I-League: "New foreigners are not delivering" – Former United Sikkim Coach Philippe de Ridder
United Sikkim’s debut season in the I-League has been disappointing, as with three games remaining they are rock-bottom and seven points off safety. The Bhaichung Bhutia-owned club have also scored the fewest goals and conceded the most.
In three different matches, they have let in at least seven goals, with the latest one being a 9-0 hammering against Salgaocar last week. In most of their performances, the talent and effort has been evident but the lack of experience and strength-in-depth in their squad has been badly exposed.
The first of those three embarrassing defeats came in November in a 10-1 defeat against Prayag United, when Belgian coach Philippe de Ridder was in charge. The former East Bengal coach was removed from the head-coach role after that game and made the football director.
For a few weeks, Bhaichung Bhutia tripled up as a the player, co-owner and head coach before hiring Australian Nathan Hall, who became the youngest coach in I-League history. Under Hall, who turned 28 earlier this week, United Sikkim have put in some brave performances like the goalless draw against Mohun Bagan and narrow defeats to title contenders Pune FC and Churchill Brothers.
But Hall has only been able to register one win since taking charge in December. That victory was the 5-0 hammering of Air India last month, and the Sikkim club needs a miracle in the last three games to stand any chance of coming out of the bottom two.
His predecessor de Ridder believes that the Sikkim club’s lack of experience in the squad and the presence of a coach who is new to Indian football are the reasons for another heavy defeat.
“I feel sad. United Sikkim played their first match against Salgaocar and beat them brilliantly 3-2 but received a 9-0 in the return match. There are certainly a lot of question marks on the strategy and players’ positioning. The coach has little experience and very limited knowledge of Indian football,” de Ridder told Sportskeeda.
The Belgian also feels the huge contrast in the weather of Gangtok and most other I-League venues has also been a factor.
Following the 7-0 loss to Dempo in January, Hall blamed de Ridder for building a team full of kids, and now the former United Sikkim head coach has hit back by criticising the performances of the foreigners that were signed in the winter window.
The Sikkim club had changed three of their foreigners in the middle of the season, but that hasn’t changed their fortunes.
“Certain player changes are very questionable and also certain new foreign players are not delivering quality football,” de Ridder opined.
In his new role as the football director, de Ridder had nearly got central defender Sandesh Jhingan the chance to play for a Chinese club, but unfortunately the 19-year old got injured and the Belgian is not sure whether such an opportunity will come again for the centre-back.
“As football director, my main objective was to try to and expose a United Sikkim player on the international market, which I succeeded with an unknown player (Sandesh). A lot of people offer trials but to have a real opportunity in the first team of a club abroad without a sponsor like I managed, I really don’t know if it will be possible again,” he stated.Published 19 Apr 2013, 19:24 IST