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Kerala Blasters are in the past – Terrific TP Rehenesh is in fine form at Jamshedpur

Rehenesh is now a key member of the Jamshedpur starting lineup…

The 2020-21 Indian Super League (ISL) is a crucial season in the professional career of Malayali goalkeeper TP Rehenesh. The custodian had unsuccessful stints at NorthEast United and Kerala Blasters and received a lot of flak for his displays in between the sticks for the Yellow Army during the 2019-20 season. 

But things seem to have changed for him at Jamshedpur FC and Rehenesh has managed it turn his fortunes around. The keeper is currently one of the most important players in Owen Coyle’s starting lineup, has started every single game he was available for selection so far for the Men of Steel. He has made more than a few brilliant saves to keep the team in the top-four mix. 

To find out why there has been such a marked difference in the levels of performances of the player at his current and previous clubs, it is worth exploring the cultural differences of how the game is viewed in these two cities. It may not be better or worse at Kerala Blasters, but it is definitely different. 

At Jamshedpur, Rehenesh has looked carefree. He has looked like he is enjoying the importance given to him by Coyle and has not looked to be under pressure from the fans at any point so far. 

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“Well, I can only speak about my goalkeeper, but there are some very good goalkeepers in the league. There was the Indian international at the other end today, Gurpreet (Singh Sandhu) made some fantastic saves today. But, about Rehenesh, when I was bringing him to the club I spoke to him beforehand and told him what I needed from him,” Coyle said after Jamshedpur FC’s 1-0 win over Bengaluru FC.

“On the back of that, I was determined to sign him which I did. There are still areas I want him to keep improving and striving to get better. But, he is a wonderful lad and gives us everything we need from a goalkeeper,” the 54-year-old said. 

Clearly, the approach that Coyle has taken with Rehenesh and the work that the support staff have done with him has boosted the goalkeeper’s confidence, which was down in the doldrums at his pervious club.

Rehenesh’s performance in Kerala was very poor to say the least and it could be argued that he was a victim of social media abuse at times. His confidence was shot and he never really recovered from it. 

Seven months ago, a teary-eyed TP Rehenesh apologetically stood in front of the Kerala Blasters supporters who were present at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium after a heavy 6-3 defeat at the hands of Chennaiyin in Kochi. He had gifted his opponents a goal due to a goalkeeping blunder and both outside the stadium and on social media, the abuses being hurled at the player were unstoppable. 

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Another factor to consider is the quality of defenders in front of him. So far, Rehenesh has made 27 saves, the most by any keeper in ISL this season, and kept three clean sheets (only the top two teams Mumbai City and ATK Mohun Bagan have more) in nine matches. However, he has much better leadership in front of him, thanks to the experience of Peter Hartley and Stephen Eze. 

Coyle’s tactics have also helped the keeper. The former Chennaiyin coach doesn’t want his team to boring but is also not a stickler for possession-based football to win matches and isn’t addicted to having his goalkeepers play out from the back every single time he gets the ball. For a keeper like Rehenesh, it helps. 

It’s been a phenomenal turnaround in the career of Rehenesh so far but the season is only half done. The team looks really good to be playoff contenders and the Malayali is on his way to complete a massive comeback from his disastrous stint in Kochi.

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