There was a lot of hue and cry among the Indian football fraternity regarding the viability, significance and consequence of launching the Indian Arrows scheme of things, but the “Dream Project”, as portrayed by the AIFF, has proved all its detractors wrong in the debut season – at least from a development perspective.
Three prime objectives behind the formation of Pailan Arrows, formerly known as Indian Arrows, are to groom the talented youngsters under a single roof, give them the required exposure at the top flight football and keep the supply line intact for the senior national team. The story so far has been a success - as quite a few youngsters have made a smooth transition in to the senior national team from the Arrows camp in 2010/11 season.
The man at helm, Desmond Bulpin, had done a decent job with the youngsters last season, helping them to finish at a respectable 9th spot in their maiden I-League appearance. However, with Bob Houghton’s departure, Bulpin found himself a surplus to the requirement in the Arrows camp. He was unceremoniously sacked at the start of the season and veteran Sukhwinder Singh, renowned for grooming young talents, has been appointed as the Technical Director for the upcoming season.
Sukhwinder Singh will have to restructure the whole squad all over again as Pailan Arrows has been the most affected team in the transfer market losing almost all of their key players to other I-League clubs. As per the initial contract between AIFF and the parent clubs, top performers like Raju Gaekwad, Jeje Lalpekhlua, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Lalrindika Ralte, Jagroop Singh et al have returned to their parent clubs after serving the year long mandatory loan spell with the Arrows outfit.
With the new sponsor, the Pailan Group, on board, a host of new talents have been roped in for the upcoming season and it will be interesting to see if they have it in them to match their much illustrious rivals in the top flight Indian football. Let’s now have a look at the arrivals and departures in the Arrows camp for the upcoming season.
Summer Transfer Activities:
Naveen Kumar, Gurtej Singh Sr, Amarwant Singh, Gurtej Singh Jr, Ajay Singh (All From JCT), Rajib Ghosh (From East Bengal), C.S Sabeeth (From Viva Kerala), Laukik Jadav (From Bengal Mumbai FC), Bijendra Singh (From Royal Wahingdoh SC), Avinaba Bag (From Kalighat Milan Sangha), Narayan Das, Shenaz Singh, Probir Das, Krishanu Banerjee, Lalnunka, Lalnunpuia.
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Abhishek Das, Raju Eknath Gaekwad, Subodh Kumar, Ongnam Milan Singh (All to East Bengal), Sheikh Jewel Raja, Jagtar Singh (Both to Mohun Bagan), Lalrindika Ralte (Churchill Brothers), Jeje Lalpekhlua (Pune FC), Jagroop Singh (Prayag United SC), Ravindra Kumar, Inderpreet Singh, Akshay Kumar Mall, Manandeep Singh.
Ravi Kumar, Kamaljeet Singh, Deepak Devrani, Vishal Kumar, Lalrozama Fanai, Souvik Ghosh, Prathamesh Maulingkar, Bikramjit Singh, Tirthankar Sarkar, Shilton Sydney D’Silva, Jibon Singh, Malsawmfela, Holicharan Narzary.
GOALKEEPERS: Naveen Kumar, Kamaljeet Singh, Ravi Kumar
The void which was created by the departures of Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and Jagroop Singh will be filled up by the talented former JCT FC custodian Naveen Kumar. Naveen had been impressive for JCT throughout the last I-League campaign and Sukhwinder Singh will expect similar performance from the young Punjabi shot-stopper in Arrows’ colors as well.
Kamaljeet Singh, India U-19 national team’s first choice goalkeeper, will serve as Naveen’s deputy in this department. Kamaljeet, spotted by Sukhwinder Singh himself in 2009 Subrata Mukherjee Cup, is supremely talented and he is one of the brightest prospects in the country at the moment.
Ravi Kumar, a JCT Academy product who has been retained by the team, will be the third choice goalkeeper in the team.
