The Men of Steel begin their campaign against SC East Bengal on November 21.
Jamshedpur FC have had a string of poor performances in the past. This may be owing to the fact that the club were still going through a transitional phase or simply because the coaching staff never stuck around to see off more than one season. After some restructuring in the summer, Jamshedpur will want to make the playoffs this time.
Last Season’s Performance: Sixth
The side could only muster seven wins in their 20 matches last Indian Super League season. They did well to stay above teams like Bengaluru FC, SC East Bengal, and Chennaiyin FC, despite being the second-lowest scoring side with a meagre 21 goals, four better than Chennaiyin. Their 27-point haul, out of a possible of 60, meant they had to settle for a mid-table finish, something they will be looking to change in the new season.
For the first time, the club have stuck with their coach, which has given Owen Coyle ample time to shuffle the squad around and bring in some fresh legs. With a fresh look to the team, Coyle will now be able to play the players he prefers in the way he wants.
The team kicked off their preparations from October 10, 2021, as the coach intended to have a six-week-long pre-season. They had scheduled a total of five friendlies, which would give the coaching staff enough opportunities to field different formations and understand the squad better. Their first pre-season game ended in a 2-0 victory over NorthEast United, thanks to a Jordan Murray brace. This was the perfect start and they went unbeaten in all of them. A 1-1 draw against Bengaluru FC was their next result. The match against current champions Mumbai City was abandoned due to heavy rainfall, which left them with the two meetings against Kerala Blasters. A 3-0 win and a 1-1 draw were the outcomes against the side clad in yellow.
Jamshedpur played an additional friendly against Bengaluru FC on November 15, where they lost by a narrow margin. Coyle will hope the players can carry their form from the friendlies into the season, with the much-needed momentum and confidence.
Owen Coyle will want to better his sixth-place finish in the table last season. He joined Jamshedpur FC on a two-year contract after his heroics at Chennaiyin FC, where he guided a beleaguered team to the ISL final in his debut season in India. The former Bolton Wanderers striker and manager has an impressive CV to say the least. Jamshedpur have a more than capable coach, who can break their ISL playoffs jinx.
Sandy Stewart will be a part of Coyle’s backroom staff as his assistant coach. The former Scottish player plied his trade as a full-back for many renowned clubs. He shares the head coach’s ideology and believes in playing an exciting and attacking brand of football. The other members of Coyle’s support staff are:
Indian Assistant Coach: Noel Wilson
Goalkeeping Coach: Ezequiel Gomez
Strength & Conditioning Coach: Adrian Gregory Dias
The club had an exciting transfer window, signing some top overseas talents while also bringing in enough domestic experience into the first-team. A mix of youth and experience is what best describes the current crop of players available for selection.
Three new foreign players have joined the fray, completing the six-member contingent that each team is permitted to have according to the new rule. Brazilian centre-back Eli Sabia will surely strengthen their already formidable defence. The other two players are forwards Jordan Murray (Australia) and Greg Stewart (Scotland).
The domestic signings include defender Anas Edathodika, who makes a return to the club, ace midfielder Pronay Halder (on loan), winger Ritwik Das and others. Exciting prospects that have joined the club are Ishan Pandita from FC Goa and Komal Thatal from ATK Mohun Bagan. The club have also signed an experienced winger in Seiminlen Doungel and a young centre-half in PC Laldinpuia.
Jamshedpur FC bid adieu to four of their seven foreigners from last season. Stephen Eze, Nicholas Fitzgerald, David Grande, and Aitor Monroy left the club, while several Indian players were also either released or joined other clubs.
Goalkeepers: Pawan Kumar, Vishal Yadav, Rehenesh TP.
Defenders: Narender Gahlot, Boris Singh Thangjam, Ricky Lallawmawma, Sandip Mandi, Laldinliana Renthlei, Peter Hartley, Anas Edathodika, PC Laldinpuia, Karan Amin, Eli Sabia.
