With the third season of the Indian Super League just around the corner, Khel Now profiles each of the 8 teams going into the new campaign. In this first edition we look at the Highlanders…
Last season’s performance (Finished fifth)
The Highlanders had a mixed season last year in the Indian Super League finishing fifth after losing their first three games. They won 6 games and lost an equal number. The major concern of the team in view of the last two seasons is their inability to convert chances into goals. They only managed 11 and 18 goals in the 2014 and 2015 seasons respectively.
However, with their new coach Nelo “The Professor” Vingada and their marquee player for this season Didier Zokora in the squad along with last year’s top scorer Nicolas Velez they will be hoping for a turnaround in fortunes.
A lot will depend on Nelo Vingada this year for NEUFC. As owner John Abraham has said the coach has handpicked some of the players for the squad. So, it’s obvious that he has some unique strategy to offer this season.
After starting his career as assistant coach at various clubs in Portugal since 1982, in the 1986-87 season, Vingada was appointed as the assistant manager for the Portugal U-22 team. He was the assistant manager of the Portuguese squad for the World Youth Championships of 1989 in Riyadh and 1991 in Lisbon, with the side winning both tournaments.
In 1996-97 Vingada became the manager of Saudi Arabia winning the 1996 Asian Cup and qualifying for the 1998 FIFA World Cup.
Before signing as the Head Coach of NorthEast United FC, he was associated with the Iran U-23 team up to 2014.
With his popular image and in depth knowledge of Asian football, “The Professor” Vingada might bring about a drastic change to NEUFC this season.
Transfers In: NorthEast United FC have been the busiest team out of all ISL franchises when it comes to signing players from other clubs this season.
They are also adding young and promising talents like Jerry Mawihmingthanga and Lallianzuala Chhangte from LFC-DSK Academy, Pune.
Further strengthening the squad, experienced players like Manoel Morais Amorim from Brazil, Japanese playmaker Katsumi Yusa, goalkeeper Subrata Paul from Mumbai City FC, Mailson Alves from Chennaiyin FC, Nirmal Chettri from Kerela Blasters and talented local boy Fanai Lalrempuia have been added to the squad.
With the inclusion of Ivory Coast star Didier Zokora as the marquee player along with his compatriot Romaric and the furiously talented Nicolas Velez the squad this season looks quite formidable on paper.
The Highlanders will have to miss out on the services of Aiborlang Khongjee along with Boithang Haokip. Both players have been signed by Mumbai City FC. Joining the outgoing players list are Sanju Pradhan and Y Raju. Besides them the fans will surely miss the blue-eyed boy of the club Alen Deory, who is now playing for his parent club Shillong Lajong.
Formation and tactics
As the new coach “The professor” is very conservative in discussing his plans, it’s very tough to estimate exactly how the team will set up. But with his previous experience with Asian teams and the potential of the players he has this season he may stick to his favourite 4-2-3-1 formation which he has used effectively elsewhere.
Rehenesh TP will compete with Former Mumbai City FC man Subrata Paul for a place between The sticks. the rest of the team picks itself when everyone is fit.
Man to Watch
After scoring 5 times in 14 outings last season Nicolas Velez returns to the Highlanders where he will lead the line once again, hoping to add to his goal tally. However, given the lack of goals from the team in the previous campaigns the frontman will be counting on better support from his teammates.
With the inclusion of Zokora in their squad, along with their goal machine Velez the NorthEast United FC management has lots of hope for this year’s ISL.
They finished at the bottom in the first season and jumped to fifth position last time. If they can convert their opportunities into goals which they couldn’t in the first two seasons, the team has the potential to beat any side on a given day.
In keeping with their upward curve the Highlanders would at least expect to finish in the play-off positions this campaign.
Editorial by Himangshu Rajkhowa- Khel Now Correspondent from Guwahati.