The best Christmas present for Jamshedpur would have been a bottle of Felix Felicis…
Since entering the Indian Super League (ISL) scene in 2017, Jamshedpur are yet to make an appearance in the playoffs.
The Men of Steel have tried various combinations of coaches and players but things haven’t really worked out for the Tata Group-owned club in the ISL so far. But they are on the right track this season to turn their fortunes around.
Owen Coyle took over a distraught set of players at Chennaiyin last season and guided them to the final of the competition. it was a remarkable turnaround by the Machans and Owen Coyle caught the attention of many, including Jamshedpur, with his fantastic first season in Indian football.
The former Bolton Wanderers manager left Chennaiyin at the end of the season to begin a new journey with Jamshedpur. It was supposed to be a move that started a new project but the speed of the new process has been slowed down due to various reasons including the pandemic.
After eight matches, Jamshedpur are sixth on the table with 10 points – two wins, two defeats and four draws. They are six points off the top of the table and only a point behind the fourth-placed team – the position that Owen Coyle will be targeting in his first season with the club. With ATK Mohun Bagan and Mumbai City looking good for the top two spots as it stands, there could be a close fight for the third and fourth spot.
Injuries and poor refereeing decisions have cost Coyle’s team in their first eight matches. Two of their seven foreign players – David Grande and Nick Fitzgerald are yet to spend a minute on the field.
The absence of the two foreigners has affected the team. Last season’s Golden Boot winner Nerijus Valskis has scored six goals so far – that’s six out of a team total of nine goals. Centre-back Stephen Eze has scored twice and Aniket Jadhav one. Valskis’ responsibility needs to be shared and if it’s not done soon, it will be a case of ‘No Nerijus, no party’ very soon.
Peter Hartley and Stephen Eze will continue to be Owen Coyle’s first-choice centre-back partnership, especially with youngster Narender Gahlot injured. While the defence has let in nine goals, the underlying issue has been that of a lack of goalscorers apart from Valskis.
The team also have been at the end of multiple costly errors from the referees. The latest example of such a setback was in Jamshedpur’s 2-1 defeat to FC Goa where the Men of Steel had a goal disallowed before Igor Angulo scored twice in the second half. Coyle had blasted the refereeing in that game in his post-match press conference.
Alex Lima’s effort had gone in off the underside of the bar before bouncing out due to the spin. However, the referee did not spot it and the goal was not allowed to stand.
Coyle expressed his frustration while speaking about the referee and the linesman after the match. He said, “It is disheartening because we’ve been robbed in a game. We scored a good goal at 1-1 when the ball came off the crossbar and was clearly over the line.
“With the level of this game, it is embarrassing that such a thing happened. ISL have fantastic teams, good players and terrific coaches and we are being let down every week by poor officiating. At this level that should not be allowed to happen. We need top officials to work in a top league.”
Owen Coyle will hope he can work around these two factors that have hampered the progress of his project this season. Up next for his team are Bengaluru who are third on the table. A few wins on the trot could unlock the potential that this Jamshedpur team has. They are fun to watch but it’s just a matter of attaining the level of consistency that a team needs to compete for the playoffs. If anyone can pull it off, it is Owen Coyle, based on his first season in ISL.