The Highlanders exceeded expectations and made it to the playoffs in the previous season.

NorthEast United settled the debate on appointing Khalid Jamil as their permanent head coach following his heroics last season. Jamil’s appointment makes him the first-ever Indian head coach in the history of the Indian Super League.

Jamil oversaw NorthEast United’s best-ever season in the Indian top-flight as he led them to their second-ever playoffs appearance. He took charge of the team when a playoff berth seemed unrealistic. But silenced all the critics and gave everyone a glimpse of what Indian coaches bring to the table.

Following Khalid Jamil’s appointment as the head coach of NorthEast United, we take look as to why is he the best man to lead the Highlanders.

Continuity is key

Every new season has seen a new manager at NorthEast United until this time. Chopping and changing had become a trend for the Highlanders. However, Jamil has brought an end to this ‘not so cool’ trend. He becomes the first coach in NorthEast United’s history who will lead them for a second consecutive season. The Highlanders have had nine coaches with Jamil coming in as an interim coach twice in two consecutive seasons.

NorthEast United looks to have understood the importance of stability in modern-day football. The management are aware of what happens if they start from scratch every season. They have been very inconsistent in terms of continuity and therefore, Jamil’s appointment gives a lot of stability going into the 2021-22 season.

Ability to work with Indian Players

With a major tweak in the foreign players’ rule this season, the importance of domestic players has increased significantly. According to the league’s latest guidelines, only four foreigners can be in the starting XI. This decision was made keeping in mind the best interests of the development of Indian players in key positions. There’s no hiding the fact that nobody else knows Northeast United better than Khalid Jamil.

The tactician has given Indian football so many undiscovered jewels over the years. From Ashutosh Mehta, Jayesh Rane at Aizawl FC to Imran Khan and VP Suhair at NorthEast last season, Jamil has brought the best out of many players. He gave all of them the much-needed confidence and they repaid his trust. He knows the Indian players well, which will be a key factor in their overall development. Also having a homegrown coach lead a top-flight club is something a developing footballing nation like India needs.

Good track record with Indian clubs

Khalid has always maintained a good record with all the clubs that he has managed so far. He helped Mumbai FC win their relegation battles against the then big guns of Indian football. In 2016, Jamil’s Aizawl FC scripted history as they became the first northeastern club to win the I-league. His time at Mumbai and Aizawl speaks volume about how good he is at achieving collective objectives without many resources.

Jamil signed a three-year deal with the Highlanders in 2019 as the head of the academy and the Indian assistant coach to the first team. He was later handed the interim head coach’s role after the club sacked Robert Jarni. NorthEast finished at the ninth position that season and Jamil couldn’t do much with an injury-laden squad.

In the 2020-21 season, he returned to the first team dynamics after Gerard Nus was shown the exit door. Jamil exceeded expectations yet again and led NorthEast United to their best-ever finish in the league stage. When he came in, a play-off berth seemed out of reach. However, he made it possible and had it not been for a missed penalty, Jamil would have made it to finals with the Highlanders.

Making the best out of limited resources

From winning relegation battles with Mumbai FC to winning the I-league with Aizawl – Khalid Jamil has done it all, with limited resources. He never had a star-studded squad to manage, but his numbers speak for themselves. He won the I-league with Aizawl against all odds and gave everyone a glimpse that for him the sky is the limit. The 44-year-old did the same with the Highlanders last season.

Jamil literally turned NorthEast United from a ‘Volkswagen to a Ferrari’ last season. He developed a never-say-die attitude among the players which helped them establish a 10-match unbeaten run, including a three-match winning run against Jamshedpur FC, ATK Mohun Bagan and Mumbai City FC.

Under him, NorthEast United scored 18 goals and won six of their 11 matches. They recorded an average of 1.6 goals per game and 2 points per game during their incredible run. A club like NorthEast United, who are financially not strong as their league counterparts, needed someone who knows how to get the most out of what’s available and Khalid Jamil has proved himself to be that man.

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