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Should SC East Bengal continue to retain faith in Robbie Fowler?

Published at :May 16, 2021 at 7:13 PM
Modified at :May 27, 2021 at 10:14 PM
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Uttiyo Sarkar

The Kolkata giants failed to impress in their maiden ISL season, finishing in ninth place.

SC East Bengal introduced themselves to the Indian Super League (ISL) fraternity in style by appointing Robbie Fowler as their head coach. A Liverpool legend, a former star player, he understandably brought a lot of traction with him to India. The Red and Gold Brigade's name spread internationally and they hoped Fowler would guide them to a bright debut.

But, the scripted fairy-tale soon turned into a nightmare. As reality hit once the season started, the cracks in the squad were visible. The Red and Gold Brigade just never got going and frustrating results mounted one after another. After starting their season with a loss to rivals ATK Mohun Bagan, East Bengal couldn’t mount a comeback.

Instead, they finished the season in ninth place. Their ISL campaign included eight draws and nine losses. More importantly, it included just three wins – the second-lowest for any team in the league. A blame-game ensued over their disappointments. The inexperienced domestic core took much of the blame. Then the foreigners were criticized.

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But, Robbie Fowler himself didn’t escape criticism either. Despite his only coaching experience prior to the move coming as the manager of Brisbane Roar, there were certain expectations set due to his reputation.

So, when things started going south, Fowler took the blame and often lashed out at heavy criticism. Now, the question remains – should he be given another season to prove himself? In the 2021-22 campaign, major squad changes are guaranteed.

East Bengal are determined to bring in quality domestic stars and better foreign talents to boost their playoffs chances. So, should they continue with the Englishman? Let’s examine both sides of the argument:

Why they should continue with Fowler

One thing Fowler can use in his argument is that he didn’t exactly get the team he wanted at SC East Bengal.

The domestic players were not the kind he desired and he was just given the option to do with whatever was available. At Brisbane Roar, Fowler ordered a clear-out of 14 first-team players before taking charge.

He built his own team – including the foreigners and kept the Australian players he believed were best fit for his style. It actually worked, as Fowler kept Brisbane among the top sides. He even won the A-League Manager of the Month awards for January and February.

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It was Fowler’s impressive work that ensured a top-four finish for Brisbane come the end of the season, despite the former Liverpool man having left beforehand. If similarly, SC East Bengal are able to give Fowler the kind of players he demands and have a clear-out of the current bunch, things could improve.

A strong pre-season would also be vital. The new batch of players – foreign or domestic – need time to buy into his style. They need time to know his methods, perfect the possession-based style he preaches and inculcate a winning mentality.

If SC East Bengal are ready to trust Fowler with all of that, they might witness a sharp improvement in many of the players. Be it the old ones he keeps or the new signings, many players can excel under Fowler’s style, if honed well.

Why they shouldn’t continue with Fowler

East Bengal Robbie Fowler
Robbie Fowler as SC East Bengal coach in ISL 2020-21

At this point, the stronger argument for SC East Bengal is to let Fowler go. The former Liverpool man’s philosophy doesn’t seem suitable to succeed in the ISL. His attitude and emotional tantrums represent the club poorly and brought a lot of bad press last season.

Fowler also doesn’t seem willing to help players find their ultimate potential. The way he criticized and embarrassed the domestic stars last season was startling.

Indicating that he had players who ‘look like they haven’t been coached before’ was downright offensive to many Indian coaches.

He also had a heated battle with the ISL organizers and pundits. His infamous spat with Pradyum Reddy was shocking and embarrassing. He also got banned for four games for his off-field remarks. His work on the pitch was also not up to the mark.

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East Bengal played some very boring football under Fowler. It got to the point where the exciting foreigners like Bright Enobakhare, Anthony Pilkington and Jacques Maghoma all found it difficult to hit their stride.

Because of his poor attitude, inability to handle pressure and boring football, Fowler hasn’t really made any arguments that he should remain as East Bengal head coach next season.


Fowler just hasn’t made enough compelling points to convince East Bengal to keep him as their head coach. With the poor results and his own questionable attitude after the season was done, the former Liverpool didn't seem eager to stay at East Bengal himself.

The club probably has to dig deep to find someone as popular as Fowler – but will have to work even harder to find someone who rights his wrongs and heralds the start of a new era at the club.

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