After his exploits last season with Kerala Blasters wherein he led the Men in Yellow to the summit clash despite having a weaker squad in comparison, it is safe to say that Steve Coppell is a highly popular figure in the football-mad state of Kerala.
Which was why the Englishman was the odds-on favourite to lead the Blasters in the ongoing Indian Super League (ISL) season as well. However, as things turned out, he went on to join the newly established Jamshedpur FC and Kerala opted to bring on board Rene Meulensteen. But things haven't exactly worked out for the Tuskers, who have had to sack the Dutchman and hand over the reins to David James.
Now, as Coppell's Jamshedpur look all set to host the Blasters, let's take a look at how Steve Coppell went from Kochi to Jamshedpur in the space of a few days.
It is no secret that Kerala Blasters were in talks with Coppell well before the current season began over extending his stay as the manager. But the former Manchester City manager wanted to have a clear picture as to the format and duration of the ISL before committing himself.
But with the ISL expected to run for a longer duration and involve new teams, a fresh deal was expected to be just a formality. In fact, the 62-year-old was in constant touch with the Blasters management and had even flown to India to speak with former Shillong Lajong boss Thangboi Singto who later joined the Blasters as Assistant Coach and Technical Director of Youth Development.
This happened during the Federation Cup in May where Coppell had also scouted several players he was interested in. All signs pointed towards Coppell stepping on the pitch at Kochi as the home team coach again but things went downhill from then on between the two parties.
Once the league was expanded to a four-month-long affair involving 10 teams, disagreements arose between Coppell and the Blasters management over terms and player recruitment which is believed to have scuppered the deal.
Pointedly, before the ISL Player Draft began, Coppell wanted to retain Mehtab Hossain who was exemplary under him in the 2016 season while the management preferred to go with Sandesh Jhingan and CK Vineeth. The club was in discussions with Mehtab over retaining him but pulled out midway, indicating that Coppell had made a U-turn. Although local boy CK Vineeth had a sensational 2016 season where he scored 5 goals, the Englishman was also not really keen on retaining the forward.
Interestingly, before the deadline for retention, Coppell had revealed to Goal that the management was not in touch with him anymore.
"I have not been told anything about Mehtab and have not had any contact with Kerala for a few days," he said. The former Manchester United winger also mentioned that he was yet to sign a contract with the Kochi-based team.
Meanwhile, Ishfaq Ahmed who was one of Coppell's assistants at Kerala Blasters had joined Jamshedpur FC in the same capacity. Through the former Mohun Bagan winger, the TATA Steel-owned team established contact with Coppell.
They were on the lookout for a coach after Colombian manager Orlando Restrepo turned them down after agreeing verbal terms and a proven ISL manager like Coppell offered an inspired alternative.
It was no surprise to see Coppell choose Mehtab Hossain as one of his first picks in the ISL Player Draft for Jamshedpur and he has set about building a team which is characteristically solid in defence and relies on counters in attack.
Blasters, on the other hand, after a terrible start to the season have now notched back-to-back wins and are four points ahead of Coppell's Jamshedpur who have played a game less. Will Coppell throw a spanner in the works of James' Blasters who have not lost after sacking Meulensteen? We'll know come Wednesday.