ISL 2018-19: Can Northeast United FC maintain their early-season momentum?
Northeast United FC under head coach Eelco Schattorie has already sprung something of a surprise by being in contention for a playoff spot after 12 games. Northeast United find themselves in the fourth position above the likes of Jamshedpur FC, ATK and Pune City.
It was predicted by critics and fans alike at the start of the season that, NEUFC would struggle, just like every other season. The Highlanders looked doomed. However mind-blowingly, they have proved their doubters wrong.
Bartholomew Ogbeche (9 goals and 1 assist) and Federico Gallego (3 goals and 5 assists) have been the fulcrum of the NEUFC attack.
In midfield, Josep Leudo and Rowlin Borges have been stellar.
But it was the largely unheralded signings made in the summer transfer window that has proved pivotal to NEUFC’s surge up the league - the Croatian defensive duo of Mato Grgic and Mislav Komorski.
And of course, no one can deny the Eelco Schattorie’s impact since taking over as the head coach of the team. The Dutchman has transformed an underachieving club into one of the most exciting attacking sides in the ISL. Schattorie’s style of play, with its high energy and continual hustle, has been hugely effective in maximizing attacking verve and defensive robustness.
NEUFC have a final stretch of six matches to break the jinx of never qualifying for the play-off stage even once in the league’s history. The job still needs to be finished and it is still possible that NEUFC could fumble this golden opportunity.
Strong starts by unfancied teams are not usual but maintaining that momentum throughout the season is another thing.
NEUFC have had a poor run of form lately and the club is on a four-match winless streak.
"From my side, you have to be careful that you do not become a victim of your own success. Last game when we were playing against the league leaders, we were disappointed that we lost points but we received too many criticisms like bad defense and goalkeeper. We have to consider that we have the lowest budget."
"At this moment there are 17 or 18 players from where I can pick the team. We have some injuries. My goal is to stay in the top four but it is a huge task," said Eelco Schattorie to Goal.
Schattorie believes his squad does not have enough depth and NEUFC’s top-four hopes depend on improving their squad in January.
Augustine Okrah, NEUFC’s Ghanaian midfielder will miss the remainder of the season due to an injury. It is imperative the club bosses put together a list of targets to replace him.
Schattorie and his team also need to turn their focus to strengthening their Indian roster. Mumbai City FC's Md Rafique and Chennaiyin FC’s Srinivasan Pandiyan could be valuable additions to the squad.
There are budget constraints but if NEUFC can put it all together, a great season may not be too far away.