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Why Simon Grayson has track record to succeed at Bengaluru FC

Published at :July 20, 2022 at 11:02 PM
Modified at :December 13, 2023 at 1:01 PM
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(Courtesy : BFC Media)

Khel Now

The coach has won four promotions to the Championship (England), which is more than any other manager.

Bengaluru FC have appointed Simon Grayson as the club’s head coach on a two-year deal. The Englishman replaces Marco Pezzaiuoli, whose three-year performance-based contract was cut short after a disappointing Indian Super League season saw the Blues blow hot and cold. Eventually, the club finished sixth in the league table last season. The failure to secure a top-four berth was the final straw for the German and the news of his departure after one season in charge was met with criticism from the club’s loyal supporters. Early success and silverware in the club’s relatively short history has heightened expectations, and Bengaluru FC have failed to deliver. To address that, Grayson has been drafted into the hot seat.

The Decline of Bengaluru FC

Since winning the league in 2018-19, BFC have been in a downward spiral. They let a two-goal lead slip in the dying minutes of the second leg in the 2019-20 semi-finals against ATK, losing to the eventual champions 2-3 on aggregate. 2020-21 was a horrid year, in which the club sacked Carles Cuadrat mid-season and finished outside the top three for the first time since joining the ISL. 

This is a team that plays their best football at home, securing points in 86% of their home ISL games. Playing two full seasons at neutral venues has hampered their results. Apparently, Bengaluru FC clearly miss playing at their ‘fortress’ - the Sree Kanteerava Stadium - with the boisterous atmosphere of West Block Blues egging them on. Despite the ISL returning to the home-away format (in all likelihood), dark clouds hang over the Kanteerava Stadium’s hopes of hosting football again. Karnataka’s Sports Minister KC Narayana Gowda declared that the stadium will not be used for football matches, amid a long-standing dispute between the club and the Karnataka Athletics Association over the usage of the stadium where a new running track has been laid.

Recruitment issues at the club

Securing foreign players on long-term contracts has proven to be difficult for ISL clubs and while BFC’s foreign scouting and recruitment shone in their early ISL campaigns, it has been lacklustre since. Pillars and superstars such as Dimas Delgado, Juanan, Erik Paartalu and Miku were at the heart of their league winning squad but all of them have left or been shown the door. A recurring trend of foreigners not completing their contracts began with Raphael Augusto, who failed to replicate his Chennaiyin FC form and it was furthered by Deshorn Brown and Manuel Onwu finding their feet at other ISL clubs.

Barring Cleiton Silva and Bruno Ramires, recent foreign arrivals Kristian Opseth, Fran Gonzalez and Iman Basafa did not live up to their billing either. Cleiton leaves after topping the club’s goal-scoring charts in his two-year stint. Addressing this will be on the top of Grayson’s agenda, while BFC hope to arrest the slump.

Another problem has been retaining promising Indian regulars. Nishu Kumar, Rahul Bheke, Pratik Chaudhari and Ashique Kuruniyan have all left after showing glimpses of their potential for the Blues. The departures of these vital cogs and the failure to adequately replace them has also contributed to the club’s downfall. 

New signings to herald the rejuvenation

Bengaluru FC's latest addition - Roy Krishna. (Courtesy: ISL Media)

Bengaluru FC have secured the signing of Prabir Das in a swap-deal with ATK Mohun Bagan. However, that move involved Kuruniyan joining the Mariners. The full-back combination of Roshan Singh and Prabir Das should function well together. Additionally, Hira Mondal has also been roped in by the Blues. Javi Hernandez, who impressed at Odisha FC, joined the club on a two-year deal. The attacking midfielder promises good returns and is a set-piece specialist. Youngsters Clarence Fernandes and Faisal Ali are inputs from the I-League. Their most recent inclusion was that of Roy Krishna.

