The last time Khalid Jamil left Kolkata, it was not the kind of farewell he would have wanted in the country’s football capital, but he will try every bit to make his second spell in the city a memorable one.
After a fourth-place finish in the previous season of the I-League and a loss in the final against Bengaluru FC in the inaugural Indian Super Cup, the coach was not retained by East Bengal.
After a few months in hibernation, the gaffer was summoned by heavyweights Mohun Bagan in their hour of need.
So far, he has delivered, winning two out of two matches, but his first real test will be Sunday’s ‘Kolkata Derby,’ a fixture which he has not mastered yet.
The green and maroon brigade’s outing in the ongoing I-League has been a topsy-turvy ride, without a pattern to the graph and mainly marked by inconsistent performances.
Inability to maintain the lead, lack of understanding in the defence has been the primary problems for Bagan this season.
The ‘Kolkata Derby’ loss to East Bengal was the first major setback for the century-old club, but the worst was yet to come. Consecutive defeats to NEROCA FC and Real Kashmir FC asked many questions.
A change of hands
Just when the management was about to be put under the scanner, their then coach Shankarlal Chakraborty resigned after the defeat to debutants Real Kashmir FC at home.
With limited time at their disposal, Bagan’s think tank reached out for Khalid Jamil to rescue the voyage of the ‘Mariners.’ With little time to settle, the I-League winning coach made use of the limited resources available to him. Although, their game did not ascend drastically, yet the results were positive.
Khalid’s started off his second stint in the Kolkata ‘Maidan’ with style, winning their home match against Minerva Punjab FC 2-0.
Double delight followed as the four-time league winner edged past NEROCA FC a couple of days later in a very hard-fought clash at the Salt Lake Stadium. This was a picture perfect start for Khalid, a hundred percent record so far.
This was not the case when he was in charge with their rivals last year. For the records, East Bengal was held to a 2-2 draw in their opening game last year, while they lost to Mohun Bagan 0-1 in the next match!
Khalid Jamil was not fortunate enough to architect his own army, not only that, he was given responsibility when many of their players were injured.
But he was brave enough to instill a sense of confidence in the players which seemed to work perfectly for the entire team. He is that kind of a coach who will give you the results even if the team is not very superior in papers.
A bit of history
His managerial career started with Mumbai FC, the club where he spent his last days as a professional footballer.
His managerial skills were impressive from the first season. Even though Mumbai FC finished at the 11th spot out of the 14 teams, but his efforts with the limited financial resources at the club was lauded by everyone.
The following season, Mumbai FC finished at the 7th spot, a huge achievement according to the circumstances.
During his last season for the ‘Yellow Army’, he managed to finish at the fifth place in the 2015-16 I-League season, following which he was sacked and making him the longest-running manager in the history of the league.
He was roped in by Aizawl FC for the next season, the decision which changed his life and the North Eastern club forever!
He inspired the team to a historic I-League title, recreating a Leicester City feat, claiming the championship just after the year they were promoted to the top tier.
Can he change Mohun Bagan's fortune
Managing a team like Mohun Bagan is very different from a stay at a club like Mumbai FC or Aizawl FC.
The Kolkata giants are backed by a huge fan following around and the expectations are sky high, the onus will be on the coach to deliver the results and these clubs always compete for the title.
This makes the job even more challenging. He was not so successful with East Bengal, a club with an equal stature as Mohun Bagan, can he succeed this time? Only time will tell.
Mohun Bagan has a pretty balanced side which includes match winners in the likes Haitian magician Sony Norde, Cameroonian goal machine Dipanda Dicka, Egyptian playmaker Omar El Husseiny and also Henry Kisekka.
The Indian contingent also looks competitive with Pintu Mahata, Arijit Bagui and Sourav playing vital roles in their respective departments.
Mohun Bagan is currently at the sixth position in the league table with 21 points from 13 matches. To sum it up, Khalid Jamil has got the essential firepower in his arsenal, but time whether they will fire when it really matters.
Can Khalid Jamil break his ‘Kolkata Derby’ jinx and change the fortunes of Mohun Bagan on Sunday evening? It’s now or never for him.Published 25 Jan 2019, 07:25 IST