Odisha FC moved away from the Delhi brand in Indian Super League ahead of the sixth season. The rebranding resulted in an improvement in the points haul, as the team finished sixth on the table with 25 points from 18 matches. Not far away from playoffs, but still not exactly a great success.
Speaking in the off-season to Scroll.in, club owner Rohan Sharma said the right things in his plans for the club: “In the short term, we want to win. We’re tired of being in the bottom half of the league (...) We don’t want to be the underdog anymore but the top dog. It’s going to take a lot of work but once we get there, I want to stay there.”
In an attempt to build on last season’s base, Odisha FC have embarked on overhauling their backroom. After a succession of Spaniards, a British coach has been brought in, in the form of former Finland and South Africa coach Stuart Baxter. In Gerry Payton (former Arsenal staff), Baxter has a well-respected coach join his ranks.
Among the 11 teams in ISL this season, Odisha Fc have the lowest average age at 23.4. After signing a host of young Indian players in the transfer window, the club has seemingly made the call to trust Indian youngsters and experienced foreigners. It is a strategy that is high risk, but could come with high rewards too in the long term.
Changes for 2020-’21
Ins: Isak Vanlalruatfela, Cole Alexander, Manuel Onwu, Steven Taylor, Jacob Tratt, Marcerlinho, Diego Maurico, Saurabh Meher, Hendry Antonay, Bodo, Kamaljit Singh, Samuel Lalmuanpuia, George D’Souza, Ravi Kumar, Paul Ramfangzauva, Kamalpreet Singh
Outs: Francisco Dorronsoro, Narayan Das, Amit Tudu, Lalchhuanmawia, Martin Guedes, Rana Gharami, Albino Gomes, Bikramjit Singh, Marcos Tebar, Xisco Hernandez, Romeo Fernandes
Odisha have seen an overhaul of their foreign contingent and the new signings seem to be quite good. Former Newcastle United player Steven Taylor will lead the defence and he will have former Sydney FC defender Jacob Tratt for company. Manuel Onwu, who was excellent for Odisha last season, has been retained while Marcelinho has been re-signed from Hyderabad FC. Diego Mauricio is another foreign attacker signed by the club.
Their attack with two proven goalscorers in the league seems quite potent especially with the likes of Jerry and Nandhakumar coming into the new season with the experience of last season in their belt. The bunch of promising Indian youngsters in attack is exciting and will make Odisha a bit unpredictable.
South African Cole Alexander is the only midfield foreign recruit and that’s an area where Odisha might struggle. They only have six foreigners on their roster and will bank on a bunch of young Indian players who delivered the goods for them last season. Gaurav Bora, Shubham Sarangi, Jerry Mawihminghthanga, Nadhakumar Sekar and Vinit Rai have all been retained. Odisha’s success this season will depend on how some of their young Indian signings perform.
Coach: Stuart Baxter
Baxter was previously the head coach of South Africa as well as Finland, and comes with the experience of managing in Asia having been at the helm of Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Vissel Kobe in the J1 League in Japan.
As a journeyman in his coaching days, Baxter has a rich experience of more than 25 years and has coached in Asia, Europe and Africa. He was also previously head coach of Finland and has managed professional clubs in Sweden, Norway, Portugal, Japan and South Africa. The veteran coach has also coached the England U-19 team between 2002-’04.
The 66-year-old won eight titles in his club career including the J1 League (1st stage) title once with Japan’s Sanfrecce Hiroshima and the Premier Soccer League title with South African club Kaizer Chiefs twice.
Player to watch out for: Marcelinho
Odisha have a handful of young Indian players to keep an eye out for. Thoiba Singh is the name on the top of many watchlists as far as upcoming Indian talent goes, but for immediate success that the franchise craves, they will need the experienced players to step up.
And there is a fairly obvious name to pick there: Marcelo Pereira, or he’s known more popularly, Marcelinho.
Different team name, but back to the same franchise for Golden Boot winner in the 2016 season, Mareclinho made his mark in the ISL with Delhi Dynamos by scoring 10 goals in 15 appearances and also guided the team into the playoffs in his first season in India. The verstaile forward then played for FC Pune City / Hyderabad FC for three seasons and has an impressive overall record of 31 goals and 18 assists in 63 matches in the league. At 33, he is not quite a veteran but has the experience of playing in India. He typically flourishes with a No 9 ahead of him and if Odisha FC can get that balance right, Marcelinho will thrive.
Odisha FC squad for ISL 7
|Ankit Bhuyan||Gaurav Bora||Baoringdao Bodo||Daniel Lalhlimpuia|
|Arshdeep Singh||George D'Souza||Cole Alexander||Diego Maurico|
|Kamaljit Singh||Hendry Antonay||Isak Vanlalruatfela||Laishram Singh|
|Ravi Kumar||Jacob Tratt||Jerry Mawihminghthanga||Manuel Onwu|
|Kamalpreet Singh||S Lalhrezuala||Marcelinho|
|Md Sajid Dhot||Nandhakumar Sekar|
|Saurabh Meher||Paul Ramfangzauva|
|Shubham Sarangi||Samuel Lalmuanpuia|
|Steven Taylor||Thoiba Singh|