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ISL 2020-21: SC East Bengal need youngsters if they want to turn their season around

ISL 2020-21: SC East Bengal need youngsters if they want to turn their season around

Sayan Chatterjee

Published: 21 Dec 2020 10:36 AM GMT

It goes without saying that SC East Bengal head coach Robbie Fowler has found life difficult in the Indian Super League (ISL) so far. His team have looked decent in patches but just haven’t been decisive enough in the important moments to eke out a victory. It was the same story once again last night against Kerala Blasters as they conceded an injury time equaliser and had to share the spoils for the second time this season.

However, Fowler might just have struck gold in the same match, almost by accident. After trying out a number of different midfield combinations in the past few games to no avail, he introduced teenager Haobam Tomba Singh from the start last night. In doing so, the 17-year-old became the second youngest ever starter in the league, a few months behind Jamshedpur FC’s Sandip Mandi who achieved that feat in February this year.

The Manipuri lad gave a good account of himself as he played for 70 minutes in the middle of the park and managed to hold his own against an accomplished Blasters side. He was then replaced by Yumnam Gopi Singh, another young prospect who was as good if not better than Tomba for the remaining 20 minutes as Fowler went in search of the second goal that could kill the match off. The 21-year-old winger had previously come in the spotlight following a promising 2017-18 season with Neroca FC. He was then signed up by ATK and represented the erstwhile Kolkata outfit in I-League second division as well as the Durand Cup. He was last seen playing for Bhawanipore FC in the I-League qualifiers in September and was one of the reasons why Bhawanipore were in with a chance of gaining promotion to the I-League.

All of this raises a very pertinent question, have SC East Bengal made the most of their resources to identify quality local talent? The answer to that at this point is an obvious NO. Both the domestic and foreign players seem to be struggling with their fitness and the side rarely look like they can compete for the whole 90 minutes physically. However, with the January transfer window approaching, the management would be well advised to get on board a few consultants who know the ins and outs of the domestic circuits and recruit youngsters like Tomba and Gopi who can make a difference in the second half of the season.

At this point, even their biggest fans would not be hopeful that the Red and Golds will finish in the top four. Instead, Fowler and company can ensure that they bring in a few promising local lads, build their confidence and look forward to next season with renewed optimism. In fact, that is the approach that teams like NorthEast United and Hyderabad FC have opted for and the fact that both these sides were undefeated until Matchday 7 was mostly down to the youngsters that they fielded. After all, if there’s one thing that this season has taught us, it is that the young Indian footballers are good enough to play in the ISL.

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