ISL 2018-19: 5 key players for NorthEast United FC this season
When the ISL started five years ago, NorthEast United FC were billed as one of the biggest teams to watch, and some even went to the extent, given the region's love for the sport, to claim that NEUFC would be one of the major contenders for the title. Fast forward to the present date and the bookmakers couldn't have been more wrong in predicting NorthEast United's future.
The team finished bottom of the table twice and finished 5th twice in the league's four-year-old history, making it the only team which hasn't qualified for the knockout phase of the tournament even once.
Last year was a disaster for the John Abraham-owned franchise, as they finished 10th in the season. The Highlanders had a managerial change midway through the season, but the move didn't do much to change their fortunes for the season. Their main problem last season was their inability to score goals.
This season didn't start all rosy for the Guwahati-based franchise as their first choice for head coach, Avram Grant, who joined the team midway last season, decided not to pursue his role as head coach of NEUFC this season and instead, is wearing the hat of a technical advisor.
Avram Grant's assistant last season, Eelco Schattorie has been named the head coach for this season and ex-Indian Arrows coach, Arthur Papas will be working as his deputy.
If one listens to the chatter birds closely, then one can hear that a few of the ISL clubs have been suffering financially. A significant reason for this was their exuberant spending on aged 'retirement home' stars.
NorthEast United are one of those clubs which has been having specific issues regarding finances since the massive drop in attendance figures last season. One reason that can be attributed to the lack of spectators in the stands is the team's poor performance for the past few seasons.
NorthEast United have decided to spend smart this season and have invested in younger players more, rather than big names with big price tags. Even the foreign players of NorthEast United are relatively young, which is a good sign for the league too. The average age of NorthEast United FC foreigners is 26 with only two of the foreigners in their 30's.
This season the team will also rely heavily upon its young Indian signings too.
In this article, we take a look at five players who will be crucial for NorthEast United FC this season.
#5 Rowllin Borges (Central Midfielder)
Rowllin Borges is NorthEast United's most important Indian player hands down. He has been the team's most important cog in their midfield and will be their leading man in midfield again.
Playing as a 'Regista' (deep lying playmaker), he will be the first name on Eelco's team list. Given the style of football Eelco prefers to play, Rowllin will be given ample opportunities to go forward and score goals. Last season, the Goanese midfielder was used as a defensive screen for most games, and he couldn't showcase his attacking ability or creativity much. This season, though, should be different for him as Eelco loves his midfielders making deep runs into the opposition half and latching onto second balls.
Rowllin has already scored in both the practice games that NorthEast United have played so far, and it is evident in the way that Eelco is using him, that he will have more freedom to go about his game than the previous season.
Rowllin would also want to get off to a good start with the AFC Asian Cup around the corner. It would be his last chance to get back into the good books of the Indian gaffer and finalise a ticket to UAE. With youngsters like Anirudh Thapa, Vinit Rai, Germanpreet Singh, and Amarjit Singh Kiyam performing so well in recent times, it could be tough for Rowllin to go to UAE.