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ISL: All you need to know about new East Bengal head coach and his coaching staff

ISL: All you need to know about new East Bengal head coach and his coaching staff

Sayan Chatterjee

Published: 9 Oct 2020 3:31 PM GMT

The announcement of East Bengal FC’s entry into the Indian Super League (ISL) has been the reason for much fanfare in the Red and Gold parts of Kolkata. But what would have got the fans even more buzzing is the type of moves that the club has been making in the transfer window and especially in their hunt for a new head coach. That head coach, it has now been confirmed, is Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler.

The forward, who netted 183 goals for Liverpool over two spells for the club is ranked 7th in the list of all time highest goal scorers in the Premier League and arrives in the city of joy with unquestionable pedigree and big match nous, as well as a hit and miss managerial CV.

The ‘God of Anfield’ joins East Bengal after a 15-month managerial stint at Brisbane Roar in the A-League, where he had previously played for Perth Glory and North Queensland Fury. Before that, he had a player-manager role at Thai club Muangthong United back in 2011.

That, however, wasn’t the most pleasant of seasons for the Kop-end favourite with his team finishing 3rd, 25 points behind bitter rivals and eventual champions Buriram United. To be fair to him it was a confusing time for him at a foreign league, having had very little time to adjust physically and then thrust into a coaching role in the middle of the season after Henrique Calisto was sacked. Things unravelled quickly henceforth, with the fans underwhelmed with his fitness and impetus in games, and Fowler would be the first to admit that moving to Thailand at that stage in his career was probably a flawed decision. He then moved back to England to finish his coaching badges.

fowler Robbie Fowler during his playing days (Source: This is Anfield)

He took charge of Brisbane Roar in April 2019 and after a slow start to their campaign, took them to fourth in the league standings before the Covid-19 pandemic brought a halt to proceedings. He also played a major role in the reshaping of the Roar’s team as he oversaw a transitional season for his side which had won just 4 out of their 27 games in the 2018-19 season, finishing second from bottom.

Since taking over, Fowler was the catalyst in 10 wins and 5 draws in 22 matches, injecting pace and pragmatism in the team’s gameplay. But what could have been an eventual success story for the club, its fans and Fowler, turned south after the Englishman returned to the United Kingdom in March to be closer to his family at the peak of the pandemic. He also made a controversial statement that wouldn’t have gone down well with the Brisbane Roar management when he said that him being a foreigner made him feel ‘less of a priority’ in the eyes of the club. Thereafter, it was decided that they would be parting ways with an official announcement by the club in June confirming the same.

Although his spell at Brisbane came to an abrupt halt, there are quite a few talking points from his time at the club. Soon after taking charge, Fowler saw fourteen players walk out the door and along with his assistant manager Tony Grant, he went about changing the look of the side by raiding England’s lower league teams. Players were brought in from Carlisle United, Bury, Rochdale and the likes, while the 45-year-old also went about making slight changes in the way the team functioned during matches by changing the walk-in music and arranging the coaching staff’s sitting arrangement in a way that would enable them to influence the assistant referee.

The fine tuning and the mind games weren’t enough initially though, with the team not able to record a win in their first four matches. However, their form improved at the turn of the year and Fowler won back to back Manager of the Month awards in January and February, taking his side up to fourth. Even though the team had started grinding out results, fans were not very happy with the style of play with some fans even labelling Fowler’s pragmatic approach as ‘Brexit Ball’, a modification of the infamous park-the-bus strategy.

East Bengal and Shree Cemnts (Source: East Bengal) East Bengal will feature in ISL 2020-21 (Source: East Bengal)

Off the field, this friction between him and the entire culture of football in Australia started taking a rough turn. Fowler publicly criticised the A-League’s salary cap, the scheduling of games as well as the standard of refereeing before going on to refuse shaking hands with his Western United counterpart in December. His relationship with the fans wasn’t the best either with him consistently defying their jabs and remarks on his side’s playing style in interviews and on social media. The final straw was him entering a war of words with a fan on twitter with the entire fan base appalled at his condescending tone, a further hit to his reputation.

A topsy-turvy season came to a premature end for Fowler when he was relieved of his duties in June even though Brisbane still had four matches left to be played in July to conclude their 2019-20 campaign. While he was initially linked with a move to English Championship side Birmingham City, East Bengal stole a march on them and got their man. His influence on the club’s transfer dealings is evident already with East Bengal targeting Wigan’s Daniel Fox and Brisbane Roar’s Scott Neville based on his inputs. With him being at the helm, the Red and Gold fans can be hopeful of an eventful debut ISL campaign both on the field and off it. Although only time will tell whether they get to see his tactically brilliant side or if his eccentric modus operandi takes centre-stage, Robbie Fowler’s name and the weight that it carries is sure to make Indian football fans sit up and take notice.

Here is the full list of coaches that Fowler will have with him at East Bengal:

Assistant coach: Anthony Grant Set piece coach Terence McPhillips GK coach: Bobby Mimms Sports Scientist: Jack Inman Physiotherapist: Michael Harding Analyst: Joseph Walmsley Indian Asst. Coach: Renedy Singh

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