Indian Super League 2017-18: ATK seek to build on past success
The most consistent team in the Indian Super League owed a lot of it to the partnership with 2014 La Liga champions Atletico Madrid. While most teams were finding their feet, ATK trained in Madrid under a coaching staff provided by the management that also had Diego Simeone as coach.
And even when Antonio Lopez Habas was replaced by Jose Molina as coach, on the pitch the foreign contingent found by Atletico Madrid provided the cohesion from the back to front.
But with the relationship between Madrid and ATK’s management somewhere between strained and severed, the squad, barring goalie Debjit Majumder and defender Prabir Das who were retained, and the coaching staff looks very different going into season 4.
Rarely do defending champions do away with continuity thus. But in a nascent league where a players’ draft leaves all teams somewhat unbalanced, ATK’s may yet make a smooth transition from the Spanish to the English way.
2014: Champions, beating Kerala Blasters 1-0 in the final through Mohammed Rafique’s matchwinner.
2015: Semi-finalists: Lost 2-4 on aggregate to eventual champions Chennaiyin FC over two legs.
2016: Champions, beating Kerala Blasters on 4-3 on penalties after the final ended 1-1 from open play.
Not much is known about Teddy Sheringham’s coaching abilities because he has managed only Stevenage before this and that too for a little over eight months.
But as a player, there was more to Sheringham than that famous equaliser and providing a flick-on for Manchester United to escape to victory and to a Champions League title.
Time will tell whether the ISL makes a successful coach out of a great player but for someone who known to play a mean hand at poker, he certainly wouldn’t be averse to taking a risk.
Players to watch out for
Robbie Keane: At 37, he has to show that age is a number in a league that has got longer and bigger and is played in climatic conditions far different from what he has been used to. Ireland’s highest scorer has shone for Tottenham Hotspur and LA Galaxy but like with Sheringham, this will be a test case on which ATK’s fortunes could hinge.
Debjit Majumder: Don’t go by his size is the refrain in the ISL and at Mohun Bagan where he manned the posts to an I-League and Federation Cup titles. Good in air, he could be needed to lead from the back especially in a team with a new look. Kept three clean sheets last term.
Eugeneson Lyngdoh: David Platt praised him when he was at FC Pune City and Robbie Keane said the midfielder plays like a European. Comfortable with both feet, he cost Rs 1.1 crore at the draft and many would think this midfielder is worth every penny.