Consecutive top-five National League finishes and coming from, perhaps the fastest growing football city in India, Pune Football Club have it in them to make an astonishing impact. With a professional setup and a steady approach towards its targets, PFC have established themselves as a successful club in India in just five seasons since its inception.
The Red Lizards have traditionally started slowly in the league as well as cup competitions and have bounced back in the later stages to earn the respect of being a team making super comebacks. Such an attribute can be acceptable for a nascent club, trying to regroup a new set of players; however, this isn’t deemed fit, when it comes to an established one. Now with the commencement of the 2011-12 season in September, coach Derrick Perreira, yet again faces a familiar task. Seven players of the regular 16-member squad and three of the starting 11 have left the club; noticeably, the influential centre-back pairing of Lamine Tamba and Selwyn Fernandes and star striker Edmar Figuera. Moreover, no big name signings have been done by the owners, apart from India International Baldeep Singh and Mumbai FC stalwart Anas Edathodika.
Derrick Perriera is a master tactician, and can build a squad from scratch. Ergo, Pune FC fans can be rest assured of yet another resurgent squad gelling up in a few weeks. TheHardTackle presents an analysis on how the club would be shaping up for the upcoming football season
Summer Transfer Activities
|Krishnan Ajayan||Midfielder||Viva Kerala|
|G. Vignesh||Midfielder||Viva Kerala|
|Balaji Narsimhan||Goal Keeper||NA|
|Selwyn Fernandes||Defender||Dempo SC|
|Lamine Tamba||Defender||Air India|
|Sunil Kumar||Defender||East Bengal|
|Edmar Figuera||Striker||CD Feirense|
|Anas Edathodika||Defender||Mumbai FC|
|Tsewang Karma||Midfielder||Viva Kerala|
|Shahinlal Meloly||Goal Keeper||Viva Kerala|
|Baldeep Singh||Midfielder||Salgaonkar SC|
Goalkeepers: Subrata Paul, Poirei Soram Angamba, ShahinLal Meloly, Amarinder Singh
Having the best Indian keeper in its ranks, imposes its own set of problems to the club. Subrata, being India’s first choice custodian, has to be on national duty, whenever called upon. Last season, India Senior team was in action in Asia Cup, the World Cup Qualifiers, Olympic Qualifiers and a host of National Camps. This had resulted in Subrata not reporting to club duties for most part of Pune FC’s season and the hole was plugged by veteran goalkeeper Balaji Narasimhan. Recently, Subrata had to miss PFC’s pre-season owing to India’s Caribbean tour.
Amarinder Singh has shown some quality during a friendly game against Churchill Brothers last week, as he played the entire game and looked confident with some decent saves. Poirei made his I-League debut for PFC last season but needs to improve. New signing Shahinlal, a former junior international, will have to fight it hard against Poirei and Amarinder for a place on the bench.
THT Verdict: With the availability of Subrata Paul this season, the goalkeeping department shall look forward to have many clean sheets during the entire season, thereby reinstating PFC as a club with the best defensive record.
Defenders: Gurjinder Kumar, Caitano Costa, Othallo Tabia, Kamaljeet Kumar, Anas Edathodika, Rolling Son Hungyo, Srikanth Ramu, John Benedict
Having lost both center-backs, Lamine Tamba and Selwyn Fernandes, coach Derrick Periera will have to rebuild the foundation of his back four. To strengthen the fortress, a foreigner will be signed at the heart of defence, till the transfer market is open. The left fullback position has been made his own by Gurjinder Kumar, who was the find of last season. New signing Anas Edathodika could prove to be a handy central defender whereas Kamaljeet and Rolling Son Hungyo have already made their debuts last season as fullbacks. Old boys Caitano and Othallo will now have to up their ante and take the leadership role to hold the last line.
THT Verdict: Defences are built over a period. Pune FC might struggle in the beginning of the season, as a new defensive pair will certainly take time to gel. Chika Wali and Selwyn were key individuals in the past two seasons. PFC will have to develop another strong partnership this season. The sooner the better!
Midfielders: Asim Hasan, Lester Fernandez, Izumi Arata, Karma Tsewang, Shanmugam Venkatesh, Baldeep Singh, J. Prasad, Maninder Singh, Paresh Shiwalkar
Influential captain, Shanmugam Venkatesh, will be spearheading the midfield along with local lad Paresh Shiwalkar. Both veterans in Indian Football know a trick or two to groom players like Asim, Lester and the new signing – Baldeep Singh. Fan favourite Izumi Arata would continue as an attacking midfielder and would also be chipping in as a striker, when Pune switch onto the 4-3-3 formation.
Asim as a defensive midfielder, Izumi and Lester up front, Baldeep and Shanmugam supporting and Paresh providing the crosses, look like an interesting combination. Nonetheless, an injury to either of these can prove to be fatal for Pune in the long run. The bench is not strong enough to provide quality and thus another signing, especially a foreigner, can just prove to be the missing piece that could solve of the jigsaw puzzle.
THT Verdict: Although on paper the midfield looks decent, a couple of out-of-form players can lead to an already weakened defence being exposed. Also new signing Baldeep and a possible foreigner, would have to straight away get into the starting 11 and deliver the much needed physical prowess.
Strikers: Jeje Lalpekhlua, Mandjou Kieta, Subhash Singh, Jeh Williamson
Finally, Jeje Lalpekhlua will get to play a full season for his maiden club. The youngster has been on and off the Pune FC roaster for the past couple of seasons due to India U-23 and India Senior duty and then on a compulsory loan to AIFF Indian Arrows. Jeje is all set to play for the Red Lizards and would team up with Mandjou Kieta, who found the back of the net 13 times last season. If Jeje and Keita can strike a cord right from the beginning, Subhas Singh can play a role of a supersub. But Pune still lacks another quality striker and holder; another signing could do a world of good to the combination upfront. Coach Derrick Periera can make use of versatile Izumi Arata if need be.
THT Verdict: The striking pair of Jeje-Keita looks very strong and supported by Arata and other creative players like Lester can prove to be lethal for any defence across India.
Five Key Targets
1. I-League: A top-5 finish is what the owners at Pune Football Club always had in mind. Another consistent show at the top level would firmly establish the club as a serious contender in seasons ahead.
2. Federation Cup: Owners of Pune Football Club have an aim to play in Asia in the near future. The Fed Cup provides a gateway to the Asian dream. Pune, being one of the hosts of Fed Cup 2011, would ideally have wanted Pune FC to play their games at their home at Balewadi, but as things stand, unfortunately PFC have to play their games in Kolkata
3. IFA Sheild and Durand Cup: Though a successful club, Pune have no silverware to showcase. Winning a cup competetion like the IFA or Durand Cup would be ideal to boost the confidence of the owners, the players, the staff and of course the fans.
4. Peninsula PFC Academy: Having a residential program at Balewadi and Mamurdi and with Ranjan Chowdhary at the helm at this academy, the club is aiming at producing talented youngsters, who are ready to step into the big league, not just for Pune FC but also for India, through a systematic youth development initiative.
5. PDFA League: Though not on priority, the local Pune league is what PFC would like to regain. After winning the Super Division title every participating year, Pune FC lost it last season to Amanora Deccan XI.