ISL- Indian Super League

Profile: Who should be the next head coach of Odisha FC?

Sattyik SarkarSattyik Sarkar

May 8 2022
Odisha FC

For the fourth successive season, the Juggernauts are on the hunt for a new coach.

A change in the name saw a change in nature and results as well. From Delhi Dynamos to Odisha FC, the change hasn’t produced anything positive apart from some lucrative score-lines and an eminent partnership. Odisha FC’s Indian Super League campaigns ever since their inception (2019/20) haven’t been fruitful.

The first season saw the side ending sixth in the table. The next season produced a bottom-of-the-table finish. In the recently concluded season, they finished seventh.

Meanwhile, speaking of the think tank, the Juggernauts have witnessed three changes at the helm in three successive seasons. After the conclusion of the 2019/20 season, the club parted ways with Josep Gombau. They brought in Stuart Baxter as their new tactician prior to the 2020/21 season. The British manager didn’t even last an entire season and the reins were handed over to assistant Steven Dias.

In 2021, Odisha FC brought in Kiko Ramirez as their new boss. Expectations were high but the Spaniard too, failed to live up to them. Like Baxter, Ramirez left mid-season and Kino Garcia (Spanish assistant to Ramirez) took charge. Currently, the club is in search of a new mastermind.

In this article, we’ll analyse the type of coach Odisha FC should consider giving charge.

Build-up to 2022/23 season

Odisha FC are currently working in the transfer market. It shouldn’t be claimed that they possess a weak side. All their foreigners in the previous season were of the utmost quality. Be it the former ISL champion Victor Mongil, Spaniard Hector Rodas or centre-forward Jonathas de Jesus.

Even Javi Hernandez seemed to be the perfect fit in Kiko Ramirez’s side. But the team lacked consistency. They won just six games in the entire league stage and failed to progress into the playoffs.

Narender Gahlot
Gahlot is likely to be the first signing for Odisha FC (Courtesy: ISL Media)

Meanwhile, in the build-up to the new season, the management has already agreed terms with defender Narender Gahlot. A few departures in the Indian contingent may be seen as well. Most of their foreigners were contracted till May 2022 (Hector Rodas is unknown). So, the club has to either extend their stay or bring new ones. But surely, Odisha FC will try to build a balanced side for the upcoming season.

Team troubles

The defensive third is the main problem of the side. If we look at statistics, in the past two seasons, Odisha have conceded a total of 87 goals. That’s not a good advertisement for sure. Last season, they conceded 43 goals. But does the problem lie with the players? It can be confidently claimed that Odisha FC comprised a strong defensive unit, at least on paper.

They had two stalwarts in the form of Victor Mongil and Hector Rodas. They had backups in the forms of youngsters Gaurav Bora and Saurabh Meher. Perhaps, having two experienced centre-backs as backups would have benefitted the Juggernauts. Moreover, due to the four-foreigner rule, it wasn’t always possible to field two foreign centre-backs. Thus, relying on youngsters can be a tough challenge if not dealt with subtlety.

Hector Rodas
Rodas started well but faltered in the latter stages of the season (Courtesy: ISL Media)

Secondly, inconsistency. Last season, when we spoke of inconsistency, we always had FC Goa’s picture in our minds. Odisha FC aren’t any different. They started the season on a high note and suddenly fumbled after a few games. The Juggernauts even lost 6-1 to Hyderabad FC midway through the season.

Surprisingly, they made a brilliant comeback to defeat the then defending champions (Mumbai City) 4-2 in their next outing and again lost to Kerala Blasters 2-0 in the following game. The coach that the management is planning to bring in should focus on these two main issues.

Coach first, players next

Currently, Odisha FC have players under their belt. But the transfer window doesn’t assure that every player will stay at the club. Few may depart, few may come on board. But prior to these signings, Odisha should finalize their coach and work accordingly. They should follow a particular philosophy like FC Goa.

Bringing in a Spaniard, then again signing a British or a Dutch manager won’t help the club. Rather they should focus on fixating a philosophy and securing the services of the head coach first. Under the head coach and his Indian assistant’s consultation, the management will find it easier to sign players.

If we look at what Sergio Lobera did at Mumbai City in 2020/21, we’ll see the club first hiring the coach and then accordingly signing players. The result was fruitful. Also, when the club is in a rebooting phase, they should perhaps look at people who have previously worked in the country and are still following the league.

Their prior knowledge will be an onus to Odisha FC, as the head coach will know the pressure, the league and the opponents better than the newcomers. Even unknown names who have closely followed the ISL can be preferred for the role.

Odisha FC’s project building

After hiring their head coach, Odisha should look forward to place a project and work on it. The project should have roots in the grassroots and its leaves in the senior team. A project will help not only Odisha financially, but also benefit Indian football. If they work on bringing in local kids into their academy and train them with the selected philosophy, these kids will flourish and make it to the senior team with time.

Odisha Mumbai City
Odisha should look to build their team around Jerry Mawihmingthanga (Courtesy: ISL Media)

An overall observation and surveillance from the head coach will be enough to ensure the lads are doing what they should do. Ultimately, the cost of buying a new player will be saved, and if other clubs are interested in the prospect, a beneficial deal can be placed on the table as well. If the lad stays, he makes it to the reserve team. His performance will enable him gradually to make a place in the senior team.

Type of coach Odisha FC need

As mentioned earlier, Odisha FC should consider implementing a philosophy. Clubs throughout the world and those mainly in Europe, have embraced this practice. In India, FC Goa are doing good in this regard. Odisha should follow the same. If the question of the type of coach is to be directly answered, the club should consider a Spanish coach.

The reason being in the last few years, Spanish coaches have been the most successful on Indian soil. In the eight-year history of the ISL, Spanish coaches have won the league on five occasions. Thus, bringing in a Spanish coach, who has previously worked in India will be a good option.

Thoiba Moirangthem
Thoiba was one of the youngest players in ISL 2021-22 (Courtesy: ISL Media)

Another thing that the management should keep in mind while hiring is, that the coach should be fit for the current squad. Odisha mostly had young players in the previous season. If they are able to keep intact most of them, then the coach should be someone who has the knack and flair for working with youngsters.

This will result in the coach bringing out the best from these lads. Also, the coach should possess man-management skills in order to deal with the established and senior players and the foreign recruits.

Coach’s route to success

The word success consists of seven alphabets. It takes time to type from the first alphabet to the last one. Similarly, a club’s success demands time. It may so happen that the new tactician fails in his first season. The team may fail to qualify for the playoffs again.

But if the coach shows enough hope, the club should back him. Definitely, regular assessments should be done. Also, players of his choice shall be a preference unless the management portrays someone better.

The fact is stability and cooperation are very important for achieving success. The word “SUCCESS” itself comprises these two initials (S & C) apart from the vowels. If the management and the coach cooperate, and if stability prevails in the club, success will be a relevant term with Odisha FC.

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