In the fast-paced world of football, some individuals transcend the role of coach to become legendary figures, leaving an impact that extends far beyond the sidelines. Over its ten seasons, the Indian Super League (ISL) has seen several tactical maestros make an indelible mark on the league, with some still leading various clubs. The influence of these coaches is evident across the football field, from transforming playing styles to shaping the careers of Indian players.

 
 
 
 
 
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With this in mind, let's explore the head coaches who made the most significant impact in their debut season in the ISL.

Albert Roca (Bengaluru FC) - 2.22 points per game

 

Following their Federation Cup triumph and AFC Cup final run, Roca seamlessly transitioned his success to Bengaluru FC's debut ISL season. His effective management style in the competitive Indian football landscape emphasized ball possession efficiency, defensive stability, and tactical discipline. Roca's ability to build cohesive squads and nurture young talent earned him widespread respect.

In the 2017-18 season, Bengaluru FC accumulated 40 points in 18 matches, finishing at the top of the league table in their inaugural ISL season. They averaged 2.22 points per match during the season under Roca, the highest any coach has achieved in his debut season in the league. The Blues maintained their impressive form in the playoffs but narrowly lost to Chennaiyin FC in a thrilling five-goal final.

Petr Kratky (Mumbai City FC) - 2.06 points per game

 

Kratky arrived in India with a wealth of experience in youth coaching, having spent seven years with Melbourne City. As an assistant coach, he played a crucial role in helping Melbourne City secure the A-League Men's Premiership in both the 2021–2022 and 2022–2023 seasons.

In December 2023, Kratky took on the role of head coach for the Islanders, stepping into the shoes of the esteemed Des Buckingham. The new coach wisely opted not to make many changes to the squad, although he did lose some key players during the winter transfer window due to injuries.

Despite these challenges, Kratky managed to get the best out of the available players. His team finished second in the league, a remarkable achievement for a debutant coach, narrowly missing the League Shield to Mohun Bagan Super Giant on the final day. The team captured 33 points in 16 games, averaging 2.06 points per match.

In a fitting turn of events, Kratky’s team exacted revenge in the cup final, defeating the Mariners to secure their second ISL Cup in history.

Owen Coyle (Chennaiyin FC) - 2 points per game

 

Scottish head coach Owen Coyle took over Chennaiyin FC midway through the 2019-20 season, succeeding John Gregory. At the time of his arrival, the team was struggling near the bottom of the table.

Coyle emphasized tactical discipline and offensive football, earning recognition for fostering strong camaraderie and a winning mindset among the players. Throughout the season, his ability to inspire and amplify the players' strengths was evident.

Under Coyle's guidance, Chennaiyin FC's performance improved significantly, resulting in a 4th-place finish and qualification for the playoffs. In the 2019-20 season with the club, he secured 24 points in 12 games, averaging 2 points per game. Despite a 3-1 defeat to ATK in the final, the Marina Machans finished as runners-up.

Carles Cuadrat (Bengaluru FC) - 1.89 points per game

 

The current head coach of East Bengal FC started his managerial career in India with Bengaluru FC as an assistant coach in 2016. Following the departure of head coach Albert Roca at the end of the 2018-19 season, Cuadrat was promoted to head coach.

Cuadrat's tenure at Bengaluru FC was marked by remarkable success. Throughout the season, the team effectively balanced an attacking mindset with a strong defensive core. They began impressively, remaining unbeaten in the first 11 matches, including a streak of six consecutive victories.

Bengaluru FC displayed consistency and supremacy, finishing atop the league standings with 34 points from 18 matches: 10 wins, 4 draws, and 4 losses. Cuadrat's tactical astuteness and adaptability against various opponents were pivotal in Bengaluru FC's triumph.

In the playoffs, the team maintained their dominance, culminating in victory as they captured the ISL Cup. In a tightly contested final, Bengaluru FC triumphed over FC Goa with a 1-0 scoreline, courtesy of Rahul Bheke's decisive goal in the 117th minute.

John Gregory (Chennaiyin FC) - 1.78 points per game

 

Under Gregory's stewardship, Chennaiyin FC enjoyed a remarkable 2017-18 season, clinching their second ISL Cup. Gregory's coaching philosophy centred on disciplined organization, effective counter-attacking football, and defensive solidity.

Throughout the league phase, the Marina Machans exhibited reliability and resilience, securing second place with 32 points from 18 matches: 9 wins, 5 draws, and 4 losses. Gregory's tactical prowess and leadership were pivotal in their campaign. His ability to foster a cohesive team culture and instil a winning mentality proved instrumental.

Chennaiyin FC continued their strong form into the playoffs, progressing to the Cup final where they triumphed over Bengaluru FC with a 3-2 victory, sealing their second championship title.