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Blasted by Berbatov, Kerala coach David James gets extension

David James' Kerala Blasters failed to secure a top-four finish and make the ISL playoffs this season.
David James' Kerala Blasters failed to secure a top-four finish and make the ISL playoffs this season.

Kerala Blasters have extended the contract of David James, announcing him as head coach till the 2020-21 season of the Indian Super League (ISL), over a weekend where former Manchester United forward Dimitar Berbatov's criticism of him in a social media post garnered as much attention as Kerala's inability to finish in the top four and make the ISL playoffs.

Berbatov, who made nine appearances and scored just one goal for Kerala in an injury-ridden ISL season for Kerala, posted a selfie from inside an aircraft on Instagram with hashtags calling James "worst wannabe coach ever" and his methods as "worst tactical advice", while adding some other colourful hashtags describing James' coaching methods. He has deleted the post since, with several of the posts in his account portraying happier times in the ISL, especially with former United teammate Wes Brown.

"Only Berbatov knows what happened," a Kerala team official told ESPN. "He was very friendly on the field, and he was guiding the youngsters in the team very well, telling them what to do and how to keep the ball. If he had any problems, he could have spoken while here, rather than messaging just before switching his phone off before taking off. Everybody just woke up to a rude shock."

Among those to respond to Berbatov's post was Kerala's Canadian striker Iain Hume, who is still in India recovering from a knee injury that limited his appearances for Kerala this season. "No digs at anybody! Just something I live by. Reading quite a lot of needless comments the last few days that are only gonna [sic] create controversy and for some, become relevant again!" tweeted Hume.

The team official confirmed that barring Berbatov -- who has returned to Bulgaria -- and Hume, all other foreign players are still in India and will be available for selection for the season-ending Super Cup, where the ISL's 10 teams will compete against the 10 teams of the I-League. As the team that finished sixth in the regular league stages of the ISL, Kerala will go straight to the last 16 stages of the tournament, while the four teams that finished below them will have to compete with the last four teams of the I-League for four spots.

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