Ground: Salt Lake Stadium
Stadium Capacity: 85,000
Owner: Kolkata Games and Sports Pvt. Ltd.
Manager: Teddy Sheringham
The story so far…
For the first three seasons of ATK’s existence, they were co-owned by Spanish La Liga giants Atletico Madrid – hence the name and colours that the team wear. They were previously known as Atletico de Kolkata, and since the separation over the summer of 2017 the club has been rebranded as ATK.
ATK won the first ever ISL in 2014 and followed up this triumph with a second title last season, defeating Kerala Blasters on penalties.
Former Liverpool midfielder, Spanish international Luis Garcia was the club’s first marquee player and he was joined by fellow UEFA Champions League winner Josemi. Luis Garcia was voted the best player in the first season, and ATK’s winning goal in the final was scored by Mohammed Rafique.
Sadly for Luis Garcia, injury problems meant he was released by the time the 2015 season started and Portugal international Helder Postiga took his place. The attack was bolstered by the signing of Canadian striker Iain Hume, who is now the ISL’s record goalscorer. Despite Hume’s goals, including two hat-tricks in November, the team fell in the semi-finals to eventual winners Chennaiyin FC.
For 2016 the original Head Coach Antonio Lopez Habas was replaced by former Villarreal coach Jose Francisco Molina and Postiga remained the marquee player, despite his injury record. It was a change that worked for the club as they went all the way for the second time, Debjit Majumder the hero in the final by saving the final penalty in the shootout with Kerala.
Former England international Teddy Sheringham has been appointed Head Coach for 2017, following one previous spell in management with Stevenage Borough in England’s League Two. The former Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United man looks fit enough to still play but will settle for having Irish legend Robbie Keane as his main signing. Keane will miss the first couple of weeks, however, due to an Achilles injury picked up in the preseason camp in Dubai.
ATK will keep their original colours of red and white stripes and blue shorts, colours that were originally chosen due to the co-ownership of Atletico Madrid.
Support appears to be waning in Kolkata. 2014 averaged around 45,000 fans and 2015 around 50,000. However, in 2016 the average plummeted to a mere 12,000 fans at the huge ATK home ground. The club has always had a mixed reception in the city, with many traditionalists fearing it would overshadow the club’s two already established I-League sides.
Chances this season…
ATK are double ISL winners, therefore immediately have to be included among the names of potential winners this time out.
Teddy Sheringham may be the man named as Head Coach, but the signing of Ashley Westwood as Technical Director could be critical for the longer term development of the franchise. Westwood won both the I-League and the Federation Cup in his time as Bengaluru FC manager, a club now in the ISL as well.
Robbie Keane is the obvious star man, but Sheringham and Westwood have also recruited experience in both Jussi Jaaskelainen and Carl Baker. Jaaskelainen, in particular, has many years of English Premier League experience under his belt, despite his advancing years.
ATK look strong in attack – Njazi Kuqi, Zequinha and big Indian names like Robin Singh and Jayesh Rane provide a wealth of attacking options in addition to Keane. They are typically big, strong and powerful. Although not as well known as some of the other names in the ISL, watch out for Njazi Kuqi – the former LA Galaxy man has moved from the higher level MLS and should have the capability to dominate matches in the ISL.
For all their attacking options, ATK could be exposed at the back and in defensive midfield. Both areas of the squad seem undermanned, with their backline appearing to be mainly comprised of fullbacks.
Despite that weakness, you could do a lot worse than to back the reigning ISL champions to win back-to-back titles for the first time come the season’s end.