Big difference in the standard of I-League and ISL clubs: Andrey Chernyshov

Andrey Chernyshov for Mohammedan SC (Image: Trisham Das/MDSP)

Andrey Chernyshov, the Russian coach of Mohammed Sporting, was instrumental in the club winning the I-League and securing a place in the ISL next season. The 56-year-old coach, who plied his trade as a footballer with three of the top Moscow clubs – Dynamo, Spartak and Torpedo – was unceremoniously sacked midway through the last season. Ever since his reappointment by the club’s officials, Chernyshov, who idolises legendary coach Ivica Osim, ensured there would be few hiccups on the road to the top tier. The Black Panthers won the Kolkata League for a third consecutive time, finished runners-up in the Durand Cup and emerged as champions of the I-League. The experienced Chernyshov is eyeing a win against Delhi FC at the Salt Lake Stadium on Saturday, April 13, in order to end the season on a high. RevSportz caught up with him for an exclusive interview. Here are the excerpts:

Debasis: There will be huge expectation from Mohammedan supporters across the country after the I-League win. Will it put added pressure on you and your team?

Andrey Chernyshov: It was our target from the beginning of the season to win the I-League. I am happy we achieved the target and brought smiles to our supporters, not only in Kolkata, but all over India. The fans have been eagerly waiting for years for this success. Yes, it is a good feeling now. We will celebrate the victory now, and think about ISL later.

Debasis: It has been a dream season for you and your boys. What has been the secret of success?

Chernyshov: There is no secret as such. It is only about hard work. Every time, I used to tell my players that nothing can be achieved without hard work. They accepted the challenge. They were focussed throughout the season. We have been like a family. We had a good dressing room atmosphere. But the most important thing for me is we had a bunch of good players. If you do not have good players, you cannot get success.

Debasis: How do you look at your tenure this time with the Black Panthers, after having to part ways midway through the last season?

Chernyshov: Look, I am the same person. Last season, there was something wrong, both from myself and the management side. For example, Liverpool is a big club and they won the Champions League and Premier League title as well. But last season, they were fifth. But no one from the club management had any complaints against the coach. But here, everyone puts the blame on the coach. This is business, and I told the management that you should also accept your mistake. Failing to provide good facilities was one of the reasons. But after I left, they started to realise their mistake, and called me back.

Debasis: Are you happy with the support you received from the club officials?

Chernyshov: This season, they were a lot more professional in their approach. They brought good players and provided good facilities to train. They gave us good hotels to stay. Salary and bonuses were paid on time. I could see a change in the approach of the management. It is impossible to win the I-League without the support of your management.

Coach Chernyshov received at the Kolkata Airport after the I-League triumph (Image: Mohammedan SC)

Debasis: All the four foreign players in the side – Evgenii Kozlov, Alexis Nahuel Gomez, Eddie Hernandez and Kasimov – played a big role in the success of the club. Your thoughts?

Chernyshov: I do not like comparing the foreign players with local players. We played as a team. All of them played very well throughout the season. They did exactly what I wanted them to do. At times, I played only with two foreigners because some of them got red carded, and injured. I am happy with all the players in the team who did a great job.

Debasis: David Lalhlansanga, one of your best footballers this season, is likely to part ways with the club. How big a blow will it be?

Chernyshov: He is a very good footballer, and I hope he has a very good future in Indian football. He can take the position of the striker in the national team. The club management is trying to convince him to stay with us for another season. But, okay, if he goes to another club, I want to tell him ‘thank you, very much’ for his service. If he plays against us in future, we will try and stop him. But for now, David is part of our family.

Debasis: How impressed are you with the local talents like Tanmoy, Samad and Fayaz, who all played their part in the success of the club?

Chernyshov: I am extremely happy with their performance. When I came back, Fayaz was not here. But I told the club officials to bring him back, because he is a very good player. Tanmoy played so many matches in the first leg when Kasimov was not available. Samad was our captain. He acted as the bridge between me and the Indian players. Every time any player had some problem, he used to share it with me, and we would sit down and discuss where we can improve.

Debasis: Have you been following ISL matches, and what do you reckon about the standard compared to I-League?

Chernyshov: You must accept that there is a big difference in the standard of I-League and ISL clubs. The facilities ISL clubs get are way above what I-League clubs are provided with. The gap is big. But we need to be ready for the next season. We need to adapt and go and get experience from playing in ISL. We will not get success overnight. Yes, we also want to win the ISL. I must admit I did not have the opportunity to watch the ISL matches as I was busy with my club. I will start watching the matches in ISL.

Debasis: You played for three legendary Moscow clubs. What did you think of the standard of Indian football when you first came here? What was most lacking?

Chernyshov: Yes, I was part of three big clubs in Moscow – Dynamo Moscow, Spartak Moscow and Torpedo Moscow. It is like the Big Three clubs here in Kolkata. They have very good infrastructure and facilities. The standard of players is also high. But as far as comparison is concerned, you need to play with the Russian clubs to understand the difference. I have heard many good things about ISL clubs, and hope our club will reach the same level.

Debasis: The old Soviet Union produced some of football’s great coaches. Valeriy Lobanovsky is still considered a tactical genius. There was Konstantin Beskov too. Have you been at all influenced by them?

Chernyshov: Look, the names you have just mentioned are great coaches in the [old] Soviet Union. I did not work with Lobanovsky, but I heard many good things about his style of play. He emphasised on modern football and many contemporary coaches are inspired by his style of play. I worked with Konstantin for one season. He was a great coach. Clubs like Manchester City and Barcelona focus on short passes. Beskov’s style was somewhat similar. In a short time, he could transform teams. For example, Dynamo Moscow, when he joined, they used to play long passes. He changed that style. But my best coach is Ivica Osim, who coached several big clubs like Panathinaikos. He was the national coach of Yugoslavia and Japan. He was the best coach, and I learnt many things from him.

Debasis: Finally, what are your thoughts before taking on Delhi FC in the last game of the season on April 13 at the Salt Lake Stadium?

Chernyshov: We need to be ready for this match. We must play like a champion side. We need to finish the season with a win in front of our supporters. I will be working with my players over the next two days. It is not easy to keep the same focus and intensity when you achieve the target, but we will go to the ground with a mindset to get full points.