BY ANSELM NORONHA Follow @apnoronha on twitter
Shillong Lajong FC
Last season's performance: (Finished 11th) - The Reds had a forgettable start to the season last term as they failed to register a win in their opening nine fixtures which eventually led to the sacking of Scottish coach Desmond Bulpin. Assistant coach Thangboi Singto took charge of the team thereafter.
It must be noted that Shillong Lajong were unbeaten against the Kolkata teams at home last season but suffered away defeats to Pailan Arrows and Mohun Bagan. Some of the prominent results included the 2-0 and 3-2 home wins over Mohun Bagan and Prayag United, as well as beating East Bengal 1-0 in an away fixture.
"Last season was very challenging. Our performance had a few ups and downs," said Singto. "Eventually, I think we became strong against big teams like Mohun Bagan and Pune FC."
"In the last match we beat East Bengal 1-0 and that was the icing on the cake because we survived. We proved that if we have our day then we can compete with any team," he remarked.
| THE COACH
The Manipuri has been with the team since 2009 as assistant coach and has has gained a fair amount experience in the I-League apart from a stint in the 2011-12 second division campaign.
As interim coach, Singto was handed the responsibilty of the senior team in January this year, at a stage when the club had managed to accumulate 15 points from 17 matches with three wins, six draws and eight loses to their name.
He proved his mettle and helped Lajong survive a relegation scare which eventually led to him being named as the head coach. Singto will however be looking to better their away record against the Goan teams wherein Lajong have only picked up a solitary point in their previous visits last season.
| TRANSFER DEALINGS
TRANSFERS IN: Lajong FC have offered a contract to Pune FC striker Subhash Singh, who was on-loan with the Shillong-based outfit for the later half of the last term. Japanese medio Taisuke Matsugane, who had joined the club mid-way through the season, has also been retained, while DPR Korea-born Japanese defender Minchol Son has signed a two-year extension. Goalkeeper Vinay Kumar, defender Robin Gurung and midfielder Milan Singh arrived from Salgaocar FC, ONGC FC and Pailan Arrows respectively.
Trinidad & Tobago’s 2006 World Cup star Cornell Glen was named as Lajong's third foreign signing and although Cameroon international Charles Edoa Nga was initially announced as the fourth foreigner, the deal fell through due to unforeseen complications in the visa and transfer applications which prompted the club to rope in Brazilian forward Uilliams Bomfin Souza Silva.
|Minchol Son won six man of the match awards last season
TRANSFERS OUT: Govin Singh, Chitrasen Singh, Renedy Singh, Sushil Kumar Singh and Subhash Singh (defender) are the ones who left the club at the end of the season to join the IMG-Reliance bandwagon. Lajong also released a few players like Rollingson Hungyo, Samson Ramengmawia, Sho Kamimura, P.C. Lalhlimthara, Gbeneme Friday and Ebi Sukore. Eugeneson Lyndoh moved to Shillong's other I-League outfit, Rangdajied United FC, which is apparently owned by his family.
| FORMATION AND TACTICS
"It is really difficult to really stick to one formation, because in modern football you have to attack as a team and defend as a team," said the coach.
"Whether it's a 4-4-2 or a 4-5-1 or whatever formation is there, that is just a line of numbers. I think what is important is that when you win the ball you attack - the attack starts from the goalkeeper - and when you lose the ball you start defending from the front.
"Maybe it's a bit too early also to stick to one formation as it will depend upon team to team (opponents)," he added.
The back-line is expected to remain the same like the last season, except for the possible inclusion of former ONGC defender Robin Gurung, while Lalthuammawaia Ralte could be the first choice goalkeeper.
Boithang Haokip could get a wider role on the right flank with Lalramluaha Hmar on the other side and former Arrows product Milan Singh could fit well alongside Matsugane in the center of the park.
Glen and Uilliams will play upfront with the latter leading the line, but the duo will be granted the freedom to interchange at times or indeed play alongside each other should the team switch to a 4-4-2.
Man to Watch - Cornell Glen
"Glen has played in the World Cup in 2006, he has played in the USA and Portugal. I think him coming in has given us a lot of experience and attacking depth upfront. He has scored 23 times for his country (Trinidad and Tobago) and we hope he will do the same here," Singto remained optimistic.
"I think even he has a point to prove by coming to India. It's a good challenge for him."
The striker has been an integral part of the Soca Warriors’ squad for over a decade, and played a starring role in their qualification for the 2006 World Cup. He went on to feature in all three games of their World Cup campaign while garnering praise for his performances against Sweden and England.
In all, he has featured 66 times for his country and is the fifth highest goalscorer in T&T’s history, outscoring a certain Dwight Yorke.
| SEASON'S TARGET
"Every coach, every team, wants to end the season as high as possible. Whether it's a league, a championship or knock-out, we want to be the best. But again, realistically speaking about Shillong Lajong, a top half finish would be very good," the Lajong coach stated.
Lajong will have to improve on their away form and make their home matches count given that they drew five of their 13 matches in Shillong. A mid-table finish would be welcome for the north-eastern side although that largely depends on their foreign players.
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