Taking a cue from recent injuries common in international football, Punjab FC will be careful not to push their players in the pre-season as they prepare for the upcoming I-League.
The club, which formerly played in the I-League as Minerva Punjab FC, is currently in Kolkata, the venue for the league that starts on January 9, for its pre-season along with head coach Curtis Fleming, who stressed the need for a routine for players to slowly embrace.
“I will probably go down the pathway of thinking that we have got to be a little bit overcautious and make sure that we are gradually building them up to the start of the league,” Fleming told the Times of India. “We have seen quite a few injuries worldwide. I feel we need to gauge them all as individuals.”
Footballers around the world have found it hard to deal with the fatigue and exhaustion of a cramped season enforced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With matches coming thick and fast, players find little time to recover from their high-intensity training sessions and the strenuous travel. It has resulted in many suffering injuries.
Notable among the injury list is Premier League champions Liverpool’s defence line. It includes four regular starters Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson, who will be missing in action post the international break due to various injuries.
The players from Punjab FC returned for the pre-season after a lengthy spell away from the action - the club last played a match in March - and Curtis Fleming prefers to be safe than sorry.
“We have got to be careful,” the Irishman said. “The first day of the pre-season was a real careful one. We tried to re-introduce the players to the grass and the ball again. I think everybody is going in blind. We never had to deal with anything like this.”
Eleven teams will participate in the I-League this season including newly-promoted side Mohammedan Sporting and new entrants Sudeva FC.
“Our goal is to be competitive this season because you have got a lot of teams that have been playing regularly in the league,” said Fleming, a former Middlesbrough player.
“The players are unbelievably hungry. We will try to be a force. We will give it our best shot. These are baby steps for us.”
Moreover, with the two Indian football giants, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, joining the Indian Super League this season, Curtis Fleming believes that the I-League will be a competitive affair.
“Every season so many players move to the ISL which shows the kind of quality we have here,” the Irishman said.
“We have got a long way to go. We have got a plan of what we want to do and what we want to try and achieve. But, you know, we are not going to start running before we can walk.”
The erstwhile Minerva Punjab FC had won the I-League in the 2017-18 season. It then used to be India's premier football championship. This, Fleming already has a 'target' to meet.
Lead Photo: I-League media