Owen Coyle and Jamshedpur FC: A match made in heaven

Having spent three seasons in the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) with three different head coaches at the helm, Jamshedpur FC have put their faith in Scottish head coach Owen Coyle for the upcoming campaign. Coyle showed us what he’s capable of doing in the Hero ISL last season when he led a faltering Chennaiyin FC from the bottom of the league to the semi-finals before eventually losing to ATK FC in the final.

After Chennaiyin’s former head coach John Gregory parted ways with the club in Hero ISL 2019-20, Coyle’s appointment proved to be a new lease of life for the Chennai-based outfit. They beat the likes of Kerala Blasters FC in a nine-goal thriller, as well as ATK in the league stage and then FC Goa in the semi-finals.

During Chennaiyin’s strong run of results under Coyle, the Marina Machans scored 35 goals in 15 matches and went on an unbeaten run of nine games that helped propel them to the final. While the team’s turnaround in fortunes was remarkable, it was the manner in which Coyle brought out the best from his players that caught everyone’s attention.

What changed at Chennaiyin after Coyle’s appointment?

Coyle put his faith in the correct blend of youth and experience. For every Lallianzuala Chhangte, there was a Rafael Crivellaro, Anirudh Thapa had Edwin Vanspaul, while Jerry Lalrinzuala had the security blanket of having Lucian Goian beside him. This gave his players immense confidence.

Following his arrival at Chennaiyin, he said, “When you can win games, it’s obviously shown that you can catapult up the league. The other thing that is very important in football is momentum. If you can get on that run it would be great.” And that is exactly what he did at the club.

Having lost two of his first four matches with Chennaiyin, Coyle’s side went on an unbeaten run which ended in the second leg of their semi final clash against Goa. During this time, he showed confidence in his players, built their resilience and made them hard to beat as well as easy on the eye.

An example of his belief in youth was Chhangte, who enjoyed his best Hero ISL season under Coyle. "He just needed someone to trust him, to believe in him,” Coyle said about Chhangte. The 23-year-old winger had his best season till date, scoring seven goals under the tutelage of the Scotsman with 23 shots on target – the most by an Indian.

Vanspaul was moved to a more familiar midfield role by Coyle and he repaid the faith with exemplary performances. In fact, no other Hero ISL team had two Indians in the middle with Coyle opting to build his midfield around Thapa and one of Germanpreet Singh or Vanspaul. This in turn gave freedom to the attacking quartet of Hero ISL 2019-20’s Golden Boot winner Nerijus Valskis, Crivellaro, Chhangte and Andre Schembri. During the 15 matches under Coyle last season, Chennaiyin failed to score just twice.

How can he improve Jamshedpur FC?

Now with a new club for the upcoming Hero ISL campaign and a full pre-season to look forward to, Coyle has a chance to inculcate his philosophy into another young team from the get-go. With a squad that features the likes of Aniket Jadhav, Amarjit Singh, Jitendra Singh and Narender Gahlot, it’s safe to say that Coyle will have plenty of exciting, young talent to work with just like he did at Chennaiyin.

Jamshedpur have always started their Hero ISL campaigns well, but faltered mid season and towards the latter stages of the league. After finishing fifth in their first two Hero ISL campaigns, they narrowly missed out on qualification. However, Jamshedpur endured their most underwhelming season yet in the 2019-20 campaign, finishing eighth under Spanish head coach Antonio Iriondo.

No stranger to taking sides from the bottom of the standings towards the top, Coyle will be eager to change Jamshedpur’s propensity to fade away in the second half of the season. And if the 54-year-old’s influence with Chennaiyin in the latter half of the last Hero ISL campaign is anything to go by then Jamshedpur can be safe in the knowledge that they are in good hands.

Keeping in mind the faith Coyle put in youngsters at Chennaiyin, midfield players like Issac Vanmalsawma and Mobashir Rahman can hope to play more telling roles for their team in the upcoming season. Local talents are likely to be crucial for his plans with Jamshedpur’s new head coach looking to help them perform at their best. Partnered with one of the best academies in India, Coyle will have a lot of young and talented players to pick from.

Iriondo couldn’t quite get the best out of his domestic players last season and he was not helped by injuries to key individuals such as Sergio Castel, Tiri and Piti either. However, with Coyle’s proven track record of extracting the best from the squad of players at his disposal, the Jamshedpur faithful will have renewed reason for optimism heading into the new season. With exciting times and beautiful football to look forward to, Jamshedpur will hope that Coyle is the one to lead their team into Hero ISL’s semi-finals for the first time in the club’s history.

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