[India], November 12 (ANI): ATK head coach Teddy Sheringham on Sunday said that the number of fans who attend the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) matches is the driving reason as to why 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 defending champions play Kerala Blasters in Kochi in the opening match of the fourth season of the Hero ISL, and Sheringham said that he will cherish playing against the Yellow Army, even though it would be a hostile atmosphere.
"It will be an obvious challenge, 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 Salt Lake Stadium during our home games," he said.
Sheringham was also asked if he would have preferred an easier opening game, but he instead listed out the positives in starting the campaign against the Blasters, in what will be a repeat of last season's final, which ATK won 4-3 on penalties.
"It will be good to start in the sort of atmosphere where I've wanted to pit my brains against other teams. It will be tough, but it will be great if we can do well in front of 60,000 fans cheering our opponents," the 51-year-old said.
The ATK-Blasters rivalry has grown over the past few seasons, with the Kolkata side not having lost to the southern club in five matches.
Meanwhile, Sheringham earmarked the Blasters as the biggest threat to ATK's ambitions.
"I was asked very early as to who I thought were a very strong team and it came down to the one which has fans who act like a 12th man, which is Kerala Blasters. Having passionate fans is a great thing but we've all faced in our career moments where they turn against you and demand more from the team," Sheringham said, highlighting how teams need to perform well to keep fans on their side.
He also confirmed that ATK will be without their star signing Robbie Keane, who is nursing an achilles injury and will not be a part of the opener.
"I won't lie. It is a big blow to the team but it's a minor injury and we hope that he's back with us in two weeks," he informed.
ATK face off against Kerala Blasters on November 17 in what promises to be a cracking atmosphere in Kochi. (ANI)