‘If the players lose belief, it’s a double defeat’ – Stuart Baxter confident of turning Odisha FC’s fortunes around

The British coach believes that Odisha have not defended poorly but isolated decisions are hurting the side…

Odisha FC, languishing at the bottom on the Indian Super League (ISL) table, are the only side yet to win a match this season.

With just two draws in eight matches, they have just two points to show for their efforts. However, coach Stuart Baxter is imploring his players to continue believing in themselves as a crucial game against Kerala Blasters comes up on Thursday.

He admits that making the players continue believing in themselves is his biggest challenge in this tough period for the club.

“The biggest issue that we have at the moment is that despite playing well in most games we have not turned that into results. This is the critical phase of the game. In some of them, we have even dominated. This can damage your belief and confidence. These are the things we have been speaking about,” he said.

The British coach revealed that they are working on several tweaks as they prepare for an important game but the paramount factor is the players’ belief. He feels that all that they need is one result to go their way.

“I wish I could put it (the solution to Odisha’s woes) in a bottle and make the players drink it. It would be a lot easier. The first thing that needs to happen that the players do not lose belief.

“My father, he was a coach in Aston Villa, said that if you lose and if you lose your belief then that’s a double defeat. But if you lose and retain your confidence then that’s a half defeat. So we are trying to do that.

“We are aware of the tweaks that we need to do. We are doing that and hence we are improving. When the momentum changes, it will change strongly.

“The players must not attract negativity. They must believe strongly. Like Jerry (Mawihmingthanga), he can re-run the pass in his head and know the solution (most of the times). The positive thing is we know the solutions and put them right in our heads and then just carry on.”

Odisha’s defending has come under the scanner in their winless start to the season. More often than not, they have conceded cheap goals at crucial times and it was evident in their last defeat, a 3-1 loss to East Bengal who were also struggling at the start of the campaign.

Bright Enobakhare, East Bengal vs Odisha

However, Baxter feels that Odisha have not defended poorly. Rather, it has been a case of individual mistakes and not collective poor defending.

“People sometimes equate defensive errors to bad defending. Well, bad defending is for me is when there is no balance or when the distance between the defenders is poor and who goes to the ball and bad decisions. But that’s not the case with us.

“In the middle of a period where we are defending well one of our players makes poor decisions and they make individual mistakes. The functional part I can change but the individual part leaves a scar mentally which produces more mistakes. We have to ensure that we are making strong decisions so that the mistakes do not creep in again. That’s the big battle we have.”

Kerala Blasters, Odisha’s next opponents, have also not been in great form. They have just one win to show from eight games and have just six points in their kitty. Baxter feels that Odisha can pick something from the game and trouble Kibu Vicuna’s men.

“Every opponent we have, we can potentially get a good result against them. Every game I see is very competitive. It can go any way depending on referee’s decision, or a bad passage of play. Kerala Blasters is exactly the same. A lot of their games have been tight. They could have been further up the league. I think it is going to be a competitive game.  We are going into this game knowing that we can win this game.”