Midfielders: Alex Lima, Mobashir Rahman, Jitendra Singh, Seiminlen Doungel, Pronay Halder, Greg Stewart, Ritwik Das.
Forwards: Nerijus Valskis, Farukh Choudhary, Komal Thatal, Ishan Pandita, Jordan Murray.
Coyle favours a 4-4-2 flat formation and his team usually lineup with two strikers upfront. TP Rehenesh will start in goal. The back four will consist of Laldinliana Renthlei and Ricky Lallawmawma as the full-backs, while Coyle is likely to go for two overseas centre-backs with Hartley and Eli Sabia.
Right in front of the defence, Pronay Halder can be the sitting midfielder, operating from deep. Seiminlen Doungel and Boris Singh will be the two wide midfielders, while Alex Lima will create from deep. Finally, Valskis and Ishan Pandita will be the front two, creating enough threat for the opposition defenders. Farukh Choudhary would usually start on the left flank, but is now out for the season with a leg injury.
The defence remains unchanged in this formation while Mobashir Rahman replaces Alex Lima in midfield. Doungel keeps his place on the right flank, but will play a little ahead as a winger, while Komal Thatal slots in the left winger.
Halder will once again be sitting deep while Rahman will have the freedom to move up and down the pitch. Greg Stewart will shoulder the responsibility of creating the goals and linking up the midfield with the front three. The sole forward role will be played by Valskis.
- A strong defence. The captain, Peter Hartley, has been an ever-present force in the backline for the team. New signings Eli Sabia and Anas Edathodika mean that the coach wants to keep his defence sorted. Last season’s eight clean-sheets is a testament to their good defensive prowess and they will hope to better themselves in this aspect this season.
- Presence of clinical goalscorers. Nerijus Valskis was the winner of the Golden Boot two seasons ago, as he was instrumental in the title charge for Chennayin FC. Knowing his abilities well, Coyle brought him to Jamshedpur last season. Another forward, Jordan Murray, has already opened his account during the pre-season friendlies.
- Good number of young players. Apart from experience, the team has its share of young and exuberant youths. Notable names like Ishan Pandita and Narender Gahlot can put in a shift when required.
- While squad depth isn’t a problem for Coyle, lack of a proper creative midfielder can become one in the long run. Most of his players are defensive in nature.
- The injury to Farukh Choudhary, which cut his season short, means Jamshedpur now lack depth on the wings. One of Komal Thatal or Boris Singh will have to play on one of the flanks. However, both of these players are fairly young and Jamshedpur need big performances from them.
Key Players to Watch
The Australian will certainly be one to look out for. The former Kerala Blasters midfielder has already announced his arrival by scoring a brace in Jamshedpur’s first pre-season friendly. His experience from his time with KBFC last season also gives him an added advantage. Murray had a decent tally of seven goals last season, but the 26-year-old has enough potential to get into double figures.
The youngster will add to Coyle’s attacking ideology as the 23-year-old forward knows how to find the net. He scored four goals, all from the bench last season for Goa. Pandita has moved to Jamshedpur for more game-time and will want to make hay while playing under Coyle, who has worked brilliantly with his strikers previously.
The Brazilian, who is another one of Jamshedpur’s new signings, will also be one to watch. He is most likely to partner Hartley, if Coyle decides to go with two foreign centre-backs. Standing tall at almost 6’2 ft, he will be a force to reckon with and will be more than happy to create problems for the opposition striker, while also creating a threat from set-pieces.
What to Expect
After starting last season with a narrow defeat to Chennaiyin, Jamshedpur FC went on a six-match unbeaten run, which included wins over ATK Mohun Bagan and NorthEast United – two teams who finished in the top four. They also held champions Mumbai City to a draw in this period. But, injury setbacks derailed their campaign. Coyle’s side still did well to finish sixth, just four points shy of FC Goa, who ended fourth.
Having retained their core and made some exceptional signings, Jamshedpur would want to break the jinx of the playoffs. In their four-year history, the club are yet to finish in the final four even once. But, with a stacked squad this season, you would back them to get there.