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ISL

ISL: A year of unfulfilled potential for Jamshedpur FC

In a season of lows and a few persevering highs, the ISL has uncovered some gems for Jamshedpur FC. Yet, they have several gaping holes to fill.

ISL: A year of unfulfilled potential for Jamshedpur FC
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After an inconsistent showing in the ISL 2023-24, Jamshedpur FC left to recalibrate for the next season. (FILE PHOTO: Jamshedpur FC/X)

By

John Mathew

Published: 8 May 2024 7:17 AM GMT

When a league winners go on par with the bottom two of the league in the very next season, it tends to make one look at them in shock. But such is the Indian Super League's (ISL) volatility that Jamshedpur FC, the winners of the 2021-2022 league shield, have struggled to keep pace with the rest following the slow disintegration of the team.

If last season was disappointing for the then-reigning champions, this season was about some much-needed, infant steps towards rebuilding. It was time for a new project, but it did not yield results on the expected lines.

Scott Cooper's appointment as head coach was both a good and a bad call. While he was enthusiastic and instilled an identity in the club which his predecessor failed to achieve, he did lack much top-level experience, especially outside the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) nation, where he had worked till then. Looking back, that still is the best way to explain his 12-game reign - entertaining, but riddled with reflection of his inexperience.

Scott Cooper ahead of the season (Photo credits: Jamshedpur FC on X)

With the aim of rebuilding, Jamshedpur had embarked on a squad overhaul. The likes of Ishan Pandita, Farukh Choudhary, Boris Singh and foreigners like Eli Sabia and Rafa Crivellaro left the club, and a new set of replacements, many of them young, rushed in. Nongdamba Naorem, Emil Benny, Imran Khan and 19-year-old Mohammed Sanan along with a new set of foreigners such as Sliskovic, Elsinho and Manzorro joined Jamshedpur FC.

But things don't always go according to plan, rarely when a team go through the rebuilding process. And as the first step of the turbulence that was about to be felt; Petar Sliskovic was ruled out due to injury and Steve Ambri came in as his replacement. But Ambri never could replicate the charisma of Sliskovic.

Jamshedpur made an average start to the season, managing five points from the first four games, leaving them in sixth place. Their football was appreciated as it was often daring and different to what was seen from them. Scott Cooper was garnering several admirers.

What followed was a downfall of the highest order. Five defeats in the next six games meant they slumped to 10th in the table. Although a 5-0 win against beleaguered Hyderabad FC was a rare flash of brilliance, a 1-4 away defeat at Kalinga proved to be the final nail in Scot Cooper's short reign. He departed just before the Asian Cup break, ahead of the Super Cup with a disappointing record of two wins, three draws and seven losses from 12 games.

With the Super Cup in mind, Jamshedpur needed a replacement at the helm quickly; and so came in Khalid Jamil. Khalid's ideology was completely different from Cooper's, but it was a chance for an Indian coach in India's premier division.

Khalid's reign was the spark for a renaissance. Jamshedpur went with unseen confidence and vigour into the Super Cup winning all of their group games, qualifying for the semifinals.

Peaking eventually, they qualified from the group securing nine out of nine points, even beating then-league leaders Kerala Blasters. Jamshedpur fell to eventual champions East Bengal in the semifinals, but their resurgence was visible and widely acclaimed.

Jamshedpur returned to the league carrying over their stellar form. They went unbeaten in five games, including a stunning 3-2 win over Mumbai City FC, their biggest since the end of the last season. With five matches to go, Khalid and his men were at sixth place; in contention for a play-off spot.

But things were to take yet another turn for the worse. Grabbing just one point from the final five games, Jamshedpur finished second from bottom. Their awful run included a draw against Mumbai which was later overturned into a loss for fielding an extra foreigner. While Khalid's reign brought points, it still seemed unfeasible in the long run with the team constantly dipping in the points table.

Best moment of the season

Coming off some demotivating performances in the Super Cup; Jamshedpur were not expected to beat the then league leaders Kerala Blasters โ€” one of the then favourites for the competition. Yet, they showed great determination and sheer intensity to beat a strong Kerala Blasters side 3-2 to confirm their entry into the semifinals.

Goal of the season

Jeremy Manzorro's free-kicks have been a work of art, constantly pulling out crucial points for Jamshedpur FC. His second goal in the 4-0 rout of Punjab was a goal of class. An angular, 30-yard, dipping free-kick, grazed the crossbar before going in. In a season of inconsistencies, Jeremy's free-kicks were a constant.

Player of the season

Jeremy Manzorro gearing up for a free-kick against East Bengal (Photo credits: ISL Media)

Jeremy Manzorro, the French lynchpin was crucial in Jamshedpur's resurgence in the league, bringing them within touching distance of the play-offs. Five goals and an assist from 20 games, along with 33 chances created (most for the side) surely made him one of the most impressive players for Jamshedpur.

Manzorro was one of the best deep-lying playmakers in the league throughout the season. Imran Khan and Elsinho are a couple of players who had stellar outings as well and do deserve their accolades.

Emerging player of the Season

Coming through the ranks of Reliance Foundation Young Champs, Sanan was not a name many knew. But the electric winger etched his name into Jamshedpur folklore by becoming the second-youngest-ever ISL goalscorer for the club at 19. Rapid off the blocks, charged in his movements and elusive in changing directions, Sanan proved to be a handy winger who is a potential talent for all of India to look forward to.

Season rating

In a season of turbulent lows and a few persevering highs, the ISL has uncovered some gems for Jamshedpur FC. Yet, they have several gaping holes to fill. The club owned by Tata Steel still need to build their core to stabilise their campaign next season. Jamshedpur's season showed promise but it was inconsistent and far from being effective. Retaining the potential would be key to their continued progress, earning them a rating of 4 out of 10.

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