Ground: JRD Tata Sports Complex, Jamshedpur
Owner: Tata Steel
Head Coach: Steve Coppell
The story so far…
Jamshedpur FC are one of the new kids on the block in the ISL this season, after the league expanded to 10 teams. While Bengaluru FC’s addition came with its background in the I-League, Jamshedpur FC is an entirely new team, with no previous history at any level.
The team’s nickname, ‘Men of Steel’, derives from the city’s most famous export, as it is the home of Tata Steel and the heart of the Tata business empire. Tata Steel are also the owners of the franchise, and have made their JRD Tata Sports Complex stadium available to the team as their home ground.
The team’s ISL opener against NorthEast United FC will be their first competitive game, but that’s not to say that the team doesn’t have experienced heads running the show. Steve Coppell was lured over from Kerala Blasters after taking them to second place last season, and the veteran manager’s years of experience should be of great help to a side that will still be very raw, despite their pre-season preparation.
Coppell has also brought with him his deputy Ishfaq Ahmed, which will provide him with the continuity he needs in backroom support, as well as the veteran India international Mehtab Hossain, whose solid performances as a defensive midfielder provided the Blasters with the platform to perform last season.
Other experienced ISL performers have also been brought in to shore up key positions (more on that below), which means that despite not having any flashy marquee players, the Tatanagar-based team should be able to hit the ground running.
Jamshedpur FC also have a unique advantage in that the city is the home of the Tata Football Academy, which has done excellent work in producing young players, several of whom have been given breakthroughs by ISL teams previously. Scouting the best of the bunch should prove very useful for the team in the years to come.
Jamshedpur FC’s team colours will look quite familiar to fans of the Premier League – the red body and navy blue sleeves are evocative of a number of solid old English squads, like West Ham, Aston Villa, Burnley, to name a few. The colours should also be familiar to head coach Coppell – red and blue are the colours of Crystal Palace, where he enjoyed several successful managerial spells (albeit in stripes). Their away kit is a green kit with navy blue sleeves.
The Tatas have had a long association with promoting sports in India, and this is strongly reflected in Jamshedpur, where they organise a number of sporting activities and tournaments, with enthusiastic participation.
This should hopefully translate into strong support for their local club – something which doesn’t seem to be too much of a stretch, given the crowds that turned up for the club’s kit launch last week, when the streets of the city were filled with huge crowds.
The club has also announced that home tickets will only be priced at 50 Indian rupees – which works out to around 50 p, which means that matches will be accessible for everyone in the city, which is quite wonderful in a time when working class fans are being priced out of the game elsewhere around the world.
Chances this season…
For any team entering a league for the first time, a mid-table finish would amount to success. However, Jamshedpur’s shrewd recruitment policy should yield good dividends, and actually give them a shot at reaching the playoffs.
As already mentioned, Steve Coppell’s experience will be most handy, as will the recruitment of Mehtab Hossain – a quality defensive midfielder can be one of the best foundations on which to build a team, and Hossain brings years of nous, including in the ISL.
And he’s not the only one. The entire spine of the team is filled with quality. National team goalkeeper Subrata Pal will be between the sticks, and ahead of him he has Anas Edathodika, widely regarded as the best centre-back in the country at present, who was the first player to join the club, after playing for the Delhi Dynamos in previous seasons.
Edathodika will be partnered by the veteran Andre Bikey, a Cameroonian centre-back built like a tank, and with solid experience in a number of European leagues, including with Coppell during his Reading days. Further ahead is Hossain and Kervens Belfort, another Kerala Blasters alumnus.
Steve Coppell has always looked to supplement a solid side with pace down the flanks, and recruitment at the club has taken care of this as well. At full-back (or wing-back, if Coppell uses a back 3 with Tiri), they have Shouvik Ghosh and Robin Gurung, who have pace to burn, and on the left wing they have Bikash Jairu, who is also highly rated.
But perhaps the most exciting player for the Men of Steel will be South African winger Sameehg Doutie, who starred for ATK’s league winners last season. The winger has scored 5 goals in his two seasons in the ISL, and more importantly, assisted 14, which means he has created more goals than any other player in the ISL to date.
Jamshedpur have one of the most balanced midfields in the entire league, and a great defence, which should ensure that someone like Doutie can focus on creating chances, and if set up right, should translate into not just points, but enjoyable football. A 4-2-3-1 with Hossain and Souvik Chakrabarti as the double pivots would be the obvious choice, but Coppell also has the talent at his disposal to try a more attacking 4-3-3, which may get the best out of Doutie. However they set up, expect Jamshedpur to be a team that will defy expectations this season.