For the first time the tactician will be managing an Indian club.
Emami East Bengal recently announced the signature of Stephen Constantine as their head coach. For the first time, Constantine will be coaching a club in India. Previously, Indian football fans have seen him as the coach of the national team. That too not once but on two occasions. The recent stint of Constantine with the national team saw the nation earn the 96th spot in FIFA rankings. That’s a feat which till date stands as the best ranking for India. A person who knows Indian football like the back of his palm, the 59-year-old is perhaps the perfect candidate to be handed the job at Emami East Bengal.
Here are the top five challenges for the tactician at the club.
5. Build a balanced squad
The last two seasons have been no less than a nightmare for the Red & Gold Brigade. Two consecutive seasons saw them take ninth and eleventh place on the ISL table. That’s something which is unacceptable for a club of East Bengal’s stature. Both seasons, the management had to build the team from scratch.
This season, Stephen Constantine has comparatively sufficient time to bag quality players. He knows the country’s talent as well. Also, his long career provides enough reason to rely on him to build a balanced squad. A team can be called a strong one if it comprises of a good reserve bench and quality back-ups for first-team players. That’s the first task or challenge for the Englishman.
4. Keeping players away from internal politics
Clubs in the Kolkata Maidan have this tendency. Internal politics often affect the atmosphere inside the team. For example, in 2020/21, we saw tweets from Robbie Fowler, where he opined on the internal affairs between the investors and the club officials. It was not his job to do that. He was supposed to focus on the team and not interfere into the internal politics within the club. Stephen Constantine shouldn’t commit the same mistake. He should also refrain his players from indulging in these affairs.
Another instance can be that of the 2018/19 season. At that time, the club had just started performing well in the I-League. The team used to train at the Salt Lake Stadium’s training grounds. Suddenly, one fine day, few people close to the club officials started demanding that the training sessions should be shifted to the club premises. These are important matters which Constantine should be beware of.
3. Bring back winning mentality
In the last two Indian Super League seasons, the Red & Golds have won just four matches! A middle-aged fan can hardly remember any such instance. A team/person can win when he/she has that belief in themselves. The Englishman needs to inculcate this into the squad. Like Sir Matt Busby once said, “I never wanted Manchester United to be second to anybody. Only the best would be good enough.” A similar culture has to be restored at Emami East Bengal.
2. Working on long-term projects
As of now, the manager has been brought on a one-year deal. The reason might his inexperience with Indian club system. However, the club has been signing most of their players on multi-year contracts. Thus, an aim to build for the future is clearly visible. Constantine (or even if someone else was in charge) has to introduce a long-term project. Emami East Bengal have never worked on a similar thing.
Football around the world is build on long-term projects. The Red & Golds have the potential. They were one of the pioneers in introducing the sponsorship concept in Kolkata Maidan. They have decent infrastructure at the Maidan tent too. Stephen Constantine should aim to make the full use of it. Perhaps the introduction of a footballing philosophy and transmitting the same to the academy could be the beginning of something good.
1. Proving himself
As mentioned earlier, it is just a one-year deal for the head coach. The dynamics of the national team and an ISL club vastly differ. Constantine has to prove himself if he has to sustain at the club. Emami East Bengal have the reputation of sacking managers when they fail to provide results or performances. Back in 2007/08 to 2009/10, the club had six to seven head-coaches. That’s the pressure Constantine will face.
The hot seat at the Red & Golds won’t just be ‘hot’ in terms of its name but also in reality. In order to survive, he will need to provide results. A top-four finish will be too much to expect. Anything between four to seven shall be a decent one for the club – at least for this season.