East Bengal FC joined the Indian Super League (ISL) during the 2020-21 season, but since then, they have consistently struggled to showcase their competitive edge on the pitch. In each of the previous three ISL seasons, they finished in the bottom half of the table. Incosistent results and frequent changes in the squad and coaching staff were among the primary reasons for their struggles.

However, this season, the Red and Gold Brigade are desperate to redeem themselves and have portrayed their competitive nature in every competition they have participated in. To achieve this, they brought in the experienced Carles Cuadrat as the head coach, who previously tasted success with Bengaluru FC.

In an interview with the East Bengal FC media, the Spanish head coach shared what impressed him enough to take up the managerial role at East Bengal FC and how his vision aligned with the club's vision.

“When I received the call from East Bengal FC, I always knew it was a big club with a long history and great legacy. The club showed from the first moment that the club really wanted to make a change to last year’s dynamics and wants to build a (new) project for the next two seasons,” Cuadrat told East Bengal FC.

“It was important as you feel you can make an impact and you can help a century-old club to become big again. It was the main aim that made me start talking and made me see that we had the same vision about the new project,” he added.

The club aimed to build on the positives from the previous season and implement other significant changes to revive its competitive spirit. In addition to retaining players like Naorem Mahesh Singh, Lalchungnunga, and Souvik Chakrabarti, they executed a significant overhaul of the squad to forge a formidable team for the current season.

“It was clear to us that we had to change a lot of things in the team to be competitive so the first thing to change was a lot of players in the squad. So, we decided to bring in a new group of foreigners and kept only Cleiton (Silva) as captain as he was a player who has been performing really well in the last few seasons in the ISL,” Cuadrat stated.

“As far as the Indian players were concerned, it was very important to bring in players like Nandhakumar (Sekar) from the national team who along with Nunga and Mahesh has formed a core of Indian football players and then we had to bring in some important players who have trained under me in the past like Prabhsukhan Singh Gill,” he added.

Hundreds of East Bengal FC supporters flocked to the airport at midnight to welcome their new head coach in the grandest way possible. Their aim was to express how crucial his arrival could be for the club and to showcase their eagerness to see their beloved team reclaim its position among the best.

“The way the supporters welcomed me showed how big the club is and how many supporters it has. The effort they made to come to the airport at 4 AM just to say hello to the new coach was very important. It gave me the feeling that I am in the right place, in a big club that needs a significant change, and that we all have to be a part of this big change,” the head coach said.

East Bengal FC showed instant progress under Cuadrat as they reached the finals of the Durand Cup in 2023; however, they suffered a narrow defeat to arch-rivals Mohun Bagan Super Giant. The tactician believes in the importance of reaching the final is a ray of hope for the supporters.

“It was very important to reach the Durand Cup final because it sent a good message to the supporters. It had been a long since we reached a final, and it indicated that they were expecting something great from the club. Starting the season with the club reaching the final was the best way to show that we aim to be competitive again and that we are back in the top competitions in India,”  the 55-year-old said.

Despite their defeat in the final, the Red and Gold ended their long winless run against Mohun Bagan Super Giant by securing a solid victory over the Mariners in the Durand Cup group stage, thanks to a goal by Sekar.

Cuadrat reminisced about the moment of the win and emphasized how close and significant that victory was for the supporters.

“It was very significant the way we celebrated that victory because I was not expecting so many people rushing to the pitch to join us in the celebration. Those kinds of moments clearly showed me that the club was demanding such victories after so many times,” he said.

The club is slowly but steadily heading in the right direction. Midway through last season, they secured the long-term signing of defender Lalchunnunga, and this season, they extended the services of their star player Naorem Mahesh Singh.

“The signature (extension) of Mahesh's contract was very important because it shows his commitment to the club. It also helps convey to the rest of the players that this is a serious project, indicating our determination to bring about positive changes in the club and become more competitive,” Cuadrat stated.

East Bengal FC currently sits eighth in the points table with 11 points from 10 matches. They have been solid defensively, conceding only eight goals and keeping five clean sheets. Their growth has been significant so far this season in the league, and they will aim to continue improving that form when the league resumes after the break.

“It has been one of the significant changes compared to the last few seasons. In many games, we have achieved positive results. If you look at the percentage of points in the Indian Super League over the last three seasons and compare it to our current performance, you can see that there is a new sense of enjoyment in the games we play at home. It's important for us to keep this momentum and turn our stadium into a fortress, making it extremely challenging for opponents to earn points when they play against us,” he commented.

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