Indian Football Season Review 2018-19: FC Pune City
Written by: Neil Talnikar
It was a season full of ups and downs for the Stallions as a late resurgence meant they finished in seventh position.
It wasn’t the most ideal or expected start to the season for FC Pune City, as they lost two of their three opening games which resulted in head coach Miguel Angel Portugal facing the sack. An early shuffle at the managerial level caused the performances of the Stallions to stumble even more.
Yet, a lot of credit goes to interim coach Pradyum Reddy, who managed to get the team somehow back on track until the end of the first half of the season. Before the international break in December, the Stallions picked up three wins in five games which saw them jump a couple of positions up in the Indian Super League (ISL) table.
During the break, the club announced the appointment of Phil Brown as the new head coach, whose arrival proved to be a big success. Under the Englishman, the team played a great style of football as they went on to win four of the remaining six games of the season and finishing at a much explainable position.
Fact Sheet for Indian Football Season 2018-19
Games Played: 18
Won : 6
Lost : 8
Drawn : 4
Win %: 33.33
Following a great season under Ranko Popovic, Pune City once again decided to stay in the country for its pre-season preparations. As a measure, the club had participated in the AWES Cup (Association for Wellbeing of Elder Sportspersons), which took place in Goa.
The Stallions managed to pick a couple of wins in the tournament against Churchill Brothers and Gokulam Kerala, however slumped to a shock 0-2 defeat to Salgaocar FC. Furthermore, a defeat to another Goan side Dempo SC saw them knocked out of the competition in a disappointing manner.
Underperformer of the Season
The centre-back played an integral part in the Stallions’ charge towards playoffs qualification last season, and much was expected from him going into this season. However, Gurtej made only seven starts this season and moreover a minor injury before the international break restricted him to the bench for the rest of the season.
The 28-year-old is capable to perform much better than he did this season, and hopefully, he succeeds in regaining his place in the starting lineup next season.
Gurtej's Performance in ISL 2018-19
Top 3 Performances
1. Jamshedpur 1-4 Pune City (Report and Highlights)
2. Pune City 2-0 Goa (Report and Highlights)
3. Pune City 2-1 Mumbai City (Report and Highlights)
Manager's Report Card
After just three games, Miguel Portugal was sacked by the club and interim coach Pradyum Reddy took over the reins. It was a very poor show by the Spanish coach whose appointment itself was a matter of debate.
Nevertheless, Reddy managed to bring the Stallions under control leading them to three wins in five games before the international break. Then when Phil Brown was appointed the new head coach, there was a lot of positivity in the dressing room.
Under the Englishman, there was a considerable change in the Stallions’ approach, who picked up four wins in the final six games. By that time, Iain Hume had also joined the squad following the departure of Emiliano Alfaro.
The Canadian’s arrival too was a positive move which further strengthened the Stallions’ attack as it was raining goals for them.
The Stallions earned a walkover from Minerva Punjab in the first stage of the Cup and were later drawn to a much stronger opposition in the guise of Chennai City. To add to the misery, Pune received a huge injury blow as Ashique Kuruniyan was ruled out of the fixture.
Yet, the team went into the game with young Mohammed Yasir replacing Ashique on the wing, who gave a strong effort in the attack. Pune lost the game 2-4 at the hands of the I-League champions with Marcelinho and Marko Stankovic finding the back of the net, but to no avail.
Lessons to be Learned
Amidst its financial issues, the club looks to have finally learned a lesson from its past seasons’ mistakes at the managerial level. After a highly successful coaching stint, the Stallions managed to retain Phil Brown for the next couple of seasons, in a first such move.
Now that the Englishman is here to stay, the Stallions need to make good signings especially at the defensive positions and are also required to retain the likes of the key players from the past two seasons.
I think FC Pune City made a few questionable decisions even before the season started, letting the consistent Ranko Popovic go was one of those bizarre decisions made. Moreover, the tactics used by new head coach Miguel Angel Portugal didn’t work because the team was obviously not challenging the opponents' defence by whatever the coach was using.
Interim coach Pradyum Reddy, in my opinion, had calmed the side and showed that the team can play by carefully utilizing players. However, the introduction of Phil Brown got the much-needed aggression in the team. If the team had a solid experienced mid-field to bank on then it could have done wonders and could have even qualified for the playoffs.
But the positive thing that the club has given to the Indian football circuit is the young players like Ashique Kuruniyan and Sahil Panwar. While concluding the season, by my opinion, Pune has had a very below average season and could have done much better if the management behind the team was better.
Published: Tue Apr 23, 2019 06:04 PM IST