NorthEast United FC comes into the new season on the back of its worst ever campaign in the Indian Super League (ISL). The highlanders finished at the bottom of the league, managing a meagre 11 points — the least by any team in the ISL’s four-year history. A leaky defence that conceded 27 goals and an underwhelming forward line that scored only 12, underlined NEUFC’s problems.
Among the teams that have played all four ISL seasons, NorthEast United is the only club to have never reached the semifinals, despite coming close on two occasions. Stability has eluded the club which has seen almost completely different teams each year. After a disastrous start to the last season under Portuguese coach Joao Carlos Pires de Deus, technical advisor Avram Grant took over mid-season. He too was unable to pull the team out of the hole.
It looks like another fresh start to a season for NEUFC. After Avram Grant decided to step down as head coach in August, his assistant during last season, Eelco Schattorie, has taken over reins at the club. Schattorie’s experience in Indian football with United SC (2012-14) and East Bengal (2015) will come in handy. Schattorie will have help from another experienced hand in Arthur Papas, the former Dempo and Pailan Arrows coach, who takes over as assistant coach.
This year’s squad barely bears any resemblance to last season’s outfit as only five players have been retained — Rowllin Borges, Rehenesh TP, Fanai Lalrempuia, Reagan Singh and Robert Lalthlamuana (all Indian players). Seimenlen Doungel, who scored a hat-trick last season against Chennaiyin FC, has signed for the Kerala Blasters. Marcinho, who was the only foreign player to impress last season, has not been retained either.
NorthEast United has brought in Croatian duo Mato Grgic and Mislav Komorski to plug the holes in defence which was shaky under Jose Goncalves, Sambino and Martin Diaz last year. Gurwinder Singh from East Bengal also makes a reliable addition to the backline. In midfield, Rupert Nongrum and Redeem Tlang’s arrival adds pacy and athletic options on the wing, and the Shillong-grown boys could become fan favourites.
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Colombian Jose David Luedo has been brought in to fortify the midfield with Rowllin Borges. Attacking midfielders Augustine Okrah from Ghana and Federico Gallego from Uruguay will add some much-needed flavour to NEUFC’s attack. Khiv Zimomi’s arrival from Gokulam Kerala strengthens the forwardline, as foreign signings Bartholomew Ogbeche and Juan Cruz Mascia look set to lead the attack.
After having to cancel its pre-season camp in Sweden, NEUFC limited its preparations to Guwahati. It defeated Guwahati Town 6-0 and won 4-0 against Laban S.C.
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