Seasoned ISL players to lead Jamshedpur’s title charge

The Hero Indian Super League’s (ISL) new season will hit the ground running with two new teams in the fray this time around. One of them, Bengaluru FC, is an already-established club in the Hero I-League, not to mention a successful one over the past few years. And the other team, Jamshedpur FC, was put together a few months ago after being inducted into the ISL. While Bengaluru have kept some of their old faithful for their new journey, what about their fellow debutants?

Even though the Tatas are well known for having traditionally supported football in India, their team Jamshedpur FC (owned by Tata Steel) were going into their first ISL season afresh. Experience is what they needed and that’s what they went for in the pre-season draft. They now head into the fourth season boasting a squad of familiar faces who have previously had a taste of the ISL.

Goalkeeping is usually a tricky position because you don’t want to splurge too much and yet want a safe pair of hands. Well, India’s ‘Spiderman’ Subrata Paul certainly has one of the safest hands in the business! In Jamshedpur’s case, the Indian custodian was an obvious choice given his roots trace back to India’s renowned Tata Football Academy. Having played his heart out for NorthEast United FC last season, narrowly missing out on helping them into the semis, Paul was more than happy to sign up with the new team.

Next, Jamshedpur decided that shelling out some money on reputed defenders would do more good than harm. So why not pick one of last season’s standout defensive revelations who in turn became one of the two most expensive players in the ISL Draft? Why not buy the experience of one of last season’s title winners? Also, why not buy someone who has regularly plied his trade in all three seasons for the same club? So, in came the trio consisting of the former wall of Delhi Dynamos FC, Anas Edathodika; the ever-reliant Spanish centre-back Jose Luis Espinosa Arroyo (a.k.a. Tiri) who was fresh from helping Atlético de Kolkata win their second title; and the Highlander faithful Robin Gurung. Another former Dynamos and NorthEast defender, whose roots are incidentally from Bengal, also joined their ranks in the form of the versatile Shouvik Ghosh.

One place where it is crucial to get it right is the midfield because here are the guys who build up play and break up opposition attacks. So ideally, they should understand the circumstances in and around them. Hence, Jamshedpur gave the status of ‘men of steel’ to the seasoned individuals who’ll be a part of their midfield engine-room.

Ex-Lions midfielder Emerson Moura, better known as Memo, makes the switch from Delhi. Joining him will also be his former teammate Souvik Chakrabarti who habituated himself in the right-back position last season with immense success. The tireless playmaker Trindade Goncalves makes the switch from FC Goa, while former FC Pune City midfielder Bikash Jairu joins their ranks as well. But apart from these players, one of the biggest fishes they managed to capture was 28-year-old South African Sameehg Doutie - a player who played a major role in ATK’s title glory last season, and one who can run, dribble, provide and score. In fact, he has tormented opposition defences on a regular basis for the past two seasons and will be looking to hit the ground running for Jamshedpur this year.

Last but not the least, the strike-force also has some familiar and lethal faces. 20-year-old Jerry Mawihmingthanga donned NorthEast’s white last season, albeit for just 22 minutes in his only appearance. Making the same switch would be the highly-rated Sumeet Passi who made four appearances himself for the Highlanders. Their main go-to man would be the burly striker Kervens Belfort, who won the hearts of the Kerala Blasters fans last season not just because he scored three goals and assisted one, but because of the way in which he bullied opponent defenders.

And guess who is reuniting with Belfort at Jamshedpur? Well, it’s another Kerala favourite, Steve Coppell. The Englishman, who was the Blasters’ head coach last time around, has earned the reputation of being a mastermind strategist. He oversaw a complete turnaround in Kerala’s fortunes which led them to the final.

Jamshedpur may have a dynamic set of proven players who can individually turn the course of any game, but the team chemistry and cohesion of the newcomers are yet to be witnessed. The Jharkhand-based team has, however, played it smart, and if they are smart enough on the pitch as well, they should have no problem in making their debut season a memorable one.

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