NorthEast United are struggling in the Indian Super League. NorthEast United have sacked their manager. Again.

Even during times when nothing seems to be quite the same, the Highlanders are following the usual script. For the third time in four seasons, the club has parted ways with their head coach midway through the season with the team lagging behind in the race for the semi-finals.

In six years of existence, the club has had nine different managers.

List of NorthEast United managers

Name Nationality From To
Ricki Herbert  New Zealand 13 October 2014 20 December 2014
César Farías  Venezuela 30 June 2015 20 December 2015
Nelo Vingada  Portugal 23 July 2016 15 May 2017[36]
João de Deus  Portugal 17 July 2017 3 January 2018
Avram Grant  Israel 4 January 2018(caretaker)12 January 2018(Head Coach) 14 August 2018
Eelco Schattorie  Netherlands 17 August 2018 19 May 2019
Robert Jarni  Croatia 05 August 2019 10 February 2020
Khalid Jamil (caretaker)  India 10 February 2020 05 August 2020
Gerard Nus  Spain 25 August 2020 13 January 2021

Was Nus unlucky?

Gerard Nus, merely eleven games into his tenure at the club, is the latest managerial casualty. A seven-game winless run can put any coach’s position in jeopardy, but at NorthEast United – a club that has anyway largely underachieved in the ISL – such ruthlessness seems a bit out of place.

Additionally, Nus has not been the worst coach the club has seen and despite poor recent form, has NorthEast United placed just three points behind the semi-final spots with over half a season still to go.

Only three previous NEUFC managers had a better points-per-game ratio than Nus and all of them lasted the full season.

NorthEast United head coach record

Manager Points-per-game
Eelco Schattorie 1.6
Cesar Farias 1.43
Nelo Vingada 1.29
Gerard Nus 1.1
Ricki Herbert 1.07
Robert Jarni 0.88
Joao de Deus 0.88
Avram Grant 0.4
Khalid Jamil 0

As far as managerial instability is concerned, only Kerala Blasters have a worse record in the ISL, who have had ten different managers in six years.

Most managerial changes in ISL

Teams Number of managerial spells Matches per manager
FC Goa 4 30
Chennaiyin FC 4 29
Bengaluru FC 3 24
Mumbai City FC 5 22
Delhi Dynamos and Odisha FC 6 18
ATK 6 17
Jamshedpur FC 4 16
FC Pune City 6 13
NorthEast United 9 12
Kerala Blasters 10 11

Lack of identity

In its statement announcing the departure of Nus, the club highlighted a “contrast in the team’s current tactics and the Club’s philosophy and vision” as the reason for parting ways with the Spaniard. While Nus’ side didn’t display any set pattern of play that seemed to work, one wonders if any coach has ever managed to achieve that at NorthEast United.

Apart from the spell under Eelco Schattorie, where NorthEast United played a fairly progressive brand of football, the team’s play hasn’t portrayed any particular philosophy on the pitch.

To establish a style of play or a footballing philosophy at a club, it requires patient and consistent efforts and the recruitment of coaches plays a big part in it. The Highlanders have neither shown the necessary patience with their coaches nor have shown consistency in their appointments.

FC Goa, initially under Zico and then under Sergio Lobera, have always played attacking football. That philosophy has continued under Juan Ferrando although the systems and tactics have changed.

ATK and now ATK Mohun Bagan have always been a pragmatic outfit, with Antonio Habas in charge for four out of the six seasons.

At NorthEast United, constant changes and appointing coaches with fairly distinct philosophies has been at the heart of the problems.

The lack of stability has reflected in the results of the club as well. NorthEast United have the worst win percentage and points per game ratio in ISL history.

Teams No of managerial spells Win% Points per game
Bengaluru FC 3 52.05 1.78
FC Goa 3 46.61 1.61
Mumbai City FC 5 41.8 1.48
ATK 6 38.31 1.46
Chennaiyin FC 4 36.75 1.37
Jamshedpur FC 4 31.25 1.31
FC Pune City 6 27 1.25
Kerala Blasters 10 27.67 1.16
Odisha FC and Delhi Dynamos 6 30 1.14
NorthEast United 9 26.6 1.11

The results ultimately reflect poorly on the club management who have failed to make the right decisions for the club on more occasions than one.

As Khalid Jamil takes over for the second time in an interim role, he will have another shot at changing the club’s fortunes. But at a club where managerial changes and underperformance are the only constants, he has a huge task on his hands.