Kolkata, 22 Sept 2018: If there is passion in the South and method in the West, the Eastern region has undeniable history when it comes to Indian football. Bengal, for instance, has been a powerhouse for a long time now while the northeast has been the hotbed of providing a continuous supply of talents in Indian football. The history of Tata Football Academy from Jamshedpur needs no reminding.
While the region is rich historically, the last Hero Indian Super League season unfortunately was not as fruitful for the three Eastern clubs competing in the League as the fans would have wanted to, none making to the Playoffs. As the ISL 2018-19 draws closer, this time they will have plenty to prove.
All three clubs – ATK, NorthEast United FC and Jamshedpur FC — are embracing a change of guard and change of philosophy in the hope that it sparks a revival in fortunes.
ATK are shaping to be title contenders again. With a star-studded but entirely revamped foreign contingent which has the likes of Manuel Lanzarote, Andre Bikey, Kalu Uche and Everton Santos, ATK coach Steve Coppell will be expected to steady the rocking ship and bring success to the club.
Last season, Coppell was with Jamshedpur FC who made their debut in the ISL. They were only one match away from playoff before surrendering their spot to FC Goa in the concluding league clash.
Whereas, Jamshedpur have now embraced a Spanish philosophy. They have signed former Atletico Madrid coach Cesar Ferrando and has a sizeable Spanish core in Mario Arques, Pablo Morgado, Tiri, Carlos Calvo and Sergio Cidoncha.
It is an approach that worked for ATK in the first three seasons and Jamshedpur FC will be looking to reap the same benefits this time around.
“The Indian players want to learn that is a very good quality. They have to work hard and understand the game. Also, I signed three new Spanish players to bring in the style we want to play this time. They all are very good players. All the players must work together. The Indian players and the international ones together can win us matches,” said Ferrando while interacting with media here in Kolkata.
NorthEast United started last season under Portuguese tactician Joao de Deus but were forced to part ways after the club’s lacklustre start. Former Chelsea man Avram Grant came in to bring a semblance of respectability, even though they still ended up last.
Dutchman Eelco Schattorie, who assisted Grant, has now been promoted as head coach. Schattorie has prior experience coaching in India having taken charge of clubs like United SC and East Bengal.
They have also revamped their foreign contingent entirely with former Paris Saint Germain striker Bartholomew Ogbeche the star capture. The Highlanders will count on Schattorie’s experience to lead a competitive squad to their first-ever play-offs.
“The challenge is that there is huge pressure on me. There are 10 teams fighting for the same goal. But everything is possible in football,” said Schattorie.
The Eastern clubs have certainly left nothing to chance. ATK, Jamshedpur FC and NorthEast United will hope their efforts come to fruition.