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As the I-League season 2013-14 approaches, Goal introduces each of the 13 competitors, while in this edition we take a look at the Purple Brigade


GOALBY   ATANU MITRA   



United Sports Club


Last season's performance: (Finished fourth) - Previously known as the 'Prayag United Sports Club', the Kolkata outfit had one of their best seasons last year after a slow start of the campaign. They were the big spenders in the transfer market last time around, sealing a number of marquee signings. Sanjoy Sen had to pay for results not going their way as he was soon replaced by Eelco Schattorie.

However, their best moment came in March, when a solitary Ranti Martins goal helped them edge past a resolute East Bengal side to claim the IFA Shield, the only silverware in their trophy cabinet last season.

THE COACH

After a succesful first season, Eelco Schattorie will continue to be at the helm of the star-studded squad. In the final quarter of the last season, United SC emerged as one of the few teams orchestrating an aesthetically pleasing style of play, wherein they relied more on ground passes than choosing the aerial route.

In his first few post-match press conferences, Eelco had hinted that the display would have been much better, had he taken the charge of the team before the start of the season. This time, with almost all of his first team players continuing to ply their trade for United SC, it remains to be seen whether the Dutch gaffer of the Kolkata team can keep his words though they have started their pre-season training very late.

TRANSFER DEALINGS

TRANSFERS IN: With Prayag Goup choosing not to fund the team any more following the chit-fund scam, the club has been bereft of any major sponsor for the new season. The players have shown solidarity at a time of crisis by putting pen to paper despite not having been guanranteed any money in advance. Eric Brown, the Liberian striker, who had an impressive outing with ONGC FC, has been the only noteworthy addition to the team. A number of players including Bivash Sarkar and Souvik Ghosh will make it into the senior team from their youth set-up. Snehasish Chakraborty, the experienced winger from Mohun Bagan has also joined United SC's ranks.



TRANSFERS OUT: A number of players from the United squad have left for greener pastures. Carlos Hernandez, the hugely influential playmaker has returned to Wellington Phoenix FC in the Australian A-League. Kayne Vincent, another forward who had been part of the squad for the last two seasons has opted to join J. League Division 2 club FC Gifu. On the other hand, Subrata Paul and Gouramangi Moirangthem, the two regular faces in the Indian national team have decided to join the newly-proposesd league by IMG-Reliance. Shylo Malswam Tulunga, the successful right-winger also returned to East Bengal, his old stomping ground, while Lester Fernandez is now a part of Mumbai Tigers. The team has not yet registered their fourth foreigner, which may make them a bit weaker especially after the All India Football Federation (AIFF) declared that the clubs can name all their foreign players in the starting eleven.

FORMATION AND TACTICS

Goal had a chat with Eelco Schattorie about the formation of the team. The manager understanably refused to divulge details as to who shall compose the starting eleven given that the team has started training only a couple of weeks back. However, he did inform of his preference to use the 4-4-2 formation.



Most of the regular starters from the last season will retain their places in the line-up. Anupam Sarkar will pair up with Bello Rasaq at the heart of the defense to replace the Indian international Gouramangi Moirangthem.

The new rule of having an U-23 player in the starting line-up will guarantee a place for Mohamed Rafique in the middle of the pitch. Tapan Maity will fill the void left by Shankar Oraon. K.Asif may lose his starting spot while Eric Brown will pair up with Ranti Martins upfront.

Lalkamal Bhowmick will pull the strings from the middle of the park and is arguably the most important player for them. Deepak Mandal and Dhanachandra Singh will provide width as they look for every opportunity to support the attack.


Man to Watch - Mohammed Rafique

They do have several top players in their ranks however Rafique is set to make a big impact this season and as his coach expounds, "I wish to employ him (Rafique) just behind my two strikers, namely Eric Brown and Ranti Martins. He may well become the new star."

SEASON'S TARGET

The team has started their pre-season training only a couple of weeks back, almost a month later than the other I-League teams. They had an impressive outing against the big guns in last year's league and would have hoped for something similar this time also.

However, Schattorie sounded cautious. "We have started late and the boys are not still fully match-fit. In the first few matches, we will fight to survive. Let's see how the season turns out to be," he signed off.

A top half finish would be welcome for the Kolkata outfit however how the season pans out for them entirely depends on how soon the team can gel together and get into their groove.

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