Derrick Pereira's transformation of Churchill Brothers from strugglers to giant killers
Written by: Ravish R Narvekar
Khel Now examines how the experienced tactician has revitalized the Red Machines' top flight campaign....
It is for the first time since the National Football League started back in 1996 that Goa has only a single representative in the I-League. Despite having the advantage of being able to build the strongest team from the region, Churchill Brothers couldn't muster a strong squad and had a poor first half of the campaign.
They even faced a defeat against Mumbai FC, a team which is struggling at the bottom of the table. The Goan club suffered two more defeats before registering their first point when they held DSK Shivajians in a 1-1 draw. Next were defending champions Bengaluru FC and surprisingly, the Red Machines showed some good football and scripted a comeback 2-1 win.
Churchill Brothers started their I-league 2017 campaign fleet-footed with just three points in seven games before Derrick's arrival at the helm
However, Alfred Fernandes’ boys just managed to grab two points from the next five games. With more than half of the season gone and the Goan club standing at the bottom of the table, Churchill appointed the experienced Derrick Pereira as the team's head coach and gave a much-needed boost to the team.
The former Salgaocar coach took charge of the club and started his sojourn with an easy 3-0 win over his former club. Their next two matches were the real test for the coach as the Goan club were supposed to face the Kolkata giants: East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, but Pereira’s superb tactical gameplay helped Churchill register 2-1 wins against both of them.
So, how has the tactician managed to turnaround the Red Machines' season? Khel Now looks at a few factors.
Pereira is an experienced coach who knows the league well
The 55-year old started his coaching career with the Salgaocar FC U-19 team but was appointed head coach of the first team of Vasco Sports Club in 2000, where he spent five years. Later, he moved to Mumbai outfit Mahindra United and won his first NFL in his maiden season. The Goan coach further spent three more years with the Mumbai-based club and joined newly promoted I-League Pune FC in 2009.
He was successful in establishing the club in the top half. The Pune-based club never finished in the bottom half of the league table under him. The club's best ever finish in the league was 2nd, missing out on the championship to Churchill by just three points in the 2012-13 season.
Adil Khan has been an absolute rock at the back for Churchill Brothers
In the next season, Pereira joined his former club Salgaocar. The Goan coach started well and led the table for the first six weeks but four straight losses in the last few matches saw his side lose the title to Bengaluru FC.
After spending one more season with the Goan club, the 55-year-old was appointed the head coach of the newly formed, direct entry club of the I-League, DSK Shivajians, where he inculcated the practice of promoting youth and a fighting mentality in the team.
Pereira's extensive travels in the Indian circuit have seen him gain a lot of experience, seeing highs and lows in equal measure. Its this experience that has been key to his success in engineering a swift turnaround at Churchill.
A winning mentality
After back-to-back defeats in the first three matches, Churchill registered their first point on the board with a 1-1 draw against DSK and the head coach at the time Fernandes was happy with a point as he stated “one point is better than no point” in the post-match media interaction.
However, Pereira has a different outlook and has always stuck with his positive mentality. “I play to win every match.” This transformation in attitude has really had a impact on the players. It has also helped to get the best out of the players and has given them a reason to fight for the team and keep their concentration levels high on the pitch for the full game.
Especially, the transformation of Trinidad & Tobago striker Anthony Wolfe has been notable. The T&T international was not in his elements at the start of the league, lacking in every department including control on the ball, holdup play and attacking intent higher up the pitch.
Since the arrival of the ex-Mahindra United coach, the striker has improved a lot. He has become more clinical with his final touches, while his strength on the ball. He has also improved his morale as he is more confident with the ball at his feet.
Anthony Wolfe has looked menacing since the arrival of Derrick Pereira at Churchill Brothers.
Pereira's arrival has not only helped Wolfe, but also central defender Adil Khan. The Goan defender looks a transformed player in his new role. The defensive midfielder turned centre-back has been brilliant for the club with the added responsibility of leading the defensive shape of the side. On-loan from Dempo, Khan is happy with his new form under Pereira.
“I am really happy to play in my new position and that too in an important role. The coach is helping me a lot to improve my game. He is always motivating me.” Khan said in praise of Pereira.
Chesterpaul Lyngdoh, who is now in top form used to start from the bench at the start of the season. But since Pereira took charge of the club, the winger is regularly starting and has transformed into a scoring machine under the Goan coach.
Winger Seriton Fernandes is also getting regular starting places under Pereira. Seriton was one of the star wingers at Sporting Clube de Goa but had failed to impress the former head coach and was sidelined. After Fulganco Cardozo's injury, Pereira chose Seriton to start as a full-back, a move which has worked wonders for the player who is proving his calibre with excellent performances as a left-back.
The tactician's decision to introduce goalkeeper Naveen Kumar in place of Priyant Singh has also brought a positive calmness under the bar and the former Salgaocar keeper has proved his decision correct by by delivering quality performances.
Flexible and Improved Tactics
Pereira is flexible with his tactics depending on the opponents unlike Churchill’s previous gameplay of short and unimaginative passing in every match.
The new manager uses ways that get the best out of the players he has. Every pass has a purpose and is productive. There are no meaningless passes in midfield, like at the start of the season. Players under him are not afraid to play direct football when needed. He has used Wolfe to hold the ball up and encouraged the full-backs and wingers to get the ball into the box.
He is also mixing up the style of play as needed at different junctures of the game. The Goan coach is always giving equal importance to the opposition and is always ready with plans to counter the opposition’s tactics. His tactics and pre-match preparations are detailed. Apart from making the most of his strengths, he also looks to negate the strengths of the opposition and looks to capitalise on their weaknesses.
Pereira has always been known for his solid defensive tactics and the Goan was the perfect choice to fill the void at the club. Falling back on the last line at crucial times was the main worry for the Goan club as they had conceded last minute goals on many occasions before he came on board.
However, Pereira’s arrival has made the much-needed difference in the defence. With his 16+ years of experience, he has definitely helped the club to patch up the defensive errors. A well gelled-up defence is clearly visible as they have produced brilliant defensive displays to stop Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan and East Bengal in recent games.
Club must take credit for timely change of guard
Though Pereira’s appointment made the difference in the team’s performance, the management must be given some of the credit. They recognised what was needed and got the right man for the job at the right time. Many clubs like Chennai City FC pushed the reset button in terms of a coach a little late, while Mumbai FC delayed the same decision and are currently fighting to avoid relegation.
The Goan club benefitted from getting the right man at the right time. With uncertainty about the merger between the I-League and the Indian Super League and Churchill's place in the new structure, Pereira will be the best coach to be retained for the long term to return them to their glory days, as he has already proved his calibre with Pune and Mahindra United in the past.
Published: Wed Apr 12, 2017 11:47 AM IST