ISL fans drew me to India : Sheringham

ATK head coach Teddy Sheringham said that the sheer number of fans who attend Hero Indian Super League (ISL) matches was the biggest reason he agreed to come to the country. "I was initially skeptical and asked myself whether I needed to come all the way to India to manage a team. But then I spoke with people like Steve Coppell (Jamshedpur FC head coach), of course, and even David James (former Kerala Blasters FC head coach) and they all had good things to say about the Hero ISL. Then, when I was told we'll be playing in front of 60,000 supporters, I thought that's the sort of atmosphere I want to manage in," the former Manchester United striker said at the Hero ISL Media Day in Kolkata.

The defendingchampions play Blasters in Kochi in the opening match of the fourth season ofthe Hero ISL, and Sheringham said he was cherishing playing against the YellowArmy, even though it would be a hostile atmosphere. "It will be an obviouschallenge but if it came down to choosing to play in front of 3,000 or 60,000,I would choose the latter. I expect a large number of fans even at the SaltLake Stadium during our home games," he said.

Sheringham was asked whether he would have preferred an easier opening game,but he saw the positives in starting the campaign against the Blasters in whatwill be a repeat of last season's final, which ATK won 4-3 on penalties."Itwill be good to start in the sort of atmosphere where I've wanted to pit mybrains against other teams. It will be tough, but it will be great if we can dowell in front of 60,000 fans cheering our opponents," the 51-year-oldsaid.

The ATK-Blasters rivalry has grown over the past few seasons, with the Kolkataside not having lost to the southern club in five matches. That said,Sheringham earmarked the Blasters as the biggest threat to ATK's ambitions."Iwas asked very early as to who I thought were a very strong team and it camedown to the one which has fans who act like a 12th man, which is KeralaBlasters. Having passionate fans is a great thing but we've all faced in ourcareer moments where they turn against you and demand more from the team,"Sheringham said, highlighting how teams need to perform well to keep fans ontheir side.

He also confirmed that ATK will be without their star signing Robbie Keane, whois nursing an achilles injury and will not be part of the opener."I won'tlie. It is a big blow to the team but it's a minor injury and we hope that he'sback with us in two weeks," he informed.ATK face off against KeralaBlasters on 17th November in what promises to be a crackingatmosphere in Kochi. And Sheringham knows that his side need to be prepared toplay in an unforgettable setting on Friday evening. 

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