Mr Coppell is at his second club in two years in India after a relatively successful year last time out with Kerala Blasters; this time out he is at the helm of one of the new ISL additions, Jamshedpur. We will take a look at his managerial path in this article which has nearly hit an incredible thirty-five years and culminates in India after spending most of his time in the south of England.
With all that was going on at Palace at the beginning of the season when de Boer was dismissed after a measly four league games, one of the shocks for me was the fact that Steve Coppell was never mentioned, as far as I know, for the job. If he got the job, it would have been the seventy-eighth separate occasion where he would have managed the Selhurst Park club, well, not quite, but you’ll get what I mean after I’ve explained.
Palace: Part I
The tale begins back in the June of 1984 when he was appointed as Palace boss at the grand old age of 28 as he became one of the youngest ever gaffers in the football league. His opening season in South London was in the old division two (Championship nowadays) and it took him a bit of time to get going as he had to wait until the fifth game of the season for his first league win which came away at Sheffield United. That was then followed up four days later with a 3-1 victory over Leeds showing that if you don’t sack a manager after a winless four-game start to the season, things can work themselves out. After those back to back wins, he then oversaw a nine-game winless spell meaning that things were not looking too clever for Coppell.
In the end, Coppell’s first season was steady as opposed to spectacular as he guided Palace to 15th place which was an improvement on the previous campaign, albeit, there was only a point in it. The first season was very much a teething process for the manager from Liverpool and it would be the season after where the wheels started to turn in the direction that he would undoubtedly be craving as Palace finished fifth with eighteen more points. Progress.
The 86/87 season saw the introduction of the playoffs meaning that if Palace matched or improved on their tally from last year, they would finish in the play-off places and would have the chance to move into the top flight. It was not quite meant to be as they finished sixth and one place outside the play-off places as their away form let them down. Out of the 21 games, they played away from home, they only managed to find the net sixteen times and seven of those came in their opening four games that they played on their travels. So, nine goals from the following seventeen away games was a problem and one that needed to be sorted if they wanted to make the playoffs, or go one better, the following year.
Again though, despite them scoring twenty more goals away from home than what they did the year before, they still missed out on the playoffs by the finest of margins and the finger really has to be pointed at their away form yet again as they lost ten times on the road in comparison to the three times they lost at Selhurst Park.
The ‘89 playoffs would prove to be decisive for Coppell’s boys as they finally managed to finish in the top six and they would have a shot at making it to the big time. They could have gone one better and finished in the top two which would have meant automatic promotion but the 1-1 draw away at Maine Road towards the end of the season meant that Man City went up as runners-up in their place.
It has to be said that Palace were gifted an advantage and rightly so with the fact they finished third meaning that they would face sixth-placed Swindon in the semifinals, with the second leg being at the fortress that is Selhurst Park. A Jeff Hopkins own goal meant that Swindon had a 1-0 lead to defend at Selhurst Park, but, they were no match for Palace’s fantastic partnership of Wright and Bright who netted one each to give the Eagles a 2-0 win and set up a two-legged final with Blackburn Rovers who overcame Watford on away goals.
If the results of the league campaign were anything to go by, it would be Blackburn who would taste division one football as they beat Palace 5-4 at Ewood Park and drew 2-2 with them at Selhurst Park. Coppell, however, had different ideas. Regardless of Coppell having different ideas and such, they didn’t have the best of times at Ewood Park again as in the first leg as Blackburn record goalscorer, Simon Garner, scored in the last minute to put Blackburn 3-1 in the ascendancy going to Fortress Selhurst.
After ninety minutes, Palace had a 2-0 lead over Blackburn which would suggest they would have won after away goals, but, it was at a time where it seems that away goals didn’t count until after extra time which doesn’t make a great deal of sense, but either way, that was the situation at the time. Twenty-seven of the thirty minutes had been played in the second half and all that Palace had to do was close the game off and they would be promoted. But then, goal. Euphoria. Ian Wright, got his second of the afternoon to give Palace some breathing space and the rest as they say, was history. Palace were into division one.
