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ISL 2018/19: Underachievers NorthEast United Hope For Better Fortune

In the first edition of the ISL, the team finished rock-bottom at the end of the league stage. In the second and third seasons, it finished just two points behind the play-off spots. And last season, the team finished at the bottom of the table again.

Suyash Upadhyaya | News18 Sports

Updated:October 1, 2018, 3:08 PM IST
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ISL 2018/19: Underachievers NorthEast United Hope For Better Fortune
The Northeast United FC team at the iconic Kamakhya Temple in Guwahati
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For a team that represents one of the most football-crazy parts of India, NorthEast United’s performances in the last four editions of the Indian Super League have failed to meet expectations.

In the first edition of the ISL, the team finished rock-bottom at the end of the league stage. In the second and third seasons, it finished just two points behind the play-off spots. And last season, the team finished at the bottom of the table again.

It has also not helped NorthEast that they have had a new manager in charge every season. However this year, manager Eelco Schattorie has remained part of the furniture from last season, promoted to the position after Avram Grant was sacked mid-way through season four. The assistant manager turned manager has a clear idea about how he wants to go about handling things with the team this season.

“If you have never qualified, and you are asked to do so, yes there is huge pressure on me. I believe lower budget and low-quality players don’t matter in football,” Schattorie said.

“Everything is possible. Taj Mahal was not built in a day and if you want to build something, it takes time.”

Schattorie will have different ammunition to work with compared to last season. The team’s most notable foreign recruit has to be ex-PSG striker Bartholomew Ogbeche. The Nigerian has turned out for his country 11 times, and comes with experience at the European and international level.

Mato Grgic and Mislav Komorski are two new towering acquisitions at centre-back. The duo will not just be hard to get past for the opposition’s attacking players, but will also pose a significant threat from set-piece situations.

There is new Indian talent at the club as well. Midfielder Rupert Nongrum has been signed from ATK, and Nikhil Kadam, coming on the back of a good season with I-League club Mohun Bagan joins the ranks. Gurwinder Singh, who formerly captained East Bengal is another option in defence.

However, it has not been smooth sailing for the club in the build up to season. The team’s pre-season tour to Sweden was cancelled, and the whole unit remained in India instead. Schattorie too said that the situation was not ideal, but the aim was to make the most of what was on the table.

“It is always difficult to get going in pre-season, but it is important to get tested to know how far you are. Overall, we had two decent matches where we could test our quality. I wish there were a few more, but I always work in the circumstances I have,” he said.

While Avram Grant had his own methods of working with players last season, Dutchman Schattorie firmly belongs to the attacking school of thought. By his side as assistant manager will be former manager of the Indian Arrows, Australian Arthur Papas, who himself has his grounding in the Dutch philosophy of football. Expect quick exchanges of play, fast transitions from defense into attack and use of the wings.

Together, Schattorie and Papas might just be the most important assets that NorthEast United have this season in their pursuit to finally break the play-off jinx.

| Edited by: Abhimanyu Sen
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