The Men of Steel had a mixed bag of a season hindered by persistent injuries.
It was a season that had almost everything, but still it ended in disappointment for Jamshedpur FC, as they failed to reach the Indian Super League playoffs. The Men of Steel made wholesale changes to their team, brought in a new head coach in Owen Coyle and yet fell short of the playoffs, as they could only manage a sixth-place finish.
The desperation to achieve the playoffs for the first time was evident, as the team management roped in top foreigners in Nerijus Valskis, Peter Hartley and others. They were also busy in the winter transfer window bringing back Farukh Choudhary, snapping up Boris Singh and loaning in Seiminlen Doungel from FC Goa. But ,in the end, the gap between them and the top four was just way too big to make up.
Fact Sheet For Jamshedpur FC in Indian Super League Season 2020-21
1. Nerijus Valskis
Valskis’ campaign with Jamshedpur FC was nowhere near his first season in the ISL. The Lithuanian scored eight goals for the Men of Steel, almost half of what he netted with Chennaiyin FC. However, he still gave it his all and his presence always kept the opposition defenders on their toes. He did not get the supply he had at Chennaiyin, but still kept at it and was undoubtedly the best player for the Men of Steel this season.
Owen Coyle had no option but to start Valskis in every match as David Grande was injured. The Lithuanian was fatigued deep into the season and that affected his goalscoring prowess.
2. Peter Hartley
Peter Hartley is the leader that Jamshedpur FC needed with Tiri’s departure. The Englishman was very solid and marshalled his troops really well throughout the season. His game-reading and experience stood out, as he came up with some last-ditch tackles and often cleaned up for the other inexperienced defenders in the backline.
Hartley is someone who showed passion and grit and has the charisma to lead the Men of Steel to great heights in the upcoming season. Jamshedpur FC should retain the Englishman, as he can be a real asset.
3. Stephen Eze
The Nigerian defender makes the cut because of his dynamic presence in defence and the fact that he scored four goals, which were crucial for Jamshedpur FC’s cause. Considering his defensive abilities only, Eze left a lot to be desired as he was often caught out of position in his attempt to press opposition forwards. He was clumsy with his passing as well.
However, he makes the list because he was splendid in banging in goals from set-pieces and was decent enough in defence as well till the mid-season break. While his towering presence makes him a genuine ‘X-Factor,’ he needs to work a lot on the defensive side of things.
Underperformer of the Season
The Brazilian played his heart out for Jamshedpur FC this season, even turning out through injuries. We respect his commitment and passion, but cannot overlook the fact that he had a below-par campaign and could not play the role which Owen Coyle expected from him. He was supposed to be the attacking midfielder who would provide defence-splitting passes for Valskis upfront, someone playing the same role as Rafael Crivellaro did last season. But, Lima’s playing style was a bit different than that of the Chennaiyin man.
The fans had big expectations from Alex Lima, considering he has played for some of the top clubs in the MLS and also had the experience of playing in Asia before coming to the ISL. However, a season with no goals or assists was simply not expected from a man of his calibre.
1. Jamshedpur FC 2-1 ATK Mohun Bagan
2. Mumbai City FC 1-1 Jamshedpur FC
3. Jamshedpur FC 2-0 Mumbai City FC
Manger’s Report Card
When Owen Coyle arrived at Jamshedpur, the fans obviously had very high hopes from the Scotsman. He was the architect of the great comeback which Chennaiyin FC scripted in the previous season. Also, Coyle’s style of play was highly appreciated by everyone at the club and the fans. The former Wigan Athletic manager also brought in players like Nerijus Valskis and Laldinliana Renthlei, who were crucial for the Men of the Steel this season.
Coyle seamlessly imposed his style of play and though they did not start in the best way possible, Jamshedpur FC were quick to get on with their new coach. The defence looked really good with their leader Peter Hartley and Nigerian centre-back Stephen Eze. However, one area where the Scotsman was always held back was injury concerns. Jamshedpur FC had too many players on their treatment table and Coyle was at times left with very few options.
Still, the Men of Steel were in playoffs contention for most of the season and were in the top four till the mid-season break. The break shattered their rhythm and they went on to lose matches on the trot, which resulted in them falling short of the playoffs. Coyle made some transfers in January bringing in Seiminlen Doungel, Farukh Choudhury and Boris Singh. However, there was simply too much work to do in few fixtures.
It was a season that showed glimpses of how good Jamshedpur FC can be with Coyle at the helm. They just need to hand him a decent team with the players he needs and hope that they do not get injured. However, overall Coyle will be satisfied with the progress of the club as a whole and will come back next season with a rejuvenated spirit to lead them into the playoffs.
Lessons to be Learned
Jamshedpur FC’s prime concern was persistent injuries to foreign players. They could not replace them and neither could use them. So, for next season, they should give Coyle a free hand to select the foreigners and conduct a proper pre-season that will reduce the chances of the players getting injured.
Also, in terms of personnel, the former Chennaiyin FC tactician once agreed that he lacks a player like Rafael Crivellaro ,who could provide a supply line for Valskis. So, the foreign signings ahead of the start of the season will be very crucial, as the tactician will need players who suit his style of play. The Scotsman will also look to bring in some reinforcements to strengthen Jamshedpur FC’s bench.
The pre-season was full of surprises and there were certain exciting additions to the squad with the likes of Valskis, Jackichand, Peter Hartley, etc. The team started with a loss against Chennaiyin FC, but then ran up with a long unbeaten streak which literally made each fan happy and excited for rest of the season. Team was building stronger on mistakes and gave strong performances against all top teams.
But, the second half of the season had a bitter taste. The winter transfer window had some ins (Farukh, Len and Boris ) & outs (Jacki and Amarjit). Coach Owen tried to bring pace on the flanks to help the style of play. Though it helped the team in the latter few games it was too late to make it into the playoffs.
Individual mistakes led to poor results during the mid-season. Injury issues were also one of the drawbacks of the season. The coach had a weaker bench strength due to this (especially in case of foreign contingent). William Lalnunfela and local boy Mobashir Rahman made aa good impact. Undoubtedly, the other standout heroes were Stephen Eze, Peter Hartley, Aitor Monroy and Valskis. I would thank Jackichand too for his contributions in his short stay with the team.
A 6th position finish on the ISL points table wasn’t the best at all. But, in a positive perspective, the coach has another season to work out at least. He knows about the negatives and can build a stronger and more competitive squad for next season.