Their opening campaign in division one was largely unremarkable as it was, unsurprisingly, their home form which kept them up, but, their run in the FA Cup will be one that will live in the memory of every Palace fan. In round three, they edged past Portsmouth, beating them 2-1 at Selhurst Park which set up a home tie against Huddersfield. They were duly dispatched, 4-0 the score this time around and again, Palace were drawn at home, this time against Rochdale. This proved to be a much more cagey affair than the Huddersfield game as Coppell’s Eagles won 1-0 which meant they were through to round six where they would face Cambridge and if they could hold their nerve, they would be in the semi-finals.
They did just that as they won by that magic scoreline, 1-0, at Cambridge’s Abbey Stadium which meant they would face either division one champions elect, Liverpool, Man United, who finished two places above them or division two Oldham Athletic. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be for Palace as they got given the hardest of the lot as they drew Liverpool in a tie which would be played at Villa Park.
Liverpool were out the blocks quicker of the two as Ian Rush put them one up with less than twenty minutes on the clock and Coppell was probably fearing a repeat of the 9-0 drubbing they had at the hands of Liverpool earlier in the same season. However, the withdrawal of Ian Rush in the 30th minute, which I think was for an injury (can’t find why), was perhaps the turning point in what still remains as one of Palace’s finest hours.
The game arrived at the interval with Palace still on the wrong end of a 1-0 scoreline, but that was all about to change as Coppell dished out a bollocking and a half in the changing room (allegedly) and they came out with a point to prove. And boy, did they do that. In the first minute of the second half, Palace were level and in Wright’s absence, it was no surprise who the goalscorer was. His partner in crime, Mark Bright.
Fifteen minutes later, the turnaround was complete when O’Reilly put it away from close range after a dangerous free-kick was played in the box. However, there were twenty minutes left and as Clough once said ‘it only takes a second to score a goal’ and eleven minutes after Palace had gone into the lead for the first time, the ‘Reds’ were level through Steve McMahon and things went from bad to worse when John Barnes scored from the penalty spot to put Liverpool 3-2 up with seven minutes left.
If you thought that was the end of Palace then you would be mistaken as with only two minutes left of the second half, Gray scored a header which put both teams back on a level playing field. They very nearly won it in normal time but the crossbar prevented Andy Thorn’s header from nestling in the back of Bruce Grobbelaar’s goal and we were to have an additional thirty minutes and then a replay if necessary.
The first period of extra time went by without major event, but even then, Palace arguably still looked the more likely of the two to get the winner and this theory was confirmed just four minutes into the second half of extra time. Big Alan Pardew put what would turn out to be the winner away with his head to give Palace a memorable victory and set up a mouthwatering tie with Manchester United who saw off Oldham after a replay.
With both semi-finals containing plenty of goals, it will be unsurprising for some of you to find out that the final was no different as both teams threw caution to the wind. Unlike the tie at Villa Park, it was Palace who took the lead first through semi-finalist scorer, O’Reilly who headed to put Palace in the lead and dreaming of a first major trophy. They shook back to life before halftime when the majestic Bryan Robson drew the ‘Red Devils’ level meaning that at halftime, it was honours even.
Mark Hughes got his name on the scoresheet to put United ahead with under half an hour left but then our subject of this story, Steve Coppell, weaved his managerial wand. He withdrew Phil Barber and brought on Ian Wright, who in a lot of people’s eyes, was harshly left out and it was then that Palace started to well and truly click. Only three minutes after his introduction, Wright dazzled Wembley after beating two United defenders and putting it beyond the hapless Jim Leighton to make it 2-2.
