Ever since the 2010-11 season of I- League got over, Prayag United (formerly Chirag United) has had an eventful couple of months. The Kolkata-based club fell out with their sponsors of over four years – Chirag Computers (a well known brand of RP Infosystems Ltd.). Luckily for them, in Kolkata based Prayag Group of Industries, they found a new sponsor in a very short span of time. A six-year deal was penned between the two parties and in early August, United Sports Club was rechristened as “Prayag United” much to the relief of the club faithfuls.
Former India Under-16 assistant coach Sanjoy Sen – an AFC “A” license holder – was appointed as the head coach of the Kolkata-based club. Last season he looked after their managerial role when Subrata Bhattacharya, their technical director was not keeping well. Sanjoy Sen has been officially announced the head coach of the squad. He is an astute tactician, something which he has showcased time and again during his days as a deputy to Colm Toal in the Indian youth sector and by leading Prayag United to their maiden triumph in the Durand Cup last season.
The departure of their long standing sponsor days after the end of the last season had sent the club and its fans in a tizzy, but the arrival of new local sponsor went a long way in restoring the faith of their fans in the club and its management. Surprisingly amidst all the turmoil, the club was able to retain bulk of their squad, which helped them to finish at the eighth position in the league last season. In spite of not having a budget to match the likes of East Bengal or Mohun Bagan, Prayag United has managed to come up with a fairly strong squad for the upcoming season. A top six finish in the I-League is well within their reach if they play to their full potential.
Along with these signings, quite a few youngsters have made the cut to the senior squad from their U-19 team. TheHardTackle presents an analysis on how the club would be shaping up for the upcoming football season.
Transfers for the season 2011-12
|James Lukram Singh||Midfielder||Salgaocar SC|
|Yakubu Yusif||Striker||Salgaocar SC|
|Deepak Kumar Mondal||Defender||Mohun Bagan AC|
|Jayanta Sen||Midfielder||Mohun Bagan AC|
|Bello Razaq||Defender||Viva Kerala|
|Kayne Vincent||Striker||Churchill Brothers SC|
|Jagroop Singh||Goal Keeper||Indian Arrows|
|Anupam Sarkar||Defender||Aryans Club|
|Chinta Chandrashekar Rao||Defender||Salgaocar SC|
|Tanmoy Ghosh||Defender||Eastern Railway|
|Snehasis Dutta||Midfielder||Aryans Club|
|Crispin Chetri||Midfielder||Tollygunjee AG|
|Gaur Sankar Dutta||Defender||Railways FC|
|Jerry Zirsanga||Midfielder||Churchill Brothers SC|
|Nascimento Silveira||Midfielder||Churchill Brothers SC|
|Melwyn Rodrigues||Defender||Churchill Brothers SC|
|Elijah Obagbemiro Junior||Striker||Salgaocar SC|
|Sunil Chhetri||Striker||Mohun Bagan AC|
|Branco Vincent Cardozo||Striker||East Bengal|
|Asif K||Midfielder||Viva Kerala|
|Munna Mallick||Striker||Techno Aryan Club|
|S. Santha Kumar||Striker||Integral Coach Factory|
Goalkeepers: Abhijit Mondal, Jagroop Singh, Somnath Khara, Parimal Burman
Last season United Sports Club ended up conceding a mammoth total of 36 goals – fourth highest in the league. The defence and goalkeeping of the team was often criticized, which led to the signing of Pailan Arrows’ first-choice goalkeeper from last season – twenty year old Jagroop Singh. Along with his inclusion they have promoted one of their youth academy products – Parimal Burman. These youngsters are expected to take over from Mondal very soon as Mondal had a mediocre last season standing between the sticks.
THT Verdict: The inclusion of Singh and Burman is a strong indicator that Prayag United is not just concerned about the present state of its squad but that the management is also pro-actively thinking about the future. Jagroop had received a lot of appreciation from his coach Bulpin during his with the Arrows. Now whether this boy from Gurdaspur will walk straight into the starting line up of Sen’s team is something which we will find out only once the season begins. But, there is no denying to the fact that the kid is blessed with phenomenal reflexes and that is bound to come in handy for Prayag United in the future.
Defenders: Arnab Mondal, Justin Stephen, Belo Razaq, Deepak Mondal, Anupam Sarkar, Sukhen Dey, Subhasis Roy Chowdhury, Bapi Saha, Tanmoy Ghosh, Chinta Chandrasheakar Rao, Gour Sankar Dutta
A dismal and below power performance by their back-line in the 2010-11 season left no doubts in the mind of the support stuff that serious reinforcements were required in their defensive department. Sen has signed up as many as six new defenders in the transfer market including some big names like Deepak Mondal and Bello Razaq. Mondal, who was the 2002 AIFF player of the year will be fully motivated as he will have a point to prove, when he steps on the field for Prayag United. He was sidelined from the national team after the Asia Cup in January and is now aiming for a good season at the club level in order to get back into the national team. He can play as a center back or as a fullback which will provide a lot of options for Sanjoy.
