Young Indian talent become the face of change at ATK Mohun Bagan after Roy Krishna, David Williams' departures

At ATK Mohun Bagan, it’s an end of an era. The famed duo of Roy Krishna and David Williams, two forwards who scored truckloads of goals for the club and made several others for their teammates have moved on.

These two players formulated the heart and soul of the club’s attack for the last two years. Their presence allowed the likes of Liston Colaco, Manvir Singh and recently Kiyan Nassiri to slowly blossom into forwards capable of taking the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) by storm. Thus the departures of the two players leaves a void, it also presents an opportunity for the Indian forwards to step up and take the mantle from these two stalwarts.

So in a away, it’s also a beginning of a new era. 

ATK Mohun Bagan allowing the two players to leave without having announced any replacements shows the faith they have in the Indian youngsters in their squad  to take the club forward after the departure of Krishna and Williams. The likes of Colaco and Manvir consolidated their importance in the side with their performances last season. Juan Ferrando is now ready to oversee the attacking baton being passed to domestic young stars with Nassiri also featuring regularly under the Spaniard.

Roy Krishna became an instant hit ever since his arrival in India in 2019. He scored 36 goals and recorded 18 assists in his three Hero ISL seasons, winning the Hero ISL trophy in 2019-20 with the erstwhile ATK. Former Mohun Bagan player Darren Caldeira feels while Krishna will be missed, ATK Mohun Bagan have plenty of reasons to be optimistic about their Indian batch of forwards.

"Roy Krishna has been a massive player for ATK Mohun Bagan ever since he joined the club, not only for the goals that he has scored but he has been a leader for the team. He has been one of the captains and you can see the relationship he has had with his teammates being so close to them. Every single player in the dressing room has good things to say about Roy. It is going to be a massive loss for ATK Mohun Bagan. But they do have a lot of good Indian youngsters coming in. The likes of Liston (Colaco) and Manvir (Singh) I am sure have learned a lot from Roy but have also shown that they can take the responsibility of scoring goals and being lethal upfront," Caldeira said.

Feature: Roy Krishna, a lot more than just a striker

ATK Mohun Bagan are desperate to revive fortunes after a disappointing Hero ISL season, where they were knocked out in the semi-finals by eventual champions Hyderabad FC. Caldeira, who has represented both ATK and Mohun Bagan during his playing career feels there is a lot to look forward to for the Green and Maroon faithful.

"It is a great time to be an ATK Mohun Bagan fan. Despite losing their first game, they put in some really good performances and won their group in the AFC Cup, now progressing into the knockouts. You can see they have completely become a different side under Juan Ferrando, compact defensively but going forward they create a lot more chances and score more. It is an exciting time for the supporters, especially with players like Kiyan Nassiri coming in, etching his name in the history books by scoring that beautiful hattrick in the derby last season," said Caldeira, who won the 2018 Calcutta Football League with Mohun Bagan.

"ATK Mohun Bagan fans are demanding fans. They will want to win trophies. That is what this club is all about. They did not have the best season last time around but I am sure under Juan with the football they are playing and the kind of players they have on their roster, a lot of good things to follow. They will probably be one of the top-scoring sides next ISL. There are a lot of goals in this side with the young Indian trio of Liston, Manvir, and Kiyan taking up the mantle," Caldeira said.

The transition was evident last season itself, Roy Krishna dominated the attacking statistics for ATKMB in 2020-21 but ranked behind Liston Colaco in 2021-22. Both Krishna and Williams were not even regular starters for the Mariners as Colaco ended up being the top Indian goal-scorer last Hero ISL, followed by club-mate Manvir Singh with 8 and 6 goals respectively.

Metrics

Roy Krishna

Liston Colaco

Matches

16

22

Minutes

1193

1715

Match Started

13

21

Goals

7

8

% of ATKMB Goals Scored

17.9

20.5

Assists

4

5

% of ATKMB Assists

14.3

17.9

Total chances created 12 29

While the Indian forwards may have the numbers to show their capability, the task on their hand now would be deliver knowing that they could be the team’s main attacking threat. Opposition teams will come more prepared than ever to stop them.

This is where Ferrando, who has a knack of getting the most out of young playeras will come in.

“Juan is still very young as a coach and he himself will of learned a lot more about his players and himself after a tough Season 8 in the ISL. He has of course had great results with producing young players and he will also know that you have to be patient with them and allow them to make mistakes along the way but the young players themselves also know  that they have a coach who is always trying to do the best for them at all times,” former Chennaiyin FC head coach John Gregory said.

“And like your own children, occasionally they might need a kick up the backside or a loving arm around their shoulder and guidance to help them through the difficult times that will always come at sometime or another. I think Juan is the ideal coach to work with these players,” he added.

During the recently concluded AFC Cup qualifying and group stage campaign last month, Kiyan started in all five matches while Manvir and Liston in four, post national duty. Liston also scored 4 goals, including a hat-trick against Bangladesh's Basundhara Kings while Kiyan scored a brace against Blue Star in qualifying, demonstrating ATK Mohun Bagan's attack remains in safe hands. It might be a blueprint that more Hero ISL clubs would want to follow if the Indian forwards continue their good work.

The onus of scoring goals would lie heavier on Colaco and especially Manvir who are a lot more experienced than Nassiri. With Krishna and Williams departing we could see Manvir or even Colaco play more centrally, much in sync with what the two players are likely to play with the Indian national team.

“There will obviously now be a bigger responsibility on to the likes of Colaco, Manvir and Kiyan Nassiri... Possibly more responsibility will be laid at the door of Manvir Singh. At the age of 27 and with almost 100 ISL appearances and 30+ appearances for the Indian National Team, so much more will be expected from Manvir rather than the other two much younger players,” said Gregory.

However, the former Chennaiyin FC head coach feels Manvir is a case of a player that is likely to hit his peak much later in his career than what was expected.

“Manvir Singh has always had great potential. He might well be a late developer. Maybe the best is yet to come from Manvir. He blossomed in the role he was given by Juan Ferrando and he worked tirelessly and scored some truly brilliant individual and team goals for ATKMB. Now he has a head coach that trusts him and totally believes in him, I expect Manvir to thrive on being first choice striker for ATKMB in Hero ISL 2022-23,” added Gregory.

Top Indian Scorers in Hero ISL 2021-22

Name

Team

Position

Matches

Minutes

Goals

Liston Colaco

ATKMB

Forward

22

1715

8

Manvir Singh

ATKMB

Forward

22

1831

6

Bipin Singh

MCFC

Forward

20

1693

6

Sahal Abdul Samad

KBFC

Midfielder

21

1543

6

Suhair VP

NEUFC

Forward

19

1604

4

As far as Colaco is concerned, dealing with the hype surrounding him will be his biggest challenge.

“Liston has created a nice problem for himself. He has been elevated to being a big star with his brilliant goals and outstanding individual and team performances. He has to repeat that again this season. And next season and the season after that. Liston will soon be forgotten and replaced if he doesn’t live up to the standard's he has reached this last season of the ISL,” said Gregory.

For fans of ATK Mohun Bagan and also the Indian football team, this development is an exciting one. When Hero ISL 2022-23 kickstarts, a lot of the eyeballs will be on how ATK Mohun Bagan fare with an attack that would largely be dependent on Indian forwards.

The spotlight is on, and now it’s time for Colaco, Manvir and even young Nassiri to shine and show the world that an Indian forward line could be as lethal as any.

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