With a quarter or so of the 2018-19 Indian Super League (ISL) gone, the table has sprung up a few surprises while a few of the heavyweights have made expected progress.
One of the biggest surprises of the seasons has been the performances of NorthEast United under head coach Eelco Schattorie.
The Highlanders have been the perennial underachievers of the ISL, having never progressed to the play-off stage even once in the league’s history. Now, the John Abraham-owned outfit sit pretty at the top of the table after collecting three wins and two draws from their five games so far.
Schattorie’s impact since taking over as the head coach of the team has been crystal clear with the Highlanders being a transformed outfit this season. There has been a marked shift in the way they approach the game with the Dutchman’s philosophy clearly showing through.
Even though he describes it as a ‘process’, Schattorie’s influence has turned the NorthEast side into a more confident side who are not afraid to press high up the pitch.
The Dutchman’s stamp on the side is an evident one and his signings have been inspired as well. Nigerian striker Bartholomew Ogbeche has taken the league by storm as shown by his quick-fire hat-trick in NorthEast’s sensational 4-3 win away to defending champions Chennaiyin FC.
Another excellent buy has been Federico Gallego with the Uruguayan playmaker’s non-stop hustle on the pitch epitomizing the work-rate Schattorie has vocally demanded from his players.
Rowllin Borges also has been a man transformed this season with the midfielder striking some crucial goals already.
All of NorthEast United’s recent turnaround in fortunes would not even have been a possibility given how much uncertainty had surrounded Schatorrie’s elevation to the head coach role. Having joined the club as an assistant coach last season midway through the campaign, the Dutchman’s confirmation as head coach was only possible after the club ‘pulled some strings’ on his behalf.
“Me getting appointed was always a question mark. The club had to pull some strings to get me appointed,” he had stated after his side’s 2-0 win against Delhi Dynamos.
Schattorie seemed an unlikely candidate to become the head coach ahead of the new ISL season but now that he has become one, the Dutchman is standing out.
Which brings us back to the question why did NorthEast United have to resort to pulling some strings to appoint him in the first place. Why do franchises need the league's approval before finalising a coach?
When a coach who was not initially accepted has just left all the so-called 'approved' managers in his wake, what does that tell you about this whole process on the league's part?
The same process applies to players as well. John Stiven Mendoza, Edu Garcia, John Johnson and Mailson Alves were all not approved when they were initially roped in by ISL franchises and we all know what impact these players made. In fact, this season, Xisco Hernandez of Bengaluru FC was also not initially approved and he has gone on to put in some decent performances.
Every team should have the license to choose their own coach and players, especially now that the league has established itself and is not really in need of big names to make some noise.