Partnering him in the back-line will be the experienced Nigerian Bello Razaq, who joined the club from Chirag United Club Kerela and Arnab Mondal, who after playing his first game in Indian colors during the pre-Olympic qualifier against Qatar looks all pumped up. The left-back place is expected to be filled by either Tanmoy Ghosh, who arrived from Eastern Railways or Chandrashekar Rao – the club’s latest signing from the defending champions Salgaocar SC.
THT Verdict: Defence was the weakest link of Prayag United in the season gone by. The arrival experienced names in the back-line is expected to provide some much needed assurity to the team. Some major signings in the defensive department has surely helped them in taking care of their Achilles heel for the time being at least.
Midfielders: Denson Devdas, Lalkamal Bhowmick (c), Sankar Sil, Md. Rafique, Somick Chakraborty, Shylo Malswm Tlunga, Snehasis Dutta, Gouranga Biswas, James Sing, Crispin Chetri, Jayanta Sen
In the midfield, the Kolkata based unit has made some notable signings as well – Lukram James Singh and Jayanta Sen. James who had a forgetful season with the defending champions Salgaocar SC after joining them in January would be raring to go like Deepak Mondal, as he also wants to win back his place in the national team.
Jayanta Sen’s experience in midfield will play a huge advantage as well. Accompanying them in the middle of the pitch will be Lalkamal who a finally got a call up from the national team in the month of June ahead of team’s World Cup qualifier. Lalkamal has been named the club’s new captain as he takes over from defender Arnab Mondal.
THT Verdict: Midfield could prove to be their weakest link this season. There midfielders will have to play out of their skin if they want to put up a fight against some of the big boys of the league. Letting go of Asif, Jerry and Silveira could come back to haunt them as the season goes by.
Forwards: Yusif Yakubu , Kayne Vincent, F. Liandala, Sk. Sabir Ali, Josimar, Sankar Oroan
This is one area where the club made some brave signings. Arrival of Sunil Chettri last season to Prayag United had turned quite a few heads. The Arjuna Awardee ultimately left the club after an year and went to Mohun Bagan but not before the club made yet another move which sent shock waves in the football circuit throughout the nation when they signed the Ghanian Yusif Yakubu – the highest goal scorer in the history of I-League.
He might be in his 35th year but last year with Salgaocar he showcased once again why he is still considered by his opponents as one of the most feared striker in the league. He not only scored 15 goals for the Goan club on the way to the league victory but also played an instrumental role in setting up numerous goals for his teammates.
The departure of Junior forced the club to sign Melbourne Knights striker Kanye Vincent. He has played for the New Zealand’s U-20 team in the past and has featured with Churchill Brothers SC and Mumbai FC in the the I-league as well.
THT Verdict: In Yakubu, Josimar and now Vincent, Prayag United possesses one of the most potent attacks in the I-league. If they are able to gel well with their midfield then this star-studded frontline can create havoc. Yes, Yakubu might be in his mid 30’s but he is showing no signs of slowing down. His last season’s performance tells us that like wine, he is only getting better with age.
1) I- league: What amazes people the most is their eighth position on the table last season after only picking up five wins in twenty six matches. This time around they have signed some very big names in defence as well as in the forward line. With the likes of players like Yakubu, Deepak Mondal, Josimar, Razaq,Kanye, TheHardTackle predicts Prayag United to finish in the top six for the season 2011-12. Their away form will be a cause of concern for them.
2)Federation Cup: In the 33rd edition of the Federation Cup, Prayag United SC has been drawn in group D against Air Indian FC, Chirag United Club Kerela and Sporting Club de Goa. Their coach Sanjoy Sen feels that this edition of Federation Cup will be wide open as this time around the teams were divided in the pot on the basic of region and not on last season’s I-League ranking which could work for his team’s benefit. TheHardTackle predicts the Kolkata based club to sail through to the semi finals of the competition but a birth in the final looks highly unlikely.
3) Durand Cup: The 124th edition of Durand Cup will kick off in the first week of October. Prayag United who are the defending champions are expected to go all out in the competition unlike Mohun Bagan who have decided to skip the event. Last season Prayag United won their maiden Durand Cup – the oldest football tournament in Asia and this time around they walk into the tournament as one of the favorites. After all the reinforcements that have been made, anything less than a win will disappoint the fans as well as the management.
4) Kolkata Football League: As a result of the inclusion of the new 40 match rule, Sen is expected to field in few U-19 academy players in his team in the local league. Performing well in this league is a matter of pride for all the clubs involved but don’t expect the club to use players like Yukubu and Mondal in the KFL.
Conclusion: There away form during last season was the biggest cause of concern for the coaching staff and that is something on which Sen will be keeping a close check at this year progresses. Also the club managed to pick up only five wins throughout the season – the least wins among all the clubs along with ONGC and Air India. With the arrival of new sponsors the much needed rebuilding process has started.
Presence of I-League veterans in almost all the departments is bound to do wonders for their morale of the entire squad, which should improve their performances both at home and on the road. Currently they are little behind the rest of the pack as far as practice matches are concerned and have played only a single game in which they blanked WB Police by four goals with their Brazilian strikers Josimar picking up a brace.