A stint in the Indian top flight didn’t quite work out for these tacticians.
A manager’s job is often the most thankless in football. They’re not only entrusted with the job of fulfilling the club’s lofty ambitions but also have to bear the brunt when it all goes south, regardless of their side’s performances.
However, there are also times when the head coach himself comes a cropper in the dugout. His tactics are either questionable or downright bizarre, while his inability to turn a side’s fortunes around can lead to a sacking too.
We’ve seen this phenomenon in the Indian Super League too. Several managers have come and gone, but these five particularly standout for all their forgetful spells in the league.
5. Rene Meulensteen – Kerala Blasters, 2017/18
After two runners-up finishes in three years, Kerala Blasters appointed Rene Meulensteen in 2017 to get them over the line. The Dutch manager came with plenty of European experience under his belt, so a lot was expected from him. But, his stint was a damp squib.
Far from replicating the club’s earlier success, the Yellow Army instead hit their lowest eb under him. Just one win from their opening seven games and a struggle for goals left them trailing near the bottom of the table entering the New Year.
However, even before their first game of 2018, Meulensteen was given the boot.
4. Ricki Herbert – NorthEast United, 2014
Ricki Herbert had never managed a side outside New Zealand before he came to NorthEast United. But, his good record still brought a sense of excitement upon his arrival. It was only the first season of the Indian Super League and the side didn’t have lofty ambitions at the time.
Even then, the Highlanders oversaw a very disappointing campaign. A lack of attacking firepower undid their resolute defensive game and finished at the bottom of the standings after the league phase, with just three wins to show for their efforts.
The club stuck with Herbert right till the end, but decided against renewing his contract for the next season.
3. Teddy Sheringham – ATK, 2017/18
Another England international to have plied his trade in the managerial capacity in the Indian top-flight. Teddy Sheringham became the latest in a series of high-profile names after he took over at ATK in 2017/18.
Beset by injuries, the Kolkata outfit further suffered due to Sheringham’s lack of tactical nous. His constant rotation meant the side struggled to figure out their best XI and eventually parted ways with him midway through the campaign.
2. Miguel Angel Portugal – Delhi Dynamos 2017/18
ISL history is replete with Spanish managers, but Miguel Angel Portugal was one of the first to travel this road. Boasting an impressive CV and carrying the experience of having managed 12 sides before, he was highly touted to get Delhi Dynamos over the line after their near misses in the league in the previous two seasons.
Instead, his spell with the side was one of the worst so far. A run of six consecutive losses set an unwanted record and despite a small upturn in form during the home stretch, Portugal couldn’t steer his side into the playoffs, finishing third from bottom.
The Spaniard returned to India following a short stint with La Liga side Granada, joining Pune City as their head coach for the 2018/19 season. But, rather bizarrely, the club sacked him after just three games. out of which they drew one and lost two.
1. Stuart Baxter – Odisha FC 2020/21
Odisha FC appointed Stuart Baxter as their head coach ahead of the 2020/21 Indian Super League season. The Scottish tactician had previous spells in South Africa as manager of the national team, and several domestic clubs there. So, much was expected of him ahead of his arrival.
However the club finished bottom of the table this season, with just two wins in 20 games. They also had the worst goal difference among all the clubs (-19).
But the lowest point for Baxter during this tenure was when he remarked that one of his players “will have to rape someone or be raped” to get a penalty after their 0-1 loss to Jamshedpur FC. This controversial remark caused a lot of furore, and the club sacked the manager with immediate effect.