Despite always having a bunch of young and promising players in the team list, the Highlanders have struggled to show their prowess in the Hero Indian Super League. They ended the first season at the rock bottom, then 5th for the next two seasons and again last in the fourth season.
Trying to put an end to it, North East United FC are looking forward to strengthen their team and end the league on the other side of the table where they have never been. They have retained four players from the previous season and made serious domestic and foreign signings to bolster their squad for the upcoming season.
1) Reagan Singh: The 27-year old Mizo started his career at Royal Wahingdoh FC in 2012, before joining the Highlanders in 2015. He moved to Salgaocar in 2016 before coming back to NEUFC in the same year. In 2017, he was sent on loan to Mumbai City FC and he is now back to play his trade for the Highlanders. He is a subtle right back, but does also play as centre back in some situations.
2) Rehenesh TP: The 25-year old Malayali keeper graduated from SAI before playing his trade for Golden Threads FC and Viva Kerala. Besides being a starter at North East United FC, he has vast experiences playing for clubs like ONGC, Mumbai Tigers, Rangdajied United, Shillong Lajong FC and East Bengal.
3) Rowlin Borges: The 26-year-old has been a regular starter for the Highlanders since 2016 and his tall 6 ft. frame has helped them avert danger in the box on multiple occasions when aerial balls were played in. Starting his career for I-League giants Sporting Club De Goa, this defensive midfielder has played in Red and Gold colours for a season. He will be one of the main man to watch out for in this season’s Super League.
4) Lalrempuia Fanai: The 22-year-old earlier played for fellow ISL side Pune City FC. However, as was the case with Pune City, Fanai has never gotten much playing time with NorthEast United as well. The Mizo’s potential is yet to be fully exploited by the team.
○ New Domestic Signings:
1) Nikhil Kadam: The former Mumbai FC man who played for Bagan last season, is looking forward to start his journey in ISL. He was clinical on the left wing for the Mariners last season and is one of the most prominent signings for the Highlanders this season.
2) Kivi Zhimoni: The first Naga player to sign for an ISL side, Kivi will be looking forward to make a mark in the competition’s history books. He was prolific last season for I-League club, Gokulam Kerala FC, what earned him a move to the Super League franchise.
3) Seityasen Singh: Seityasen was quite impressive for Delhi Dynamos last season, scoring some great goals from midfield and bringing a lot of energy to the team. He started his career at Royal Wahingdoh FC, where his duo with Jackichand Singh was deadly, before playing his part for the Highlanders twice, Salgaocar in 2016, DSK Shivajians in 2017, and Delhi Dynamos the same season.
4) Girik Khosla: Girik’s youth career started at Mumbai FC, before signing for Mumbai Tigers (2009-10), Mumbai FC (2011-12), Nagpur FC (2013-14). His first significant senior signing was for Minerva Punjab FC in 2016, when they had a bad season, before winning the title the next season. The 23-year old attacking midfielder will bring pace and creativity in the Highlanders’ offense.
5) Redeem Tlang: Tlang also had a breakthrough season with Shillong Lajong in the I-League, with his impressive passing ability and eye for goal being something which will make him a main man to watch out for. His blistering pace down the flanks makes him a tough man to defend against.
6) Gurwinder Singh: One of the main man in the North Eastern defence, the ex-Red and Golds’ man will add stability and a bit of confidence to the team. Starting his career in JCT, Singh moved to East Bengal in 2016, playing his part for them till 2018, where he was also loaned to Super League side Kerala Blasters for the first three seasons. Not just a no-nonsense defender, the 32-year old stopper has scored 41 times in 159 appearances for the Red and Golds.
7) Provat Lakra: Always playing his trade for Pathachakra in the Calcutta Football League Premier Division, Lakra has been under positive views of different scouts. He made his mark last season, making a move to I-League side Gokulam Kerala FC and had a great season, beating both the Kolkata giants and the champions.
8) Pawan Kumar: The 28-year old goalkeeper has a vast experience playing his trade for heavyweights like JCT, Air India, Salgaocar, Bengaluru FC, Chennaiyin FC and Mumbai FC. He was in the squad for Chennaiyin last season when they went on to win the league.
