The contribution of the Tatas in the development of football was taken to the next level as the Men of Steel enjoyed their first season in the ISL.
The Tatas took their commitment for football a notch higher by floating Jamshedpur FC in 2017 and thus put Jamshedpur on the footballing map of the country. The club started its professional journey becoming one of the two debutants in the fourth edition of the Indian Super League.
The much-travelled Steve Coppell who was the coach at Kerala Blasters was given the reigns of this new team. Beginning with a clean slate Jamshedpur made a number of clever signings both, domestic and international, most of whom were proven and tested in the ISL from previous seasons.
Jamshedpur FC’s debut season as a professional club was one of promise and gave the owners as well as the fans of the club hope for better things to come. Also, the support for the team was a warm sight to the eyes, with fans thronging the JRD Tata Sports Complex in numbers making every home game an almost sold out affair.
The Men of Steel were one of the better defensively organised units in the league, but weren’t that pleasing to the eye in the final third. In fact, they needed four games to net their first goal. However, they started to pick up the pace and began to churn out wins, at an important point in the season and were comfortably placed to qualify for the playoffs.
But, the wheels came off in the final stretch, with the team picking up just a single point from their last three games to finish fifth on the table.
In the Inaugural Super Cup, Jamshedpur FC were pitted against newly-crowned I-League champions Minerva Punjab in the Round of 16 stage. The match went goalless even after 120 minutes and required penalties to separate the two teams, with the Men of Steel winning the shootout 5-4.
In the quarterfinals, Jamshedpur FC locked horns with FC Goa. The Gaurs took a slender 1-0 lead at the half-time break, with all to play for in the remaining 45 minutes. However, the referee strangely decided to send off three players from either team for a mass brawl between the two sides in the tunnel reducing the match into an 8-a-side affair and effectively killing off the game. FC Goa ran riot in the second half winning the game 5-1.
Fact Sheet for ISL Season 4
Games Played: 20
Won : 8
Lost : 7
Drawn : 5
Win %: 40%
The brand new team embarked on a tour of Thailand in preparation for the gruelling domestic season ahead. Jamshedpur FC were in fine nick in Southeast Asia and won four of the five friendlies they had against the local teams.
On their return to India they took part in two more friendlies where the routed local side Tata Steel FC 8-0 in the first match, but lost the next one 1-3 against Kolkata giants East Bengal.
Flop of the Season
Sameehg Doutie: He was one of the best foreign players in the ISL in recent times and on the back of two stellar seasons with ATK including one in their title-winning campaign of 2016, Jamshedpur FC looked to have pulled off a coup when they announced the winger’s signing at the beginning of the season.
In a team already having a number of good players, the South African provided an X-factor to Jamshedpur. However, all of this ended in disappointment for his fans, the team and the player himself as he managed to make only seven appearances with just two starts, failing to nail down a spot for himself in the team.
In the minutes that he was on the pitch, he looked far from his usual best. There were also question marks over his professionalism as Doutie WAS dissatisfied with the minutes he was getting to play and decided to revolt instead of working his way back into the starting XI. That seemed to alienate him from the other players and the coach and looks to be a likely reason for the winger’s disappointing season.
Doutie’s Performance in ISL 2017-18
Yellow Cards: 2
Top 3 Performances
1. Bengaluru FC 0-1 Jamshedpur FC (Report and Highlights)
2. Jamshedpur FC 3-2 Delhi Dynamos (Report and Highlights)
3. Mumbai City FC 1-2 Jamshedpur FC (Report and Highlights)
Manager’s Report Card
Jamshedpur FC scored just 16 goals from 18 games in their first ISL season and though there won’t be many fans of their safety-first style of play, coach Steve Coppell proved to be a shrewd tactician who knew what he wanted his team to do. He’s clearly a coach who believes in the philosophy, “A good attack wins you games, but a good defence wins you titles,” which is reflected in his choice of defenders and that he would take a win over an attractive style of play any day of the week.
Lessons to be Learned
Jamshedpur FC had a number of experienced players in their lineup, but their relative inexperience as a team cost them as they fell short at the final hurdle despite being well placed for a playoffs slot. The club has already extended the contracts of a number of their key players and that is a very positive step for moving the club forward. Coppell must look at improving the mental aspect of the team’s game so that they can deal with pressure better in the future.
The Men of Steel were a top notch unit defensively, but they lack characters in their attack who can influence games against the top guns was highlighted by their poor record against the top four, just one win and a draw from eight games. Also, it is commendable that Coppell gets his teams to raise their game in the middle of the season and secure results despite a cold start. But the team can do a lot better if they make a strong beginning and set the pace, rather than playing catch up.