Under the reign of Steve Coppell, Jamshedpur FC earned the plaudits for being one of the best defensive sides in the Indian Super League (ISL). But most of their matches turned into a snooze-fest as they had a dismal record in the attacking third, having scored only 16 times in 18 matches, a figure which betters only that of wooden spooners North East United FC. But Jamshedpur fans can now hope for a change in their fortunes as their new gaffer Cesar Ferrando has promised that the team would play 'to entertain'.
The former Atletico Madrid manager is looking to strengthen the squad with more attacking players.
"The team lacked in several positions last year. So this year my primary job is to build a strong team with more attacking players. We are going to bring one very good player in defence to help Tiri, one very good midfielder, one attacking midfielder and one attacker. We will be pressing higher up the pitch so that we can recover the ball as quickly as possible. We believe in playing with short passes and not long balls. We must entertain the supporters with our football following the Spanish philosophy.
"I will be bringing in Spanish players with whom I have worked in the past. It will be easier for me to connect with them. I have been following them in various countries and conditions. For me, commitment is more important than quality. If I bench a player to recover well for the next match the player will accept it with a smile and not with a grumpy face. So I will bring players that I am familiar with and who will give their 100 per cent for the team," said Ferrando to Goal after he was unveiled as the head coach of Jamshedpur FC.
The new head coach will be looking to devote considerable time towards the reserve team and hopes that it provide a steady supply of players to the senior team.
"I have made my own little review after talking to various coaches, players and various other people who are involved with the league. I truly believe that Indian players are committed, strong, and if they are coached with a proper tactical approach, they can do well. We watched the training of their reserve team and would like to incorporate three players into the first team and take them for pre-season.
"Yesterday we also had a look at their stadium, their training ground, the new complex where they are laying a new pitch and as well as the gymnasium of the first team. After the conversations with the management, we came to know that Jamshedpur is the only club who owns their stadium and facilities. So that helps a lot. A new swimming pool is being commissioned where the players can work on their recovery. We must plan long-term as our target is also to improve the level of football in the country," explained Ferrando.
Ferrando has had an illustrious career as a manager. La Liga giants Atletico Madrid had an 11th place finish and reached the semifinals of the Copa Del Rey in the 2003-04 season under his tutelage. He has managed other famous Spanish clubs like Elche and the reserve side of Valencia. He also has the experience of coaching an Asian team, having managed Malaysian side Johor Darul Ta'zim FC in 2013-14. So what prompted him to take up Jamshedpur FC's offer?
"Jamshedpur is backed by Tata, which is an established company. When they offered me the project, I was sold by the long-term plan. Youth development is one of the primary facets of this project and I immediately felt connected to their idea. Although it is a one-year contract, I am sure that the project could carry on for many more years. But a coach's job is always on the line if the results do not go in our favour. If the club is happy with me, then I am prepared to stay for a long period. But this is football, anything can happen," reasoned the 58-year old coach.
ISL 5 is most likely to be interrupted in December as the Indian national team is set to be busy preparing for their continental commitments, i.e. the AFC Asian Cup which is slated to start from January 5, 2019. But the Spaniard is not bothered by the break as he thinks that his players will be 'professional enough' to maintain or better their performance after the break.
"This (the break) will not affect my training or methods of playing. I take every training as my last, so the team would give their all throughout the season. My training staff would chalk out a specific training program for each and every player to be followed during the break according to their strengths and weaknesses. And players are expected to be professional enough to stick to it. I have to trust my players," stated Ferrando.
History shows that Spanish coaches have generally done well in ISL. Antonio Habas and Jose Molina had won the league with ATK, while Albert Roca's Bengaluru and Sergio Lobera's FC Goa made it to the final and semi-final respectively. But the former Valencia B coach does not think it would add more pressure on his shoulders.
"I have no pressure. I have a strong work ethic and I feel that if we work hard, results will follow sooner than later. It is also important to work with the academy players. I want to push their aspirations and at the same time make them feel that they are also playing an important part in fulfilling our larger goal. I really want to bring up new faces in the team. Players who are hungry to prove themselves and have full commitment. If we don't win the league at the end, that's not a problem but we are going to give our best on every match-day."
Jamshedpur FC are set to partner LaLiga side Atletico Madrid and as part of the agreement, they are set to fly to Madrid for their pre-season.
"We will be using Atletico's (Atletico Madrid) training facilities in the pre-season. We will be practicing in their performance centre which is located in Northern Spain in the highlands. We will be spending around four weeks in Spain. We are looking to play some practice matches as well with local Spanish teams to check our performance. Hopefully, we will come back stronger fully prepared for the league," informed the gaffer.
It is clear that the Ferrando will look to promote reserve team players and bring about a change of style at the same time. The Men of Steel missed out on a play-off spot by the narrowest of margins in their debut campaign in ISL 4. This time, they are pinning their hopes on a Spanish manager which might fire them to at least a top-four finish.