9) Pawan Kumar: The 23-year old defender from AIFF Elite Academy has represented Salgaocar, Delhi United FC and FC Pune City. Young, but experienced, Pawan’s clinical defending will make him thrive for the Highlanders.
10) Keegan Pereira: The Mumbaikar is one of the most experienced man in the team. He is 30 and has played for teams like Mumbai FC, Salgaocar, DSK Shivajians, Bengaluru FC, Mumbai City FC and ATK. His clinical last season with the Kolkata franchise made North East United chase him during this season’s draftings.
11) Robert Lalthamuana: Another vastly experienced player, Robert is a TFA graduate and started his career at Churchill Brothers back in 2008. In 2011, he moved to the Red and Golds where he was loaned out to Dynamos twice (2014, 2015) and ATK in 2016. He left East Bengal in 2017 to sign for North East United and this is his second season with the club.
12) Gurmeet Singh Chabal: The 23-year old goalkeeper has played for Chanmari FC and Aizawl FC, before signing for North East United this season. He will have to work much harder to get a chance in the starting eleven or on the reserve bench.
13) Rupert Nongram: The central midfielder from Meghalaya is only 22 and started his career at Shillong Lajong FC back in 2015, before being loaned out to Delhi Dynamos in 2016 and signing for ATK in 2017. He will be a man to watch out for in the Highlanders’ jersey.
14) Simranjit Singh: The TFA graduate has played for Pailan Arrows, Bharat FC and heavyweights like Mohammedan FC, Minerva Punjab FC and Delhi Dynamos. The 26-year old midfielder signed for NEUFC with great determination and high hopes. It is to be seen if he delivers as expected.
15) Lalthathanga Khawlhring: A graduate from DSK academy, he started his career at Bethlehem Vengthlang. The 20-year old midio has played his trade for Shivajians’ senior team, Aizawl FC and the Highlanders earlier too. He was honoured Mizoram Premier League Best Midfielder in 2015-16. There is a lot to expect from him.
○ New Foreign Signings:
1) Mato Grgić: The big Croatian defender has been brought in to strengthen the Highlanders’ defence. The 30-year old, 6ft 1.5in tall stopper has represented heavyweights like Hrvatski Dragovoljac, Rudeš, Slaven Belupo, MTK Budapest and Inter Zaprešić and will bring in all the experience in the back line up.
2) Mislav Komorski: Another Croatian back, the 26-year old stopper has played for Dinamo Zagreb and Hrvatski Dragovoljac. Standing tall at 6ft 3in, he will provide all the stability and strength to the defence.
3) Jose David Leudo: The 24-year old Colombian is the main man to watch out in the squad. The central midfielder has played for Felix, Colon, Deportivo Pasto, Veracruz and more clubs and will bring all the experience at such an young age.
4) Fredrico Gallego: Playing his trade for top division Uruguayan clubs like Sud America, Liverpool and Boston River, the 28-year old midfielder from Uruguay will bring in a Latin touch to the Highlanders’ midfield. His creativity and distribution of the ball will make him thrive for NEUFC.
5) Augastine Okrah: ACL runners up will Al Hilal Club in 2017, the young Ghanaian has been brought in to add a cutting edge to the attack. He has also won the Sudan Premier League and Sudan Cup for Al Merrikh SC in 2015. His skills and sheer speed, and his ability to play in any position in the midfield makes him a top man to watch out in the competition.
6) Juan Cruz Mascia: Another Uruguayan who has an eight year experience in his nation’s football, playing for clubs like Miramar Misiones, Nacional, Montevideo Wanderers, El Tanque Sisley and Plaza Colonia, the forward is more famous for his build up play than netting. His Latin touch to the Highlanders’ football will be worth watching. North East will hope he links up well with the big Nigerian up front.
7) Bartholomew Ogbeche: The 33-year old Nigerian has worn the Eagles’ jersey 11 times and netted thrice. He has played for International heavyweights like Paris St. Germain, Bastia, Metz, Real Valladoid, Deportivo Alaves, Al-Jazira, Middlesbrough and Willem II. He is the biggest signing for the club and all eyes will be on him.
