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Red & Gold East Bengal FC dons a new look in 2016

Silent revolution brought sweeping change in the Red & Gold Brigade. Over the last few seasons, the team maintained continuity and propagated a “set-team” theory. Cosmetic haircuts made way for major upgrade. The custodian changed. Two of the four guarding the citadel were new – and with the recent signing of Narayan Das – it is expected to be three off four. In the midfield, two off the four starters were donning the colors for the first time in i-League. Up in front, Dong played his first game in i-League. In totality, since the summer of 2015, the whole playing XI has been revamped, and at least 6-8 players in starting XI are likely to be in their maiden season in Red & Gold. Even the foreign quartet changed, with Ranty Martins being the lone survivor

To modify 65%+ of playing XI requires tremendous courage and effort – both from the team management and from the club management. The cards have been played, and now it remains to be seen how the deck shows.

The set team theory had provided consistent result. In the long run, to perform extra ordinarily, a set team is inevitable. To an extent, in this edition the team will start with a relative disadvantage; and players are expected to take some time to build rhythm. Games in next two weeks will be tougher than the rest, as the team shapes up. I personally see two major reasons for the miss between the lips and cup for so many times in last several years: (a) we missed a bit of X-factor; and (b) the AFC Cup. The general belief this year is that we have at least three-four players who can truly be the difference between an average team and exceptional one. And the travel of AFC Cup will not haunt us for once. It is important that the young core is revamped through long term contracts.

Under the circumstances, the most critical cog in the ploy becomes the coaching team, which has shown exceptional perseverance and dedication throughout. They have been single minded in their job. Their next step will be to find the balance in the playing XI with the newly secured arsenal. In several positions there are more than one deserving players; so man management and maintaining motivation among the miss-outs will be critical. Unfortunately, the work becomes tougher; as a 16 game league will not allow the luxury of experiment like a 26-game league. For the next two weeks, the team has their task cut out – but with their application and experience; I truly pray that they succeed. It will be almost cruel if they don’t.

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