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Who has been the most successful English head coach in ISL?

Published at :December 24, 2020 at 7:03 PM
Modified at :January 3, 2021 at 8:50 PM
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Some very notable figures have tried to stamp their authority in the league.

Since the Indian Super League (ISL) was inaugurated back in October 2014, a lot of head coaches from England have arrived in India, working with domestic talent and aiming to achieve success using their philosophy. SC East Bengal appointed Robbie Fowler as their head coach ahead of their first ISL campaign, while Odisha FC called upon Stuart Baxter to improve their fortunes. Their appointment made it 12 overall for coaches to have come from England. 

Over the past six editions, excluding the ongoing one, English managers have tried numerous times, with numerous clubs, to achieve success using their English philosophy of physical, direct and no-nonsense football.

In the inaugural edition of the ISL, David James for Kerala Blasters and Peter Reid for Mumbai City FC were the first-ever head coaches from England to lead their respective clubs in the league. While James, as a player-coach, led the Blasters to a runners-up finish, Reid, on the other hand, guided MCFC to a dismal seventh finish out of eight teams, despite having players like Nicolas Anelka and Freddie Ljungberg in the roster.

David James was succeeded by Peter Taylor at KBFC, who had a horrible time, losing four of his first six games in-charge, leading to his dismissal from the post. Fellow Englishman and assistant coach, Trevor Morgan took up the reins for one match before handing the post to Irishman Terry Phelan. Unsurprisingly, KBFC finished in last place in the 2015 season.

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Meanwhile, David Platt had also been signed by FC Pune City in the same year, succeeding Franco Colomba of France as the head coach. His influence at Pune City was lukewarm at best, as the club finished in seventh place, winning only four out of the 14 fixtures. He was replaced by Antonio Lopez Habas for the next season.

Before the 2016 season, Kerala Blasters announced the arrival of Steve Coppell, keeping their faith in English managers. Coppell performed much better than his counterparts, guiding the Yellow Army to a second-place finish in league table, but lost out in the final against ATK on penalties. 

Indian Super League

He then moved on to the newly-formed Jamshedpur FC in the 2017-18 season and finished in fifth place, narrowly missing out on the playoffs. The tactician again moved base and joined ATK for the 2018-19 term. However, this ended up being his worst stint in the ISL, with the team finishing sixth and him subsequently parting ways.

Before ATK had hired Coppell, they had roped in Manchester United legend Teddy Sheringham at the helm. However, the tactician could not find his feet in the competition, losing four and drawing three of the 10 games he managed. With a win percentage of 30%, it was no surprise that ATK relieved him of his duties just before the 2017-18 season ended.

In the same campaign, John Gregory also entered into the fray from England, when he was hired as the new head coach at Chennaiyin FC. Gregory ended up being the most successful English coach when he secured the ISL title with the Marina Machans. His contract was renewed for another year by the hierarchy, but the manager resigned from the post on 30 November 2019.

Furthermore, Ashley Westwood also had a go in the ISL in 2018 after Sheringham was sacked by ATK. The former Bengaluru FC coach took charge for seven games, but did not have a massive impact, registering only one point. He was soon succeeded by Robbie Keane in a player-manager role.     

Phil Brown also had his taste of the ISL with FC Pune City when he signed for them back in the 2018-19 season. The club finished in seventh position and ceased to exist after the end of the term. The franchise was bought by new owners in Hyderabad, leading to the emergence of Hyderabad FC. Brown was the head coach with the same core of players. However, the debut season for the new club was one to forget. After an abysmal start to the season, Phil Brown was sacked by the HFC hierarchy. 

It is safe to say that English coaches have certainly brought a lot of experience and passion to the Indian Super League. But, they have not made a huge impact in terms of success and trophies, with only John Gregory securing a solitary title with Chennaiyin FC. Having said that, it is imperative that clubs keep looking towards English managers because of the immense Premier League experience most of them bring along.

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