Nadu] in the last few years. I put forth my points when I had discussions with the management. I believe that I can come up with a yearly plan to scout more local talent.

On his primary role at CFC

  • I would like to act as an important bridge… between head coach and management, between head coach and players, between players and fans. That is an important area. Connecting well with those around is very important.

On working with head coach Thomas Brdaric

  • One good thing about Thomas is that he ensures everyone in the team is involved. He wanted my suggestions and held discussions about different players. In general, he listens to what we say and explains the things he does. Thomas knows the team much better than me. Slowly, I am adapting to life at Chennaiyin. Thomas is very comfortable to work with. He is pretty friendly. There is mutual respect between us. During our training sessions, he is 100 per cent involved. When you watch him from outside, it is difficult to understand what he does. He is trying hard and I feel that we will reap the rewards in the Super Cup.

On the preparation for the Super Cup, his first assignment in CFC colours

  • We started training early. The players are working with full focus. Some of the players are coming back from injuries. In the Super Cup, you will see a different Chennaiyin team. I am sure about that. The team has developed since the end of the ISL.

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