SC East Bengal was incorporated into the Indian Super League just a few short weeks before the start of the 2020/21 season. While this was a reason to celebrate, four weeks of pre-season was hardly enough for Robbie Fowler and the SC East Bengal coaching staff to impose their philosophy on a relatively new squad.
The situation was not ideal, but the pre-season had its good moments too. A 3-1 win over Kerala Blasters in a pre-season friendly was exactly what the doctor ordered for Robbie Fowler. The manager had been in charge of the club for less than a month at that point.
Anthony Pilkington, the former Norwich City FC striker, netted a brace and it seemed as though the Red and Gold Brigade would come out flying in the opening fixtures of the new season.
However, the shortened pre-season and the lack of time to gel as a squad saw SC East Bengal concede bragging rights in the Kolkata Derby. They would go on a losing streak until a goal-less draw against Jamshedpur FC, where they managed to keep a clean sheet.
Jacques Maghoma would score a brace in a 3-2 loss against Hyderabad FC to give SC East Bengal some encouragement.
As things stand, SC East Bengal are rooted to the bottom of the table. However, there is still hope for Fowler's men as they look to navigate their way through the ISL. Here are three reasons why the club can turn their season around.
#1 A good squad that plays good football
On paper, the SC East Bengal squad is quite strong. Among their overseas players, Anthony Pilkington and Daniel Fox have both played top-flight football in England - one of the toughest leagues in the world.
Jacques Maghoma has played in the Championship with Birmingham City. Scott Neville and Aaron Amadi-Holloway also played under Fowler for the Brisbane Roar in the past.
The Indian players in the East Bengal roster include Jeje Lalpheklua, who happens to be one of the best goalscorers in ISL history. CK Vineeth, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, and Narayan Das have plenty of experience playing in the ISL and are all capped internationals as well.
Only the goalkeeping department remains an issue with neither Debjit Majumder nor Sankar Roy having much experience playing the Indian top-flight. However, the squad looks quite strong on paper.
Of course, Fowler is still trying to figure out the right combination for the team, but there has also been some good football played. While they have been short defensively, their attacking play has been quite good. Each time Maghoma or Pilkington get the ball at their feet, it seems as though they will make something happen.
#2 Refereeing decisions and injuries going against SC East Bengal
Any red-blooded football fan will say that the red card against Eugeneson Lyngdoh was a soft one. It should have never been given. While the first challenge was a clear yellow card, the second saw the former Bengaluru FC man quite clearly win the ball.
There have been several similar decisions that have gone against the club, and Fowler has made his feelings clear by sending 'feedback' to the AIFF.
The injury to club captain Danny Fox has not helped things either. The injury meant that Fowler has had to change the shape of the team's defensive unit, with Scott Neville, Mohammad Irshad, and Senhaj Singh playing in a back-three.
#3 They turned a corner against Hyderabad FC
Jacques Maghoma was one of the liveliest players on the pitch for SC East Bengal against Hyderabad FC. Maghoma always looks ready to create chances and evokes a similar feeling as Jorge Ortiz of FC Goa whenever he gets the ball.
Despite the loss to Hyderabad FC, it is quite clear that SC East Bengal has turned a corner and are looking more dangerous than they were at the start of the season.
It seems inconceivable that the likes of Jeje Lalpheklua and Anthony Pilkington won't get on the scoresheet at some point in the first leg of matches in the ISL this season.Published 18 Dec 2020, 16:04 IST