Retaining Colaco shows that East Bengal are learning from past mistakes
Only last week it looked like Armando Colaco’s contract saga at East Bengal won’t have a happy ending as negotiations hit a deadlock. Much like in the recent past, East Bengal were stubborn and not willing to accept the terms and conditions of the I-League’s most successful coach.
It was understandable why the Kolkata club were rejecting Colaco’s request of allowing him to coach in the Indian Super League as well but there was no logical explanation as to why they were not agreeing to a pay-rise for the 60-year-old.
At one stage it looked like Colaco would return to Churchill Brothers for a second spell and he was also publicly critical of East Bengal’s approach. East Bengal were claiming that they have plenty of backups ready but in truth the red-and-gold brigade didn’t have too many worthy alternatives. That eventually played a big part in East Bengal finally accepting some of the demands of Colaco as a new one-year contract was agreed.
The new deal was made official on Thursday and gave relief to the club’s enormous fanbase as they feared the repeat of last summer when East Bengal parted ways with the highly consistent Trevor James Morgan and appointed Brazilian Marcos Falopa, who had not been coaching for five years.
Falopa guided the club to the semi-finals of the AFC Cup but overall his three-month spell turned out to be a disaster as there were several injuries in the squad due to questionable pre-season preparations while they also made a poor start in the I-League.
Colaco took charge in November and initially struggled to get the best out of the team as he took time to recognise the team’s best eleven. But eventually the former India coach’s experience made the difference as the club picked up the local league title and also found consistency in the I-League. They eventually fell short in the title race but finished runners-up, an improvement from the 2012-13 campaign.
But despite the good work done by Colaco, although he didn’t conduct a pre-season or choose the players at his disposal, it wouldn’t have been surprising to see East Bengal get rid of him as only one coach has been in charge of one full season at the club during the I-League era. That coach is of course Morgan who spent three seasons, in which he won six major trophies and never finished outside the top three of the I-League.
However in three seasons prior to Morgan’s reign, East Bengal had five different coaches with their highest I-League finish in that period being sixth.
So Morgan’s consistent tenure and the tumultuous current spell of arch-rivals Mohun Bagan have certainly taught East Bengal a few lessons. Unlike his predecessors Morgan was given the time to build a squad and retain it and because of that the Englishman was able to re-establish East Bengal as one of the best teams in the country while in his last season he also restored East Bengal’s reputation at Asian level.
Meanwhile Mohun Bagan have had nine different coaches since February 2010 and are currently enduring a four-year trophy drought. Having got rid of the stability under Morgan last summer, East Bengal were in danger of committing the same blunder that their fierce rivals have been guilty of for the last four seasons.
Even someone as successful as Colaco found it difficult to get results when he took charge of East Bengal midway through the campaign. Despite having the best squad in I-League, East Bengal failed to win the title because of the lack of continuity in the coaching staff at the start of the season. The club officials clearly didn’t want to make the same mistake and thus have kept faith in Colaco for one more season.
Retaining the former Dempo coach doesn’t guarantee them the I-League title but they do stand a better chance with Colaco because the Goan now has that first season out of the way and thus will be well aware of the challenges of coaching in Kolkata. More importantly he has a better idea of the current squad now and thus will be well aware about the areas to strengthen and the type of foreigners needed.
The club have also decided to appoint a gym instructor and nutritionist as per Colaco’s instructions and they would need to allow the five-time I-League winning coach the same freedom in choosing the players also. Colaco’s excellent CV demands respect and East Bengal have certainly shown that and given themselves a better chance of landing the elusive I-League trophy next season.