Sporting Club East Bengal, one of the oldest club of India will finally debut in the Indian Super League this season. The rumours of East Bengal joining the ISL were spreading like fire when their arch rivals Mohun Bagan merged with ATK FC and it was dream come true for red and gold fans when East Bengal officially announced their entry in the ISL. After getting investment from Shree Cement, the East Bengal management wasted no time to sign new players and new head coach. Here is season preview of SC East Bengal and their probable line up for this season.
Under the reign of Mario Rivera, East Bengal performed ordinarily in I-League last season finishing at second position 16 points behind their arch rivals. Samad Ali Mallick (DEF) Abhishek Ambedkar (DEF), Mirshad Kootapunna (GK) were the only players who were retained by the East Bengal management.
New signings –
There were a flurry of new signings done by East Bengal management to make a strong squad that will compete in Top Tier league. First of all, the head coach’s position was given to the Liverpool legend, Robbie Fowler, who previously coached Brisbane roar in A-League in the 2019/20 season. Robbie brings a lot of excitement and hope among the East Bengal fans to bring glory days back home. A relatively unexperienced coach but his experience of playing in Premier League with and against top-class players will excite lot of East Bengal fans and will give them a belief that their team can compete for the title this very year. Assistant coach, Tony Grant, was also thrilled to be part of the East Bengal family as he is looking for a great season ahead. East Bengal also appointed Bobby Mimms and Terry McPhillips as a goalkeeping coach and set piece coach respectively. The place of Indian assistant coach was given to Renedy Singh, an Indian legend who has played for both East Bengal and Mohun Bagan previously. Fans were excited to get their legend back in the camp who represented their team for six years.
Foreign signings –
Robbie Fowler as a coach and with prestigious history of the club, attracted a lot of good and experienced players to Kolkata Giants’ side. Anthony Pilkington, an Irish winger, who has a lot of experience of playing in English clubs like Cardiff City, Norwich City, Huddersfield Town etc., was the first foreign player to be announced by East Bengal player management. Another attacker signed by East Bengal is Aaron Holloway (striker) from Brisbane Roar. Gaffer Robbie played a great role in bringing Aaron to India and fans can expect lot of goals from their attacker.
Red and gold can expect lot from their defence as well with the 6 feet tall defender Daniel Fox as an incharge of the backline. Former Nottingham Forest and Southampton player is a promising signing with seriously good stats. To help Daniel Fox dealing with ferocious attacks from opposition East Bengal threw the rings on another bright centre-back named Scott Neville straight from A-League. Brisbane Roar after renewing his contract loaned him out to East Bengal to play in ISL. Some serious signings were done by the management to give a new shape to their midfield as well. Young midfield maestro Matti Steinmann, who spent lot of time playing in Bundesliga second division can control midfield along with Indian counterparts. The young German who represented Germany at various levels is a good mixture of talent and experience. Another signing done by East Bengal, which can prove to be a decisive factor to compete for title, is a Tottenham academy product and ex-Birmingham City midfielder – Jacques Ilonda Maghoma. Fans got very excited when they got to know that a midfielder who spent most of the time playing in England is coming to represent their team. The 33 year old Congolese midfielder who has represented the national team 25 times will have the ability to light up the game with his magic.
Indian signings –
East Bengal were not behind any other team of ISL to establish a great foreign bunch however they didn’t leave any stones unturned to sign good Indian players too. Their first notable signing was Mizo Sniper a.k.a Jeje Lalpekhlua (FWD) who last played for Chennaiyin FC in ISL. However, he missed the last season due to an injury but he’d still have a lot of fire in himself and fans will hope that the Indian forward will deliver for their team. Later on, they grabbed the services of the talented left back Narayan Das, who last played for Odisha FC in ISL in the previous season. To give tough time to the opposing defenders, East Bengal signed Balwant Singh – First Indian goalscorer in ISL, who played for ATK FC in the previous season. Other good signings include the midfield duo Eugeneson Lyngdoh and Mohammed Rafique who previously played for Bengaluru FC and Kerala Blasters FC, respectively.
The Indian contingent looks like this after a busy signing session –
Goalkeepers – Debjit Majumder/Mirshas Kootapunna (retained)/Sankar Roy/Mohammad Rafique Ali Sardar.
Defenders – Gurtej Singh/Narayan Das/Samad Ali Mallick Lalramchullova (retained)/Mohammed Irshad Rohen Singh/Abhishek Ambekar/Rana Gharami.
Midfielders – Sehnaj Singh/Bikash Jairu/ Yumnam Kopi Singh/Eugeneson Lyngdoh/Wahengbam Angousana/Mohammad Rafique/Moirangthem Loken Meitei/Surchandra Singh Chandam.
Forwards – Jeje Lalpekhlua/Balwant Singh
Robbie’s tactics and past managerial career performances –
Robbie Fowler prefers to play the 3-4-2-1 attacking formation. In this formation, defenders should be at their very best and the two wingbacks must be able to play as LM and RM as well. The intent is to do quick, short, sharp passing intending for a build-up play with an attacking focus in particular. He has previously managed Thai club Muangthong United (2011/12) and A-League club Brisbane Roar (2019/20) for a very short span of time, Robbie doesn’t have much in the bucket to show however in a short span with Roars, Robbie won the coach of the month award in January 2020. But now having his favourite attacking players and top notch defenders in his team, Robbie is on his way to make a mark on the history of East Bengal and Indian Super League.
Team’s strengths –
The arrival of a strong bunch of foreigners in the East Bengal camp makes them steadfast and some of them have already played under Robbie Fowler, so that might make it easy for the coach to make them run on same tune. The presence of experienced Indian midfielders and top Indian strikers provides a fiery look to the squad. The presence of Club legend Renedy Singh in the camp will prove as a great step to bind fans with the club and fans will feel affinity for the club.
Team’s weaknesses –
It is quite obvious that the players will take time to adapt to the conditions and to establish a chemistry between them. The presence of players over the age of 30 in the squad could raise questions in terms of fitness in the later part of the tournament. However, the five substitution rule in this season can solve this inevitable problem for Robbie fowler. This team is new to ISL but with so much fans backing them, it will definitely fuel them to progress well in the tournament.
SC East bengal probable match day XI-
What to expect –
Shree Cement East Bengal will make their debut in ISL with a revamped team and a new coach. Hence, they may turn out to be a surprising element in ISL this season. It depends on how the foreign players cope up with the Indian conditions and also how the chemistry develops within the teammates. It will be a hard mountain to climb for gaffer Robbie. However, presence of Renedy as an Indian assistant coach and top Indian players like Jeje, Balwant, and so on, in the team will ease off the task hopefully. We can expect an attacking brand of football from East Bengal this season and hopefully the fans will also turn out to be happy.