Is Gokulam Kerala's sacking of Fernando Valera a step back from the right direction?
Written by: Atrayo Bhattacharya
The Kozhikode-based club have parted ways with the Spaniard just a few months after being appointed.
As the Indian football season has already started with the ISL getting underway last month, the I-League is just knocking around the door for the fans throughout the country as well. While all the sides have strengthed accordingly over the summer, southern outfit Gokulam Kerala received an unexpected blow as their head coach, Fernando Valera left the club after taking charge from Bino George last season, who has been once again appointed as the head coach of the team.
There were reports that the team's performances in pre-season matches have not been great and that may have been the reason for the axe. But, Khel Now sources close to the developments have told us that the coach had difficulties in communicating with the players and was also finding it troublesome to adapt to life away from his family. The Spanish gaffer lacked the cohesion and understanding that a team requires. So, the Gokulam Kerala board went ahead with the call and have assigned Bino George who was the technical director to be the interim coach for the time being.
Gokulam Kerala featured in the AWES Cup and were pretty underwhelming and in the pre-season friendlies, their 4-1 humiliation to Bengaluru FC led to the sacking. The Malabarians had a slow start last season, but under George, the players were motivated and they got back on track in the latter half of the campaign. With back-to-back wins over East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, the team earned the tag of 'giant-killers' in the league. The head coach gave a lot of opportunities to local talent and being a native himself he had a great bond with the players.
George managed to light up the team when he finally had the correct players at his disposal. Players like Henry Kisekka, Mudde Musa along with Indian talents like Arjun Jayaraj and Kivi Zhimoni got their act together and made a huge difference to escape relegation and end the campaign on a high.
The good work from the I-League was carried forward into the inaugural Super Cup, as the Kerala outfit progressed to the final round beating Indian Super League wooden spooners NorthEast United. However, despite their valiant efforts the team were knocked out by Bengaluru FC. Nonetheless, they showed immense passion and togetherness to comeback in the second half of the season. The comeback is a testament to the fact that the players slowly adapted to George's system and were finally reaping the rewards. But, after Valera's stint with the team, life will be difficult as Bino will hardly get any time to understand a refurbished Gokulam side and implement his ideas with them.
The sacking of the Spaniard is indeed a brave move by the club's management as it may even come back to haunt them. Chopping and changing of coaches is part of the game, but with so little time left for the I-League to start, it there be huge pressure on the new head coach to provide immediate results.
The new gaffer will not have time to arrange pre-season matches to judge different players and analyse their strengths and weaknesses. Taking an example from Europe, we saw how underwhelming the Spanish national team were in Russia after the FA sacked their manager Julen Lopetegui on the eve of the Worl;d Cup.
Gokulam have also parted ways with East Timor midfielder, Thiago Oliveira as he failed to impress anyone at the club through his pre-season performances.
The club officials are in search of an able leader to guide the Kerala outfit through their second I-League campaign. The arrival of a new coach will not be the end of their problems. Whoever joins will take time to settle in and develop an understanding with the players. He may opt for a completely different philosophy, very different to the one of Valera.
Moreover, the new coach may or may not like certain players as some may not suit his style of play. At that point of time chopping and changing the squad may lead to a decline in their performances as the team will lack chemistry and cohesion among themselves. So, there are many issues which the management need to address immediately.
The Malabarians are still a young club though. After an underwhelming start last season, they they revived themselves in the latter half of the league. But, that will not happen every campaign and this term, they may go down the pecking order mainly due to this backroom chaos.
Published: Wed Oct 03, 2018 03:35 PM IST