Picking off from the fairytale run of Aizawl FC in 2016, Minerva Punjab scripted its own success story when it won the I-League title in March. While there were many names that were credited for its success -- Chencho Gyeltshen, the express winger from Bhutan, owner Ranjit Bajaj who was an ever-present figure in the dugout and former coach, Khogen Singh -- there was another individual who was a vital cog.
Technical consultant Joel Williams was a peripheral figure in Minerva's success story. Williams' role involved analysing the opponents' strengths and weaknesses before each game and providing a detailed plan to the coach. He also played an instrumental role in Minerva's transfer policy in its overseas signings - Chencho, Kassim Aidara and William Opoku among them.
When the availability of Chencho was brought to his attention through his tie with a Russian player agency, he knew the winger would add great value to the team. Despite scepticism, Williams was convinced of Chencho's potential after watching videos of the player. With little expected of Minerva at the start of the season, he believed the club was the perfect set up for Chencho to thrive. The forward repaid the faith with seven goals and as many assists.
After tasting success with the Punjab-based side, the 27-year-old Gibraltarian has since shifted base to Kozhikode in a bid to replicate that success with Gokulam Kerala. Immediate results seem to have followed Williams down south as Gokulam lifted the Kerala Premier League title, the State division championship, on June 3.
"We had just won the I-League and I felt I needed a further challenge to continue climbing the ladder to the top. I felt I had achieved what I set out to do at Minerva and wanted to replicate it in another club here in India. It's purely an ambitious move," Williams said of his switch.
"I have the equivalent of a C Licence here in India but it didn't stop me from helping Minerva win the I-league. If you know what you're doing you'll get the job done regardless what a piece of paper states," he said.
The challenge at hand with Gokulam will not be easy for Williams. The club is only into the second year of its existence and according to him, there is a need for a better organisation to be in place. Williams' role from now until the new season kicks-off would be assisting in the transfer policy at the club.
"Having a better transfer policy for foreigners [is important]. 13 foreigners were signed last season, which did not help the balance of the side," he said.
The club's owner VC Praveen has a vision of Gokulam winning the league and the ambition of churning out local players from the club's youth academy. Williams might just be the ace up Gokulam's sleeve as it aims to dream big.