Both teams pressed for the winner and in the dying moments United hit the crossbar, but, like both the semi-finals, the final was going to extra time and yet again, there were thirty minutes to make a difference or there would be a replay. Coppell must have given Wright some words of wisdom before extra time started because, with only two minutes on the extra time clock, Wright had doubled his tally and sent the Palace fans delirious. Unfortunately for Coppell, Mark Hughes got his second of the game with only seven minutes left which meant that it would go to a replay. That game wasn’t as good, United won 1-0 and that was that as Palace had their chance and missed it by the skin of their teeth.
The FA Cup heroics were not to be repeated by Palace until 2016, where they lost to United again in the final, but enough of that, what did Coppell get up to in the following season? It was a tough act to follow in the cup, but, the league could definitely be improved on as they took their eye off the ball with their focus being on the cup. Coppell’s Palace would only lose twice in the league from August to January which would see them in a part of the table that they really had no right to be in, but there they were. They were seen off by Forest in the third round of the Cup meaning that they could put all their energy into the league, but unfortunately, they fell just short of qualifying for Europe. The key part of the season was six games towards the back end of the season where they only picked up five points from a possible eighteen and crucially, they lost to Liverpool who finished seven points ahead of them. A fantastic season, but a case of what might’ve been, all the same.
The 91/92 season, which was the last one before the Premier League formed, was one of those that you look back on and just shrug. Nothing to really shout about. Nothing to be overly worried about, neither. Palace couldn’t match their fantastic performance of the previous year and that was a lot to do with the fact that Ian Wright was sold to Arsenal for £2,500,000 which back then, was quite a bit of money, so much so, it was a record fee for Arsenal at the time. Palace finished tenth and Ian Wright finished as the league’s top goalscorer, what a liberty.
Premier League football was born the following season which meant that the football we knew and loved would never be the same again as Sky got involved. What I would give for a Sky free era once more, but, that’s never going to happen, so we’ll look at what did happen to Palace with the riches and all that Sky brought in. Put it like this, it wasn’t the best as by the time December had arrived, Palace had only won thrice and two of those were in the League Cup. December was amazing though and nothing like the months that had gone before it. They played five, won five, scored nine and conceded just once. After that though, they only won five more times throughout the remainder of the season and they were relegated in the cruellest way possible, on goal difference.
They had gone from FA Cup runners-up and a third-place finish to relegation in the matter of seasons and Coppell resigned, not wanting to face the perils of second division football, which was now division one, again.
Palace: Part II
Two years had been and gone before Coppell decided that he wanted to get back involved with a club and he did something that many would disagree with, he went back to an ex. It was quite weird how it all worked out as he was manager, director of football and had two first-team coaches, but anyway, this spell was nowhere near as successful as his first stint as he only won nine games out of 32 and in his position as director of football he realised that he wasn’t good enough and appointed Dave Bassett as manager who did relatively well.
It got to the October of 1996 and Coppell was getting bored with someone else picking the team and as opposed to putting himself back in charge at Selhurst Park, he fancied something new. Maine Road was Coppell’s destination and to say he wasn’t particularly fond of his new surroundings would be the understatement of the century as he lasted just SIX games in a tenure which stretched the grand total of thirty-three days. It was a 2-0 defeat away at Swindon which pushed Coppell over the edge as he cited the pressure of the job for one of the reasons why he quit which I think we can all agree is a load of shite.
Palace: Part III
After he left City, he went back to Palace once again, this time as a chief scout, yet, I think we all knew what he wanted. His wish was granted after Bassett chucked in the towel and Coppell was managing a side just three months after he said how stressful it was etc. As I said, shite. He actually did quite well with the amount of time that was left that season and he got off to the best possible start after a fabulous second-half performance saw them win 4-1 away at Oxford. That certainly set the tone for the remainder of the campaign and three wins from the last five games meant that Palace scraped into the playoffs at Portsmouth’s expense.