● Team Rating:
○ Goalkeeper Rating- 7/10
○ Defence Rating- 7.5/10
○ Midfield Rating- 7/10
○ Strikeforce Rating- 6.5/10
○ Overall Rating- 7/10
● Probable XI:
Rehenesh TP (GK)
Jose David Leudo
Juan Cruz Mascia
● Manager’s Quotes:
Eelco Schattorie, the Highlanders’ Dutch gaffer said “See, in football, one day you are a hero, the next day a zero. What I mean to say is that I have tons of experience in football, more than that of my team owners too. Everybody wants to be champions, but only one team will become champion.”
“What we need to ensure is that the right process is followed to gain success, so that we don’t have to take a step backward after gaining success but instead, move forward. But let me be clear: I want to be champions with NEUFC, but we need to do the right things every day to get there” he said on what the management expects of him from this season.
He is happy to get an opportunity to work with Avram Grant, who has managed clubs like Maccabi Tel Aviv, Chelsea, Portsmouth, West Ham United, Partizan Belgrade and national teams of Israel and Ghana.
“I got a call from an agent in January asking if I was willing to work with Avram Grant in NEUFC,” Eelco added.
“I had been following the ISL from far so when the offer came, and I thought it was an excellent opportunity to come back to India, and that is how I happened to take up the NEUFC role,” elaborated the Dutch on how Northeast United happened for him.
The Highlanders received a heavy blow when their preseason plans in Sweden were cancelled due to internal technical issues. They trained in Guwahati and played 3 matches, winning 2 and losing one.
North East United won the first match thrashing Guwahati Town Club 6-0, where Nigerian forward Bartholomew Ogbeche managed to net a brace. In the next match, the Highlanders went down to I-League side NEROCA FC 0-1, but regained their confidence defeating CFL Premier Division side New Barrackpore Rainbow AC 4-0.
Here is the Highlanders’ complete schedule till the December break-
1) 1st October, 2018- FC Goa (H)- 1930 HRS IST- Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium, Guwahati
2) 4th October, 2018- ATK (A)- 1930 HRS IST- Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Krirangan, Kolkata
3) 18th October, 2018- Chennaiyin FC (A)- 1930 HRS IST- Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Chennai
4) 25th October, 2018- Jamshedpur FC (H)- 1930 HRS IST- Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium, Guwahati
5) 30th October, 2018- Delhi Dynamos (A)- 1930 HRS IST-Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Delhi
6) 9th November, 2018- Mumbai City FC (H)- 1930 HRS IST- Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium, Guwahati
7) 23rd November, 2018- Kerala Blasters (H)- 1930 HRS IST- Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium, Guwahati
8) 27th November, 2018- FC Pune City (A)- 1930 HRS IST- Shree Shivaji Chattrapati Sports Complex, Pune
9) 1st December, 2018- Jamshedpur FC (A)- 1930 HRS IST- JRD TATA Sports Complex, Jamshedpur
10) 5the December, 2018- Bengaluru FC (H)- 1930 HRS IST- Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium, Guwahati
11) 8th December, 2018- ATK (H)- 1930 HRS IST- Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium, Guwahati
12) 14th December, 2018- FC Goa (A)- 1930 HRS IST- Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Fatorda
● Author’s Take:
Northeast United FC’s performance has been disappointing so far in the ISL. The team has failed to qualify to the playoffs and has finished bottom of the table twice. The 2017-18 ISL season was quite a disaster for the club as along with ending at the bottom of the table, they also had the worst crowd turnout in the league. They managed to win only 3 matches and score 12 points, being the lowest for the season.
To be honest, there is not much hope from the Highlanders’ team this season too, but, this is the beautiful game of football.
Eelco would want his team players as well as management to forget about the past seasons and start this season from scratch. Despite not being able to play as expected for the past four seasons, North East has not run after fame, rather they have created a team of great combination of youth and experienced.
India may find her rising stars from the Highlanders’ team, signing young talents like Kivi Zhimoni, Rupert Nongram and Redeem Tlang.
No matter what, I hope football wins at the end of the day and the league creates the upcoming stars in Indian Football.