Hyderabad was a prominent region in the Indian football landscape in the 1950s and 60s. Hyderabad Police Club was one of the giants in the domestic scenario and Syed Abdul Rahim, one of the most successful coaches in Indian history, also hailed from this city.
But after his demise, the sport slowly started to wither away and the fall of Hyderabad Police Club was the final nail in the coffin. Once a hotbed of young talents, Hyderabad had been bereft of a top division club for many decades until an Indian Super League (ISL) franchise decided to field a team from the City of the Nizam in the upcoming football season.
Although Hyderabad FC is a new entity in ISL, the players and the coaching staff are quite familiar with the competition as most of them formerly plied their trade with FC Pune City, a franchise that has been forced to shut down due to financial constraints. Veteran players like Marcelinho, Marko Stankovic and Robin Singh continue to be a part of this new ensemble and the onus will be on them to fire Hyderabad to the playoffs in its debut season.
Marcelinho had a forgetful 2018-19 campaign and grabbed the headlines for all the wrong reasons. He was given the marching orders against Chennaiyin FC and later in the season after coming back from a one-match suspension (for accumulating the maximum number of permissible yellow cards) against Delhi Dynamos, he was once again flashed red after he lost his calm and got involved in a scuffle with Marti Crespi. Besides a patchy disciplinary record, his performance on the pitch also did not meet expectations as he bagged only four goals in 14 appearances.
There is no doubt that the Brazilian has the quality in him to lead the team from the front. He was the top scorer of ISL with Delhi Dynamos in 2016 and had the most goal contributions (15) and also managed to win the Golden Boot. In the following season, Pune managed to reach their first-ever playoffs and a lot of credit must go to him as he spearheaded the Stallion's attack with eight goals and seven assists. But the Brazilian must keep his calm and allow his feet to do the talking if he has to once again regain the form that terrorised defenders.
Meanwhile, midfield general Marko Stankovic also failed to replicate his performances of the 2017-18 campaign. Both Marcelinho and Stankovic are experienced campaigners and it will not be surprising if Phil Brown sets his team up revolving around these two.
The British tactician has got quality reinforcements in Nestor Gordillo, Rafael Lopez Gomez, and Bobo but it remains to be seen how these players adapt to his system. Gordillo has already proved his mettle in Indian football with I-League champions Chennai City FC and Brown will be banking on his partnership with Stankovic to win the midfield battle.
The addition of Laldanmawia Ralte is another boost for Hyderbad as the former East Bengal player ticks all the right boxes that you expect from a winger. Although he has big boots to fill after the departure of Ashique Kuruniyan, if the Mizo gets going, he can contribute significantly in the attacking third with crosses and assists from the wide areas.
Robin Singh is another player who has the potential but has failed to be consistent. His career has been marred by injuries and although the burly striker has come back every time after getting sidelined. He has not been at his best after an injury he suffered with Delhi Dynamos. But it is a positive development that Singh has appeared in every single ISL game since Brown took over and it was during this spell that the striker netted all the three goals that he scored last season.
This Hyderabad side looks like decent side and has made the right moves in the transfer market which would fill in the gaps and bolster the squad. Moreover, Brown is no longer a newbie in Indian football and the former Derby County manager now has the necessary experience to succeed in ISL after his short yet eventful stint (three wins, two draws, one loss) as the manager of FC Pune City.
If the new signings strike the right chords with the old guard, then Hyderabad will be a force to reckon with.