Precision, skills, consistency: Summing up Greg Stewart’s phenomenal Hero ISL 2021-22 season
High profile signings have been the norm ever since the glamorous Hero ISL got underway in 2014. The marquee signings often swelled up hype as seasons neared its inception. However, not all lived up to expectations, some made it impactful, while others flattered to deceive. So, when Greg Stewart was inducted into the Jamshedpur FC unit amidst much fanfare, skeptical thoughts were clouded amongst the faithful. But it did not take long to recognize that something special was brewing.
Owen Coyle, who was responsible for bringing in his compatriot, not sooner than a successful Scottish Premiership triumph, had already plotted scenarios revolving around the attacking midfielder. Deputing Stewart as the partner-in-crime alongside striker Nerijus Valskis did not provide the anticipated thrust. Always keeping a room for tweaking with the formation, he positioned the new import to a ‘false nine’ position and there was no looking back.
The marathon started with a brace against FC Goa in the second match and it soon became a regular affair. With the likes of Len, Jordan Murray and even Ishan Pandita by his side, Stewart orchestrated the moves by taming the defenders with his guile, leaving the others to complete the final act. His tally of 304 passes completed in the final third (the most by any player in the league), justifies how nightmarish the player proved to be for the other side.
Stewart’s style of play uplifted the entire squad and inculcated the positive approach, which was in accordance with Owen Coyle’s philosophy. It did not matter how many they conceded, the effort to outnumber the opponents’ score was always in the making. The former Birmingham City player often broke the monotony, never hesitating to go for glory himself and ending up with 10 goals in his tally, apart from an equal number of assists (the highest for any player this season), summing to 20 goal contributions (close to 47% of the goals scored).
Apart from a game, which he missed out due to suspension, Stewart was omnipresent for the Red Miners, spending 1753 minutes (close to 30 hours) on the pitch throughout the season. The crafty footballer thrived in the final third, having completed a total of 304 passes in the area, which outnumbers any player in the league. The ability to link up with a variety of players was crucial for the consistent display throughout the season.
The winter transfer window paved the way for Daniel Chima Chukwu at the expense of Nerijus Valskis, but it hardly swayed the balance. On the contrary, the change worked for the better. The duo formed a lethal partnership up front, which set the tone for a seven-match winning streak, creating an all-time Hero ISL record en-route to a top-finish in the league.
It’s no surprise why Stewart should not be credited largely for Jamshedpur FC’s historic feat (winning the League Shield by most points, by most wins), especially when the foreigner has created 67 goal scoring chances, which is also a season high. It would have been a fairy-tale end with also the ISL Trophy in the cabinet, but Stewart will be remembered for the lofty feats which has already been achieved.
A hero for the Red Miners 🦸🏻♂️— Indian Super League (@IndSuperLeague) March 15, 2022
Greg Stewart has won 7️⃣ Hero of the Match Awards this season, which is the highest by any player this season!#HeroISL #LetsFootball #JamshedpurFC #GregStewart pic.twitter.com/4bUy3WqhtT
It would be criminal not to mention the contribution of Owen Coyle, who was responsible for formulating the perfect blend with the correct proportion, finally reaping rewards in Indian football after spending considerable time in this part of the world. For Greg Stewart, he might be more than happy to continue with his antics. If there’s any chance that Stewart might outshine himself, the AFC Champions League will be the perfect stage for him to recreate the magic once again.