They saw off Wolves over two legs which I’m not going to dwell on because I can see me going off on one and this isn’t the time or the place. Sheffield United were their opponents in the final and considering Palace lost to them 3-0 at Bramall Lane only six weeks earlier, it was fair to say that the ‘Blades’ were the favourites for the game. It looked like the game was going to go into extra time as many of Coppell’s other cup exploits have done, but then, at the death, David Hopkin scored. Cue pandemonium. Palace were back in the big time and Coppell’s already God-like status was elevated even further with the Palace supporters.
In the Premier League, Coppell’s team started well as they took six points from the first three games but it was all downhill from there and once Palace’s takeover was complete there was a reshuffle as Coppell was once again placed as director of football and Terry Venables was brought in as gaffer. Wonder how long this one would last?
Palace: Part IV
The answer was less than a year. Coppell was put back in charge of Palace in January ‘99 and I’ll be honest, the end of the 99/00 season was mediocre, to say the least, as it took him nearly two months to register a win and without a run of three straight wins they would have been properly embroiled in a relegation scrap. As it happens, Coppell did just enough.
The following season, Coppell took charge of the club for the full season and the away form was much the same as it had always been with him at the helm, however, the home form was nowhere near as good. The loss ratio wasn’t too dissimilar, but the issue came in the fact that they were drawing far too many games at Selhurst Park (eleven out of 23). Palace were then bought by the eccentric Simon Jordan who wanted to make a statement of intent that it was his club and got rid of Coppell and his love affair with Palace was over.
Coppell decided to treat himself to a season off before he decided what to do next as he probably kept one eye on his phone waiting for Jordan to give him a call and offering a role in one capacity or another, however, the phone never rang.
Brentford came calling as he took his first venture into Division Two, let’s hope it goes better than his last spell away from Palace. The difference this time around for Coppell was that he knew there wasn’t a way back for him at Selhurst Park, so he had to make it work at Brentford and he hit the ground running with only one defeat in his opening sixteen league games which saw Brentford amongst teams much bigger than them in the league. Throughout the season, Brentford would only lose once at home, something which would please Coppell immensely because that is what he always builds his sides around, a sterling home record.
Hindsight is, of course, a wonderful thing, but, if Brentford had kept their one-goal lead on the final day against Reading, they would have beaten the Royals to second place, but, they had to make do with third place and the lottery that is the playoffs. Luckily for Brentford, Coppell has a very, very good record in the playoffs; Huddersfield were the opponents in the semis and Coppell played it brilliantly. He set Brentford up not to lose at Huddersfield and he got what he wanted as they came away with a 0-0 draw meaning that Huddersfield would have to beat them at Griffin Park and only Wigan had achieved that this season. After the game, it was still only Wigan that had achieved it as Coppell’s Brentford kept their composure after Huddersfield went ahead in the second minute.
The game wasn’t even fifteen minutes old and Brentford had levelled and from there, there was only ever going to be one winner. Lloyd Owusu struck just after halftime to set up a date with Stoke at the Millenium Stadium. The problem that Coppell had with this was that he didn’t have home advantage, nor the benefit of two legs so it had to be won on the day against Stoke and with the aggregate score being 3-3 from the two league encounters, it was anyone’s guess who would be in division one come full time.
Truth be told, it was all but finished when the half-time whistle was blown as Stoke were 2-0 up meaning Brentford had a mountain to climb. It was a step too far for a battling Brentford, but nevertheless, it would be chalked as a success for Coppell when he looks back on his managerial career.
His stint at Brentford was over after the play-off final and he cited the lack of finances as his main reason which I suppose you can understand, but I thought it was a strange play as there wasn’t really anywhere you could see him going.
Six months passed by before he finally got his foot in the door at Brighton after they got rid of their gaffer after an absolutely horrendous start to the season which saw them pick up four points from an available thirty-six meant they needed a miracle worker to help them preserve their Division Ine status. That task was given to Steve Coppell. For once in his career, Coppell had come up short and Brighton were relegated. You have to only have to look at Brighton’s record against the teams around them to work out why they were relegated, although, if Coppell was there from the start of the season, it may well have been a different story.
