How quickly things can change in football, right?
Just a year back, NorthEast United FC were in the doldrums languishing at the bottom of the table. The atmosphere at the club was stale; there was no excitement in the stands.
After such a disastrous campaign, there were murmurs that the club might shut down. Those rumors proved to be untrue as the Highlanders elevated assistant coach Eelco Schattorie to the position of head coach for the 2018/19 Indian Super League season.
However, there was a cloud of uncertainty hanging over the Dutchman’s confirmation as the head coach.
“Me getting appointed was always a question mark. The club had to pull some strings to get me appointed,” he had stated to Goal.
Schattorie seemed an unlikely candidate to become the head coach ahead of the new ISL season but the Dutchman has so far managed to prove his legion of naysayers wrong.
From being perennial underachievers of the competition to the title- contenders - the transformation has been astonishing.
Schattorie ‘s men have shattered most misconceptions this season and when one looks at the state of the club when he took over, even to be challenging for a playoff spot at this stage is a miracle.
Everyone loves a good underdog story and NorthEast United FC’s ascendency this year has been a remarkable tale.
A team built on a shoestring budget has outsmarted much richer and famed teams by making most of the limited resources available.
Schattorie did not chase big money signings, preferring instead to focus on solid groundwork, ingenious scouting, and strong team support.
The Highlanders were very shrewd in the transfer market and made several bargain deals. Bartholomew Ogbeche, Federico Gallego, Juan Mascia, Mato Grgic, Mislav Komorski, and Josep Leudo have proved to be fantastic bargains in the eyes of many.
Interestingly, all of the aforementioned players were selected from the top division of their respective countries.
It is clear that Schattorie pounced on undervalued talent. NorthEast's shift away from signing aging stars and instead targeting undervalued young talent has paid rich dividends - a blueprint more and more ISL teams will start to follow.
The playing style under Schattorie has been another major talking point this season. It has earned plenty of praise from fans, pundits and media outlets.
At a time when their direct rivals were stubbornly devoted to a conservative approach focused on nullifying opponents, Schattorie’s men have captivated their supporters with adventurous, high-intensity and - crucially - attacking football.
In modern football, winning games is important, but there is also a responsibility to entertain the thousands of supporters who stick with the team in good or bad.
Schattorie must be given immense credit for obtaining these results that can only strengthen the argument that he should be given a contract extension.
Stability and security breeds’ success is one of the oldest adages in football and yet ISL clubs seem no closer to taking that statement to heart if recent events are any kind of guide.
FC Pune City, after enjoying a stellar season under Ranko Popovic, failed to secure him on a longer-term deal. His exit brought instability causing the club to struggle.
The Highlanders should take a lesson from FC Pune City failures. They need to give Schattorie the latitude to keep on going beyond this season.
Schattorie has enjoyed a wonderful start to life in charge of NorthEast United FC. The feel-good factor has returned to the club after it had arguably been distant for the past four seasons.
As he continues to mastermind a miraculous resurrection which, if maintained, should help him land a longer-term contract with the Highlanders.