The air of uncertainty around Pune FC's senior team's continued participation in the 2016-17 edition of the I-League saddened many an Indian football fan but losing one of the gems in Pune FC's U-19 tiara to a close rival has left the Red Lizards' fans in anguish.
Bengaluru FC, the 2013-14 winners of the I-League, have announced the signing of Salam Ranjan Singh, the 19-year-old Pune FC academy graduate, considered by many at the club to be one of their best and brightest prospects among the pass-outs.
Ranjan's achievements speak for themselves. He has won consecutive I-League U-20 titles with the Deccan I-League team, in 2012 and 2013. He also managed to break into the senior squad of the Red Lizards, under the tutelage of then coach Mike Snoei and continued the trend under Moroccan coach Karim Bencherifa. He has 16 Pune FC senior appearances under his belt, which included 13 starts.
Revealing his club's intention on attaining the services of the 19-year-old, head coach Ashley Westwood elucidated, "We have signed a competitive central defender who, we believe, has all the attributes to become a solid reliable defender and one that we can develop to strengthen our squad to make competition for places even tougher. He's a good lad with a good attitude and the type of player we want at our professional club."
Assistant coach of the southern most I-League club, Pradhyum Reddy believes Singh is at the right age to flourish inder the guidance of Westwood, and will have a chance to test his latest acquisition, when Bengaluru FC's developmental squad participate in the DSK invitational cup. Interestingly, Pune FC too are one of the participants.
"We've tracked Ranjan for a long time and I've seen him for the last five or six years while I was coaching in Pune and later with Shillong Lajong. It's a position that needed addressing at the club and with Ashley's experience as a centre-half and with his coaching, we can hopefully develop Ranjan into a player who can complement the national team's back four," revealed the assistant coach.
Finally, Ranjan himself believes he is at the rigth place at the right time. "I'm really happy to have signed with Bengaluru FC. I feel it's the right place for me as the club have a very professional set up. It's very different here as all the training happens with the ball at my feet and I can't wait to start playing," concluded the new Blues defender.