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The task at Grayson's hand

The first order of business before pre-season will be to find a capable replacement for Cleiton Silva. An overseas forward with a proven goal-scoring record is priority, followed by a centre-back. New contracts have been handed out to Roshan Singh, Lara Sharma, Wungngayam Muirang and Parag Shrivas. In a squad now dominated by youngsters still trying to establish themselves, signing some experienced Indian players for depth in key positions can help ease the period of transition.

While rivals ATK Mohun Bagan and Mumbai City FC have already bolstered their ranks with statement foreign signings, finding the right personnel to fit the coach’s requirements calls for intensive scouting and some bravado in the transfer market. 

Who is Simon Grayson?

Simon Grayson got Preston North End promoted in 2015. (Courtesy: Scoopnest)

Simon Grayson has won four promotions from League One, the third-tier of English football. This is more than any other manager in history. He achieved this feat with Blackpool in 2007, Leeds United in 2010, Huddersfield Town in 2012 and Preston North End in 2015. The 52-year-old has made over 500 appearances at right-back in England’s top divisions. Also, he has managed a total of 724 games across seven clubs, winning 298 and drawing 207.

Grayson was named player-manager of Blackpool in 2005 and subsequently led them to promotion from League One to the Championship. His most famed stint was with Leeds, where he rode on an unbeaten start to the season to finish second, earning automatic promotion. He did it the hard way at Huddersfield, going through the playoffs and beating Sheffield United in the final. After repeating the feat with Preston North End, Grayson endured poor stints at Sunderland, Bradford City and most recently, Fleetwood Town. 

Grayson made his name at Leeds United. Blackpool initially refused to accept his resignation to join Leeds, but the clubs settled the dispute for a fee. Leeds finished fourth, dragged out of a five-game losing streak after Grayson’s appointment and eventually winning 11 home games. The club missed out on promotion, losing to Millwall in the play-offs. The following season saw the aforementioned unbeaten streak start. Grayson also secured a 1-0 win against Manchester United in the FA Cup, the club’s first win at Old Trafford in 28 years. 

Tactical genius of Simon Grayson

Bengaluru FC’s new gaffer prefers his teams to be versatile, deploying different formations according to the opposition. Off late, he prefers a back three, with five in midfield and two up front. His much-maligned stint at Sunderland saw Grayson criticised for his constant chopping and changing but he had to cope with injuries to key players. In his most recent stint at Fleetwood Town, Grayson utilized a quick build-up style of play with pacey wingers trying to hit early crosses into the box.

Given the utilities he has in his disposal, Khel Now expects him to implement a 3-5-2/3-4-1-2 system. He may field Roshan Singh and Prabir Das as attacking wing-backs with Bruno Ramires dropping deep to help the defence. Meanwhile Sunil Chhetri will be leading the line with Roy Krishna. Javi Hernandez will be the chief orchestrator in midfield whose passes will break the lines. Youngster Suresh Wangjam will slot in the central midfield alongside Ramires. 

Why this philosophy fits BFC

From Ashley Westwood’s long-balls to Albert Roca and Carles Cuadrat’s tiki-taka to Marco Pezzaiuoli’s high-intensity pressing, Bengaluru FC have seen different managerial philosophies over the years. A common factor has been the utilization of set-pieces as the main goal-threat. In recent times, the lack of a solid backline has led to individual errors in defence. This has resulted in easy scoring opportunities for the opponents. The same issue was numerously evident under Pezzaiuoli's tutelage as well. Fixing a porous back-line has been Grayson’s priority throughout his career. According to reports, the Englishman was also close to joining ISL shield winners Jamshedpur FC as head coach. 

Particularly at Leeds, Grayson blooded a host of youngsters and gave them their senior debuts. Bengaluru FC have a strong reserve team. Undoubtedly, Grayson will dip into this pool of talent during his tenure. 

By securing the services of a manager with League One coaching experience and one who knows how to make an instant impact, BFC have found a coach who is adept at not only preparing his squad over the course of a competitive league season but having the right instincts for playoff and knockout games. Simon Grayson will hope to win the hearts of the Bengaluru FC faithful, as the Blues go marching into a testing period of transition with sights firmly set on returning to the top. 




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