Coppell’s second crack at Division Two started very strongly and he had them sat top of the table and unbeaten at home when Mr Madejski came calling for Coppell. Coppell’s aim was to manage in the Premier League and he felt he had a better chance to achieve his goals with Reading than he did at Brighton, so he left Brighton sitting prettily at the top of the table and went to Reading.
He started at Reading in October 2003 (are you still with us? Only fourteen more years to cover) and won any doubters within the Royals faithful over as he won three of his first four games to maintain Reading’s good start to the campaign. That season would be a case of what might have been as they missed out on the playoffs by only three points and Reading would rue the fact that they only won two of their last six.
Steve Coppell’s first full season as Reading boss was one full of bizarre circumstances as Reading finished with exactly the same points tally as the previous campaign and yet again missed out on the playoffs by three points. This time around it was a dreadful eleven game winless run which saw them miss out and that would of no doubt angered Coppell as in many respects, they had thrown their chances of writing themselves into Reading folklore out the window for the second season running and they only had themselves to blame.
In the 05/06 season, however, they did just that. A season that started with a terrible home defeat to Plymouth really went from strength to strength, to strength as they broke the Championship points record with a total of 106 points. That is a record that still stands today, although, with the way Wolves are going, it may not be intact come the end of the season. They had a ten game winning streak and only lost twice all season meaning they ran away with the title, finishing 25 points above third place Watford and 16 points above Sheffield United. So, because of all of this, Reading were in the top flight for the first time in their history and Coppell was the man who led them there with such aplomb that he will always be remembered fondly by Reading fans.
This was Coppell’s chance to make a name for himself in the Premier League which is what he had been waiting for. He’d never done well in the Premier League since its formation in ‘92, however, he had led Palace to that third-place finish in what was one of the last top flights before the Premier League, so he would have been quietly confident of his ability and with chairman, John Madejski wanting to make sure their stay in the Premier League wasn’t short-lived, maybe this was Coppell’s moment.
Reading’s Premier League campaign got off to the best possible start when they beat Middlesbrough 3-2 at home after being two goals down inside little over twenty minutes which really set the tone for the season. The following two matches saw Coppell’s side narrowly lose to Aston Villa and Wigan in which they both gave good accounts of themselves and you have to feel if Sonko didn’t get sent off at Villa Park, they would have probably got something out of that game.
September would see Reading take a superb seven points from nine and Coppell win Premier League manager of the month. They beat the blue half of Manchester at home, got an impressive away victory at Sheffield United and then held a Manchester United team containing the likes of Rooney, Ronaldo and Scholes to a battling 1-1 draw at the Madejski. Not a bad start, at all.
They lost four out of their next five as they had a nasty awakening when they faced the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea, but they already had enough points on the board not be overly worried and when Spurs came to visit Reading, Coppell managed to turn it around again. Reading were very fond of doing things the hard way at that point in time and this was evident yet again when Robbie Keane put Tottenham ahead in the 24th minute. By the time the referee blew his whistle for the interval, Reading were 2-1 up. By the time he blew it again for the end of the match, Reading had extended their lead to 3-1 and were back to winning ways.
They won every game in the month of November after the Spurs game which led to Coppell winning the manager of the month award for the second time in the season which was a brilliant feat for a newly promoted side. However, Reading were at a point where they were one extreme or the other and they were blowing cold in December as they failed to win in six, although they did get a good point at Stamford Bridge.
If you look at each of the games they failed to win during that six-game run with the exception of the home defeat to Everton, they only lost by the odd goal, so they weren’t getting battered and it could be argued that on any other day, they would have won one if not more of the six. When January arrived, Coppell got his boys to banish the December blues in the best possible way when West Ham arrived at the Madejski. Reading hit West Ham for six without reply in what turned out to be the biggest home win in the Premier League in the 06/07 season and that was the start of another superb run, which saw the Royals win five out of six and Coppell only missed out on his third manager of the month award after Benitez’ Liverpool won every game in January.
