ISL: Shree Cement’s ambition to the fore as East Bengal appoint Robbie Fowler as manager

Robbie Fowler’s arrival at East Bengal marks a new era in the century-old club’s glorious history…

East Bengal confirmed the arrival of Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler as their new manager for the upcoming Indian Super League (ISL) season on Friday. Fowler’s arrival marks a new era at the Red and Golds who are all set to make their debut in the ISL this season, which is the top tier of Indian football. 

The Kolkata giants became the newest entrants in the ISL after they roped in Shree Cement Limited as their new investors last month, which helped them sort out any financial wrinkles they had. As such, their entry into the ISL alone generated a lot of excitement among the fanbase and the neutral onlookers. 

There has been a lot said about what East Bengal would bring to ISL. The anticipation of a Kolkata derby being held in the ISL alone would have been enough to whet the appetite of fans. However, fans of the Red and Golds would have been keen to see their beloved team show some intent, going into their first season in the ISL. 

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And the club has responded by making a statement signing by bringing in somebody of Fowler’s stature. The Liverpool legend’s pedigree as a top player in the Premier League needs no introduction though his coaching career is still at a nascent stage. But there is no doubt about the wealth of experience he brings with him. 

It must be noted that this will be Fowler’s third assignment as a head coach. Fowler had managed A-League side Brisbane Roar FC last season. They had finished fourth on the league table but were knocked out in the Elimination finals after losing to Western United FC 0-1. Prior to his venture in Australia, the Brit had managed a club way back in 2011 when he took charge of Thai League 1 side Muangthong United as their player-manager.

Scott McDonald Brisbane Roar 2019-20

While Fowler is certainly a huge name when it comes to footballing stalwarts to have come to India, there could be eyebrows raised about his managerial credentials. What one must note is that while some former stars with less coaching experience have flopped in India, it is not an absolute indicator. 

For example, let’s take a look at Italy’s World Cup-winning defender Marco Materazzi who started his managerial career at ISL side Chennaiyin FC in 2014. Materazzi had initially joined the club as their player-manager in the maiden season of the league and had managed to guide the Southern outfit to the play-offs. The second season saw the former Inter Milan defender helping the club win the coveted title by beating FC Goa in a dramatic fashion in the final. 

Marco Materazzi Chennaiyin FC Kerala Blasters FC ISL season 3 2016

Delhi Dynamos, rechristened as Odisha FC in 2019, had hired two rookie big-name managers in 2015 and 2016 and those two seasons turned out to be the most successful years in the club’s brief history.

The club had appointed Brazilian legend Roberto Carlos as player-manager in 2015 and Carlos ensured the club reached the play-offs after finishing fourth on the league table. The subsequent year, legendary Italian defender Gianluca Zambrotta coached the team to a third-place finish, the club’s highest ever league position so far. Once again, they were knocked out in the play-offs.

Steven Gerrard Liverpool testimonial Robbie Fowler Luis Suarez 2013

Of course, there are examples to the contrary like that of Teddy Sheringham who had taken charge of ATK in 2017-18 season. The former England and Manchester United forward had a forgetful stint in Kolkata and ended up parting ways with the club before the season ended after some below-par performances. 

Whichever way the leaf falls, Fowler’s appointment is sure to garner a lot of interest for East Bengal, not just among the domestic audience but also among the international media. And speculating on how his stint in Kolkata would go will just be conjecture at this point. 

Fowler, despite being a rookie manager, has been relatively successful in one of Asia’s top leagues only a season back. The Englishman’s biggest advantage is his experience of managing Asian clubs in both his managerial stints and it will definitely come in handy while managing the Kolkata giants. He has also played for Thailand’s Muangthong which makes him familiar to Asian footballing standards.

Also, Fowler’s pedigree as an accomplished international footballer and as a Liverpool legend will benefit the club and its image in terms of their commercial relevance. 

The former Liverpool star’s appointment is indicative of East Bengal’s new investors Shree Cement Limited’s ambition to excite the fans. Now, the fans will hope the management is able to give Fowler a squad that is able to compete with the bigwigs of the ISL. 

In any case, it promises to be an entertaining season for East Bengal and ISL. 

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