The best Christmas present for Jamshedpur would have been a bottle of Felix Felicis…
Since entering the Indian Super League (ISL) scene in 2017, Jamshedpur has yet to make its playoff appearance.
The Men of Steel have tried various combinations of coaches and players, but things haven’t really worked out for the Tata-owned club in ISL so far. But they are on the right track this season to change their fortunes.
Owen Coyle picked up a group of distraught players in Chennaiyin last season and guided them to the final of the competition. It was a remarkable turnaround for the Machans and Owen Coyle caught the attention of many, including Jamshedpur, with his fantastic first season in Indian football.
The former Bolton Wanderers manager left Chennaiyin at the end of the season to begin a new journey with Jamshedpur. It was supposed to be a movement that started a new project, but the speed of the new process has been slowed down for various reasons, including the pandemic.
After eight matches, Jamshedpur is sixth on the table with 10 points – two wins, two losses and four draws. They are six points off the top of the table and just one point behind the fourth-ranked team – the position Owen Coyle will aim for in his first season with the club. With ATK Mohun Bagan and Mumbai City in good health for the top two spots as it is, there could be a close fight for third and fourth spots.
Injuries and poor refereeing decisions took their toll on Coyle’s side in their opening eight games. Two of their seven foreign players – David Grande and Nick Fitzgerald have yet to spend a minute on the pitch.
The absence of the two foreigners affected the team. Last season’s Golden Boot winner Nerijus Valskis has scored six goals so far – six out of a total of nine team goals. Center-back Stephen Eze scored twice and Aniket Jadhav one. The responsibility for Valskis must be shared and if it is not done soon it will be a case of “No Nerijus, no party” very soon.
Peter Hartley and Stephen Eze will continue to be Owen Coyle’s first choice center partner, especially with injured youngster Narender Gahlot. While the defense left nine goals, the underlying issue has been the lack of scorers outside of Valskis.
The team was also at the end of several costly mistakes on the part of the referees. The latest example of such a setback was Jamshedpur’s 2-1 loss to FC Goa where the Men of Steel had a goal disallowed before Igor Angulo scored twice in the second half. Coyle blasted the referee in that game during his post-match press conference.
Alex Lima’s effort entered from below the bar before rebounding due to the spin. However, the referee did not spot him and the goal was not allowed to stay.
Coyle expressed his frustration when talking about the referee and linesman after the game. He said: “It’s disheartening because we were robbed in a game. We scored a good 1-1 goal when the ball came out of the crossbar and was clearly over the line.
“With the level of this game, it is embarrassing that such a thing happened. ISL has fantastic teams, great players and great coaches and we get disappointed every week with a bad referee. At this level, it should not be allowed. We need top officials to work in a top league. “
Owen Coyle hopes he can get around these two factors that have hampered the progress of his project this season. Next for his team is Bengaluru who is third on the table. A few victories at the trot could unleash the potential of this Jamshedpur team. They’re fun to watch, but it’s just about achieving the level of consistency a team needs to compete for the playoffs. If anyone can succeed, it’s Owen Coyle, based on his first season in the ISL.