East Bengal are the latest debutants in the Indian Super League. It’s a bit strange for a 100-year-old club to be sporting that tag but given the developments in Indian football over the last few years, the club would be fairly pleased with it.
After roping in Shree Cements as investors, East Bengal made their long-awaited switch to the ISL as the competition’s 11th franchise.
The move has brought in a fresh wave of optimism at the club with a host of new signings made but the biggest coup though has been the arrival of Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler as the club’s new head coach. He is the sort of big-name personality that fits the stature of the club.
However, amid this fresh start, East Bengal have plenty of wrongs to right. The club has not been Indian champions for 16 years and their last major national level trophy was the Federation Cup in 2012.
Now, East Bengal will have to quickly adapt to the different realities the new surroundings offer.
East Bengal deserve credit for assembling a squad in such a short span of time and the club have done a good job when it comes to the recruitment of foreigners. Coming in with plenty of experience of playing in countries like UK and Australia, coach Fowler will have quality at his disposal.
Anthony Pilkington and Danny Fox are former Premier League players and having played at the highest level not very long ago, East Bengal will rely on their quality to make a difference.
Coach Fowler is the biggest name in the ISL and his achievements as a player will mean that he should command a huge amount of respect from the players. Given the short preparation time, it can make a big difference.
By the time East Bengal joined the ISL, the other clubs had signed the best Indian players. East Bengal have some big names on their roster in the shape of Jeja Lalpekhlua, CK Vineeth, Balwant Singh and Bikash Jairu, but all those players are well past their prime. In the long run, East Bengal’s Indian contingent could prove to be their Achilles Heel.
Fowler also has a huge squad to manage with as many as 36 registered players and it could be a challenge for him to keep everyone happy.
Coach - Robbie Fowler
Folwer needs no introduction given the playing career he has had but his coaching career has not reached those heights.
Fowler made his coaching debut in 2011 at Muangthong United in Thailand where he was a player-manager. He was in charge of the Thai club till 2013 after which he took up a coaching role at Liverpool.
Fowler was away from top-level management for six years as he completed his coaching badges. He returned with A-League side Brisbane Roar in 2019. After 24 matches in charge and the season halted due to coronavirus, Fowler decided to quit his job and return to England.
The former Liverpool striker thus is relatively inexperienced in management and will have to quickly adapt to Indian football. Having former India captain Renedy Singh alongside him should help.
Player to watch out for: Jeje Lapekhlua
Jeje Lalpehlua left Chennaiyin after six seasons at the club. He had a highly successful stint at the club and won two titles. He is the sixth-highest goalscorer in ISL history with 23 goals in 69 games and only behind Sunil Chhetri in terms of Indians on the list.
The Mizo sniper though is returning after a long injury layoff and it will be a challenge for him to get going. With no out and out foreign strikers on East Bengal’s rosters Jeje will hold key for the Red and Golds up front.
|Debjit Majumder||Abhishek Ambekar||Aaron Amadi-Holloway||Balwant Singh|
|Rafique Ali||Anil Chavan||Anthony Pilkington||CK Vineeth|
|Mirshad Michu||Daniel Fox||Bikash Jairu||Girik Khosla|
|Sankar Roy||Gurtej Singh||Eugeneson Lyngdoh||Harmanpreet SIngh|
|Lalramchullova||Haobam Singh||Jeje Lalpekhlua|
|Mohamed Irshad||Jacques Maghoma|
|Narayan Das||Loken Meitei|
|N Rohen Singh||Milan Singh|
|Novin Gurung||Mohammad Rafique|
|Rana Gharami||Sehnaj Singh|
|Samad Mallick||Surchandra Singh|
|Scott Neville||Matti Steinmann|
|Pritam Singh||Wahenbam Luwang|