That run put Reading up to the dizzy heights of sixth in the league and with only eleven games left in the season, newly promoted Reading were dreaming of UEFA Cup football the following year. However, over the next six games, they only picked up two points, again, out of the four they lost, they were all by the odd goal meaning they dropped to ninth which was still a fantastic achievement, but there was still five games left. As it stood, they were four points off.
Coppell had them back on point again though as they took nine points from the next three games which included a 3-1 win at Bolton. The reason why that game jumps out as the stand out is that when the game entered the 84th minute, Bolton were 1-0 up, but, a brace from Kevin Doyle and one from Stephen Hunt in injury time gave Reading the win. They followed the Bolton game up with a win at home to Newcastle which saw them go back into the UEFA Cup spaces at Tottenham’s expense. With two games left, it was in their own hands and basement side Watford travelled to Berkshire with nothing to play for, so it should have been a routine victory but Ben Foster in the Watford goal had other ideas. He was the man of the match as Watford won 2-0 and anyone who watched the game will be wondering how on earth he kept Reading at bay.
Going into the final day, Reading knew that all they could do was win and hope that one of the others in the race for the UEFA Cup dropped points. They travelled to Ewood Park who, like Watford, had nothing to play for. But, unfortunately for Reading they choked again at the last moment as in a topsy-turvy game, they drew 3-3 but they never took the lead once. If they had won, they would have qualified for the UEFA Cup, as the other teams dropped points, but maybe it was just never meant to be, however, it was a season that will long be remembered by Reading fans. What a superb couple of seasons.
The season afterwards (07/08 season, stay with me!) was always going to be a tricky one for Reading and Coppell as it was always going to be tough to match what they achieved in their debut Premier League season. However, to say they crashed and burned would be a rather large understatement. There was an eight-game losing run which went from December to March and they weren’t putting together the number of wins they were in the opening season, but, with six games left they were 15th and six points clear of the drop. So, in no real danger, right?
Wrong. They got one point from the next fifteen on offer meaning that going into the final day, it was out of their own hands as them and Fulham were level on points but because of Reading’s inferior goal difference, it meant that they had to better Fulham’s result or absolutely batter Derby on the final day. Reading went 1-0 up within fifteen minutes meaning they were above Fulham. By the 70th minute, Reading were 3-0 up and Fulham were still 0-0 at Fratton Park. Reading were staying up. Six minutes later, Fulham scored to break Reading hearts. So, with fifteen minutes left, Reading needed to score four or hope that Portsmouth equalised otherwise it was bye bye to the Premier League. There was only one more goal as Reading tried but failed to throw the kitchen sink at Derby and their two-year Premier League affair was over.
Coppell was convinced to stay by the Reading supporters for their season in the Championship as he was looking to get them back to the Premier League at the first opportunity and it started well as they remained unbeaten at home in the league until November before Southampton beat them. In true Coppell form though, Reading won five out of the next six to keep them well and truly in the race for promotion. However, a run which would see Reading only win three out of their next thirteen meant that Wolves ran away with the title and it was only second place left up for grabs.
With three games left, it was still a guess at who would finish runners-up and Reading made sure it went to the wire as they beat Derby and Norwich to set up a final day shootout with Birmingham, where it was black and white. If Reading won, they got promoted, if Birmingham avoided defeat, they got promoted. Birmingham drew first blood as they took the lead through Keith Fahey and it was all but confirmed when Kevin Phillips doubled the Brummies lead with half an hour left; Reading sub Matejovsky halved the deficit but Reading would have to make do with the playoffs.
