Nelo Vingada in Kerala Blasters - Short-term fix or in it for the long run?
David James had been given a three-year contract only ten months earlier, an indication that Kerala Blasters understood what he had to do and how he liked to do it.
But then, quite rightly, Blasters decided to part ways before he had completed one season. They had a long-term plan, but they didn’t want to lose sight of the short-term objectives either.
Languishing at the bottom half of the table, an 11-game winless streak and fans anger at its peak, Blasters hierarchy were faced with a conundrum- How do you go about laying the foundations for long-term success, while also delivering a short-term fix?
Blasters have identified former NorthEast United FC manager Nelo Vingada as their man, entrusted with the task of reviving their fortunes.
The appointment of the Portuguese, on a deal until the end of the season, maybe a sign club's fortunes could be changing, if one takes a look at his globetrotting, trophy-filled CV.
Vingada boasts an impressive pedigree during his years as a manager, which includes stints with K-League side FC Seoul, Iranian powerhouse Persepolis FC and Chinese Super League side Dalian Shide FC, as well as the Saudi Arabia and Jordan national teams.
The short-term view is clear: Blasters will be hoping that Vingada’s arrival can spark the players back into life and ensure they finish the season on a high.
Vingada himself will see it as a win-win. If Blasters finish bottom of the pile, he can say he was given too little time to save them, while if they see a major upturn in their form, he will more than likely be offered a longer deal at Blasters.
When David James was appointed, fans expected the team to play an exciting brand of football, taking the game to their opponents by playing a high-intensity game. That never transpired under the Englishman. Instead, the fans were fed with dour performances, lacking creativity, and a manager who chopped and changed his starting line-up cluelessly.
While fans might desire a manager who will implement a more attractive style of play, but the first and foremost task of the new incumbent will be to achieve results and rediscover their winning ways.
However, this is not to say that style don’t matter. It is important but the short-term objective is to be competitive in the league and for that Vingada must strike a balance between pragmatism and attack and not get seduced into stroking the ego of the fans or his own.
Needless to say, the Portuguese will have its work cut out transforming the current crop of players. Vingada finds himself in the middle of someone else's mess, yet he must restore stability and unity while improving players he has inherited, that's a basic requirement.
Blasters have expressed an apparent desire to trim rather than add to their bloated and imbalanced squad, with Halicharan Nazary and Sandesh Jhingan expected to depart. The out-of-favour CK Vineeth could move, too. making room for fresh blood.
Meanwhile, the presence of too many below-par players has been pulling the team down. Blasters are crying out for players who can give them a cutting edge, starting with a clinical finisher.
Both Slavisa Stojanovic and Slovenian striker Matej Poplatnik have looked out of depth at ISL level. With the January transfer window drawing ever closer, it is unlikely Vingada will get to add any fresh overseas players to his roster. So, he has to bring out the best in the existing squad while also progressing the club’s younger players.
Blasters cannot realistically target the title anymore and this allows Vingada the freedom to have a free swing and try to claw its way back into the top half of the table. The target should be top five where the gap right now is 10 points, it’s a target that will be tough to reach given the form of the teams in front but nevertheless, Blasters should still aim to get there.
Strong performances, positive results in the remainder of the season will strengthen Vingada’s case for a longer-term deal and possibly given a free hand in the summer to make the changes required to ensure another season like this one doesn’t happen again.