English flavour in Indian football’s grandest extravaganza
The new season of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) will witness a longer season as well as the addition of two new teams. With the shuffling of players across teams and new signings, the head coaches will have a lot on their plates when it comes to figuring out their best 11 and the tactics best suited to the players at their disposal. Englishmen are renowned for their understanding of the game and will have a massive role to play this year after three teams opted to secure their services ahead of the new season. Here we take a look at what the Three Lions set to grace the ISL dugouts this year will bring to the league.
The perceptive Coppell could be the right fit for Jamshedpur
Jamshedpur FC have roped in former Kerala Blasters FC coach Steve Coppell for their debut season. In Coppell, they now have a coach who is used to the conditions and demands of the league. It’s a smart move on their part and judging by their approach they have adopted in assembling their squad, it’s safe to say that they are relying on tried and tested talents from years gone by. A vastly experienced manager on English soil, his most successful stint came during his time with Reading. He helped them gain promotion to the Premier League after winning the 2005-06 Championship on the back of a league record 33-match unbeaten run. The first season in the top flight with Reading also brought him two Manager of the Month awards after the club finished eighth.
His debut season with the Blasters was also impressive having guided them to the final after enduring a rough start. Three matches into Hero ISL 2016 and Kerala were still winless. In fact, even after getting a few victories under their belt, they crashed to a 5-0 setback against Mumbai City FC. By this time though, Coppell had chalked out his plan. His playing days with Manchester United saw him plying his trade as a highly successful winger, and his approach for any game heavily favoured wing-play. He thus identified CK Vineeth as his go-to guy and initiated wing-attacks with fervour. Kervens Belfort and Duckens Nazon possessed raw pace and were strong with the ball at their feet, and Coppell exploited this by making them the focal point of his team’s attacks. He also ensured that while Sandesh Jhingan and Cedric Hengbart marshalled a solid defence, they would also create a flutter in the opposition box while attacking set-pieces.
At Jamshedpur FC, Coppell reunites with midfielder Mehtab Hossain and Belfort, who were both integral figures for Kerala last year. Another familiar face for him will be Ishfaq Ahmed, who was a player-cum-assistant coach last season for Kerala and will be assistant coach for Jamshedpur this time around.
Atlético de Kolkata rope in Mr. Fox In The Box Teddy Sheringham
Two-time champions ATK will have a new coach at their helm for the second season in a row. Former Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur striker Teddy Sheringham will take over from Jose Molina. While Sheringham has a lot of experience playing and performing potently for some of the big guns of the Premier League, the only team he has managed so far has been League Two (fourth tier of English football) side Stevenage FC. On the other hand, his success as a player can impart a vast amount of knowledge to his team. One can hardly forget his stoppage-time equalizer against Bayern Munich in the 1998-99 UEFA Champions League final that helped Manchester United win the UEFA Champions League and that’s exactly the fighting spirit everyone will be expecting from his players.
He of course has the help of his countryman Ashley Westwood, who will take up the role of technical director at ATK, and has already led ISL debutants Bengaluru FC to two Hero I-League titles in the past. Westwood’s knowledge of subcontinental playing conditions will play a key role in Sheringham’s approach and strategy.
Super Machans welcome former Villain John Gregory
Englishman John Gregory will shoulder the responsibility of making Chennaiyin FC champions again after finishing seventh as defending champion last year. Not someone short on coaching experience, he has managed 10 teams since 1989, including seven English clubs. Gregory was also the manager of the highly successful Aston Villa team that finished sixth during the 1998-99 season and ended up as runners-up in the 2000 FA Cup season. While Chennaiyin still have a few bits and pieces to put together youngsters like Jerry Lalrinzuala, Anirudh Thapa and Germanpreet Singh will certainly benefit from his experience.
With these three insightful minds managing three different teams, it will be interesting to see who trumps who in the upcoming season.