Burnley were Reading’s opponents in the semi-finals and with home advantage in the second leg, much like when he was at Brentford, Coppell had a set gameplan when they travelled to Turf Moor where he would set up not to concede and then aim to capitalise in the home game. It was so close to working but when Burnley got a penalty in the last ten minutes, it changed the dynamic of Coppell’s plan and considering it was Graham Alexander taking the penalty, there was never any danger of him missing. 1-0. To make matters worse, in the dying embers of the game, Andre Bikey, who is with Coppell at Jamshedpur, got sent off in the dying embers of the game.
The first half at the Madejski saw Reading go at Jensen in the Burnley goal like a pack of wild dogs, but the keeper stood firm and they couldn’t find a way past the big Dane. Things got a lot worse after the break when Martin Paterson put Burnley in the lead which doubled their advantage on aggregate and Coppell responded by making a very attack-minded triple substitution with Hunt, Little and Kitson coming off the bench. Before they had a chance to make an impact, Steven Thompson made it 3-0 over the two legs which left Coppell and Reading with an impossible task. Much like the season before, it was in their own hands and they fluffed it. Coppell resigned after the game.
After almost a year out, he took over at Ashton Gate for the final two games of the season which saw him take four points and after that he was offered a twelve-month contract which he duly accepted. The first two games of the next season weren’t as good as the last two of the previous one as Bristol City lost 3-0 at home to Millwall and were then dumped out the League Cup by League One Southend. After the poor start to the season, Coppell resigned saying that he had lost his passion for football management and his short tenure at Bristol City was over before it had even begun.
The story fast forwards from 2010 to last year as Coppell took up Director of Football positions at Crawley and Portsmouth and luckily this is his manager profile so we can ignore those! So now, we’ve arrived at 2016 and Coppell is at Kerala Blasters. His time didn’t get off to the best of starts as it took him until game four before he got his first win, but after that Coppell pretty much sussed the league.
Impressive victories over FC Goa and Chennaiyin were part of a normal league campaign which saw Kerala finish in the top four meaning they would compete in the final part of the ISL which sees the winner qualify for the Champions League. High scoring Delhi Dynamos were their opponents in the semi-final as they had the opening game at home in what was somewhat of a rarity in the Coppell’s history, but, true to form, Coppell’s team were victorious at home and importantly kept a clean sheet in a 1-0 win.
In Delhi, it was a different ball game as the Dynamos went 1-0 up early on to make it all square on aggregate, but their lead didn’t last long as Duckens Nazon got the equaliser just three minutes later. It was then thought that Kerala would see the game out after Delhi were reduced to ten men, but then, in first-half stoppage time, Delhi made it 2-1 when Gonzalez put one away with his head. Strangely, considering the action-packed nature of the first half, that was it in terms of goals for the rest of the game, including extra time, meaning that it was time for the dreaded penalty shootout. Turns out away goals don’t count. So it happens, Delhi seem not to practise penalties as they missed three in a row meaning that Coppell would be leading his team to the final.
Atletico de Kolkata were the only team standing in the way of Coppell getting Kerala to the Champions League at the first time of asking and they got off to the best possible start when Mohammed Rafi put them one up in the 37th minute, however, it was short-lived as ATK replied seven minutes later. Again much like the game against, Delhi Dynamos, that was it for the game and we arrived at penalties, once more.
Kerala went first and scored, then Hume missed, then Belfort scored putting them 2-0 up on penalties. From that moment on, though, ATK didn’t miss and when Hengbart missed penalty number five, it opened the door for ATK to win the tie and they took it. Much like Reading’s first season in the Premier League, it was a case of what might have been.
Coppell didn’t want to have another go with Kerala, so he opted for Jamshedpur which is where we are today and he is actually doing rather well. In the six games they’ve played so far, they have only conceded once, so it’s fair to say that Coppell is focussing on a strong backline and building from the back. They’ve only scored twice so they aren’t the strongest going forward, but, after beating Bengaluru yesterday, they sit three points off the top of the table and they will definitely be a team to watch as Coppell knows the league.
All things considered, if I was a betting man and luckily I am, I’d be backing Jamshedpur to finish in the top four.