Jamshedpur: They may be making their debut in the Indian Super League (ISL) when the lucrative football tournament gets rolling later this week, but Jamshedpur FC will be banking on solid experience with a host of seasoned players in their line-up.
Nobody at Jamshedpur FC are under any illusion that life in the ISL will be easy. Jamshedpur FC are among the two new teams in the upcoming expanded edition of ISL that will see 10 teams in action for the first time.
But with Bengaluru FC now into their fifth season, after four years in the I-League, Jamshedpur appear to be the only newcomers in the true sense.
It will not be easy for them, certainly not with the nine other teams making their ambitions clear to win the title.
Jamshedpur too will have lofty ambitions but with experienced coach Steve Coppell at the helm of affairs, there will be a reality check.
“There is no expectation at the moment. Everything is new. There is history but now we’ll step into the unknown. We’ll try to be in the competition as long as possible,” Coppell said.
Coppell needs no introduction to India. He is the Manchester United great, who scored some fantastic goals for his club and country, England.
In India, Coppell became a household name last year when he guided Kerala Blasters FC to the final of the ISL only to lose to ATK on penalties.
Jamshedpur will expect similar magic from Coppell.
“Until we play a few matches it’s tough to say where we will be at the end of the season,” the former winger warned.
To overcome their lack of experience as a club on the field, Jamshedpur FC have carefully built their squad around a mix of Indian and foreign players with prior experience of having played in the ISL.
“We got a good goalkeeper and got a good solid defender. We had a list of a dozen names but we got only 3-4 of them. But we made sure we had players in the right positions,” Coppell said.
During the ISL players draft, Jamshedpur FC opted to pick vastly experienced goalkeeper Subrata Paul.
In defence, Jamshedpur acquired the services of Jose Luis Espinosa Arroyo, who has been with defending champions ATK for the past three seasons. The Spanish centre-back was rock solid during ATK’s title winning charge last season and his new club will be hoping for similar performances from him this season.
To add more steel to his defence, Coppell has brought in Cameroonian centre-back Andre Bikey, formerly with FC Pune City and NorthEast United.
India international, Anas Edathodika, should be an automatic starter at the back.
In midfield, Jamshedpur have both strength and depth. South African Sameehg Doutie, a ISL winner with ATK, will lead the way along with popular league players like Brazilian Trindade Gonçalves (FC Goa), Memo (Delhi Dynamos) and of course Mehtab Hossain, who has followed Coppell from Kerala Blasters to Jamshedpur.
“The goal obviously is to reach the play-offs. But we need to first focus on the first game. The emphasis should be on playing good football,” said Hossain, who will be the key in the midfield.
Goals are likely to flow with experienced players like Senegalese striker Talla N’Diaye, Haitian forward Kervens Fils Belfort and Nigerian sharpshooter Izu Azuka, Coppell should not worry much.