When Jamshedpur FC lifted its maiden Indian Super League shield, it was its first silverware since its inception.
A month later, its head coach, Owen Coyle, made his way back home while its best player Greg Stewart joined Mumbai City FC.
For the upcoming season, the team has turned over a new leaf, bringing in a another British manager – Adrian Boothroyd – as it looks to defend the shield this year, starting October 11.
“The key thing that we needed to do was to assess what helped Owen’s team to win the shield,” Boothroyd told Sportstar in an exclusive interview.
“It’s a challenge because I’ve never worked in a league where the distances are so far apart and the discrepancies in the weather and the pitches is so vast, which is one of the exciting things as a coach plus to pit my wits and our staff’s work against different coaches from different continents.”
The 51-year-old comes with immense experience in English football, where he developed the current lot of English youngsters in the senior team, such as Jude Bellingham, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish and Mason Mount.
Boothroyd’s approach in modern football
Boothroyd’s most recent job was that of a coach mentor and consultant with Championship side Sheffield United, where his role revolved around creating a team with youngsters – something Owen Coyle perfected with Jamshedpur FC.
Another reason for the appointment would be to continue the British style of play – playing high-up the pitch and attacking through long balls.
Initially, Jamshedpur saw the long-ball approach falter with striker Nerijus Valskis up front but found results soon, after Daniel Chima Chukwu joined in the winter window.
The former Premier League manager said that he would not stick to any formation throughout the game and that formations will vary depending on the quality of the individuals that the team is trying to either get the ball to, or keep the ball away from.
“I’ve always believed that in order to win, you’ve got to defend in a variety of ways.
Sometimes you’ve got to drop off and particularly in this climate, depending on the time of year that you’re playing, sometimes you’ve got to press,” he said.
“I think in possession of the ball; sometimes, you’ve got to build it from the back and there are times when you have to be direct. That’s the nature of the game; weather sometimes dictates that and form and pitches and everything else.”
Boothroyd further explained that with height and width across the pitch, there is potential to stretch the opponent.
“When you haven’t got the ball, working, being compact, pressing when it’s right to press, and dropping off when its right to drop off,” he said.
Effect of Greg Stewart leaving Jamshedpur FC
Ahead of the 2022-23 season, Jamshedpur lost one of its most important players – Greg Stewart. The Scottish attacking midfielder was one of the most influential players for the Red Miners as they lifted the Winner’s Shield.
In his debut season in the Indian Super League, Stewart scored 10 goals and assisted as many, winning the Hero of the League award (Player of the Tournament).
“You look at Greg Stewart; he was – in terms of the stats of the team – their best assister, their top goal scorer. He took the corners; he took the wild free-kicks. He probably even made the tea at half time,” said Boothroyd.
“Personally, I think if he had stayed then, everybody would have been approaching the play a lot differently than what they would now.”
In July, Stewart joined Mumbai City FC on a two-year deal and was a vital cog in the midfield, helping Mumbai City finish as the runner-up in its maiden Durand Cup campaign.
“I saw it as a chance to freshen up the team. So, we’ve still retained the core. TP (Rehenesh TP) and Peter (Peter Hartley) and Eli (Eli Sabia) as center-backs with Pratik Chaudhari coming in behind him and pushing him. We brought Wellington (Wellington Priori) back, who is looking really good in training already.
“We’ve got Chima (Daniel Chima Chukwu) who was fantastic last season and he’s a real team player, so we’re looking for him to step up and score some more goals,” he added.
Jamshedpur has also added Australian forward Harry Sawyer to its arsenal and will look to mitigate the crisis with more firepower in the final third.
“I think that’s where we’re now. We’re looking for a new assister, we’re looking for a new top scorer and looking for a new guy to take to make the tea,” said the Englishman.
Jamshedpur started its pre-season with two commanding wins over Tata Motors and Tata Steel and held FC Goa to a draw. On October 11, the Men of Steel will start their ISL campaign against Odisha FC as the defending league winner.
“I’m looking forward to going to walk in across the pitch and take my place in the dugout so that I can feel the atmosphere. That’s what coaches want,” Boothroyd said.
“We’re all searching for that Holy Grail in every game where you can put in a fantastic performance, play really good football and at the same time, make sure we get three points.”