DEFENDERS: Deepak Devrani, Souvik Ghosh, Vishal Kumar, Rajib Ghosh, Lalrozama Fanai, Avinabo Bag, Prathamesh Maulingkar, Gurtej Singh, Amarwant Singh, Narayan Das
There is absolutely no doubt that Pailan Arrows will miss their charismatic skipper Raju Gaekwad at the centre of defense. Deepak Devrani, Raju’s last season’s partner at central defense, will have to take up more responsibility this time around. The inclusion of supremely talented East Bengal youth product Rajib Ghosh and former JCT youngster Gurtej Singh will give the Arrows defense the much needed experience boost. Although Gurtej is a full back, he can also be deployed at the central defense if required.
Besides Gurtej, who is more comfortable on the left sided defense, Souvik Ghosh and Vishal Kumar are the other two fullbacks at the disposal of Sukhwinder Singh. The departure of regular right back Abhishek Das to East Bengal means that one of them will have to step in to fill up the position of right fullback in the upcoming season.
Player rotation policy is likely to be implemented in the squad to give the youngsters the desired extent of exposure, hence Lalrozama Fanai, Avinabo Bag, Prathamesh Maulingkar, Amarwant Singh and Narayan Das will surely get to play their part in the marathon run.
MIDFIELDERS: Shilton D’Silva, Tirthankar Sarkar, Jibon Singh, Bikramjit Singh, Bijendra Rai, Sehnaj Singh, Prabir Das, Krishanu Banerjee, Lalnunka
Last season Shilton D’Silva has been a revelation for the young Arrows brigade playing the role of central midfielder to perfection alongside Jewel Raja Sheikh. Shilton will be an integral part in Sukhwinder’s plan in the upcoming season as well. However, with Jewel moving out to Mohun Bagan, it will be a toss up between Jibon Singh and Bikramjit Singh to secure a place in the central midfield starting line-up.
Winger Lalrindika Ralte, who is slowly cementing his place in the senior national team, was one of the best players for Arrows in last season’s campaign and he will be sorely missed. He was also the best set-piece specialist in the team and his departure to Churchill Brothers will hamper the team’s ability to score from dead-ball situations. In Dika’s absence, highly rated Mizoram boy Lalnunka is most likely to be the first choice left winger in the team for the coming season, while Tirthankar Sarkar is expected to partner him on the opposite flank.
Central midfielder Prabir Das, a regular in the national U-19 squad, and his partner in U-19 team Sehnaj Singh, are both making rapid progress and they will be the players to watch out for in the forthcoming season. Last but not the least, given a chance, both Krishanu Banerjee and Bijendra Rai are also capable enough to make a lasting impact.
FORWARDS: C.S. Sabeeth, Ajay Singh, Malswamfela, Holicharan Narzary, Lalnunpuia
Even though the top scorer of last season, Jeje Lalpekhlua, will not be donning the Arrows jersey in the upcoming season, the attacking line-up looks very promising. Indian international and Viva Kerala youth product C.S. Sabeeth, alongwith JCT’s top scorer of last season Ajay Singh, are the most high profile signings for Arrows in the transfer window. It will be interesting to see whether or not they will be able to produce a deadly combo upfront.
Then there is the supremely talented Mizo lad Malswamfela, who has represented the country in every single age group level with decent success. It is going to be the season of reckoning for him. For the sake of Indian football, every football follower in the country would hope that Fela will be able to do justice to his immense potential in the forthcoming season and he will prove to be an asset – not only for the Arrows outfit, but also for the country in near future.
Assam boy Holicharan Narzary, another talented member of the national U-19 side, had made headlines last season in his debut I-League appearance when, coming on as a substitute, he scored a brilliant goal against the eventual Champions Salgaocar. Expectations have soared up higher after his impressive performances donning the national U-19 jersey in the recently concluded Weifang Cup and the fans will have a keen eye on his progress. 17 year old Lalnunpuia, a highly rated youth product emerging out of Mohun Bagan-SAIL football academy will be another exciting prospect to watch out for.