Let’s wind the clock back to exactly a year ago. The times for Prayag United were anxious and unpredictable. The club parted ways with sponsors Chirag Computers and were cautiously bailed out by the Prayag Group of companies. Sanjoy Sen took over the helm and United Sports Club was now Prayag United Sports Club- the club administration and the fans firmly believed that the brand new name would mark the inception of a new era, and the club didn’t disappoint its faithful last season.
The purple brigade’s honest attempt last season saw the club finish seventh in a closely fought I-League and third in the Sahara CFL. This was surely seen as a step in the right direction as the fans were treated with a few glimpses of what the team was capable of and the eventual motive of the club.
Dream On, because all that’s big and great started as a dream
This ought to be the motto of the club for the upcoming season. Prayag United certainly are looking to strike gold this season, after the club made some eminent signings throughout the Indian football transfer season, ruffling a lot of feathers for sure. TheHardTackle previews the upcoming season from Prayag United’s outlook with a quick sneak peek into their lethal and shrewdly assimilated squad.
Subrata Paul, Sangram Mukjerjee, Ishaan Debnath
The India number one goalkeeper was roped in by Prayag United in a very astute transfer deal. As the custodian showed interest to move back to his homeland after his marriage, Prayag offered a sumptuous deal to the sturdy lad, which he couldn’t refuse. The purple brigade conceded thirty two goals last season and through the sealing of this deal, Prayag United certainly covered for a major loophole in their game play last season. Introduction to a goalkeeper of Subrata’s stature will surely raise the bar among the defenders and two new goalkeepers who have joined the squad are Ishan Debnath and veteran Sangram Mukherjee.
THT Verdict: Ishan Debnath gave a lot of gritty performances during his stint with Mumbai FC last season in the company of Subrata Pal and Sangram would surely enable his growth in the future. His presence in the squad per se makes the bench more robust when games come in thick and fast at the business end of the season.
Deepak Mondal, Chinta Rao, Gour Naskar, Sukhen Dey, Ravinder Singh, Bapi Saha, Gourmangi Singh, Bello Rasaq , Tanmoy Ghosh, Anupam Sarkar
In addition to ever reliable Chinta Rao and Deepak Mondal, Prayag United have bolstered their defense this season by the introduction of India international Gourmangi Singh from Churchill Brothers. Bello Rasaq, who was the main stalwart at the back for Sonjay Sen’s side during the last season, is a good reader of the game from the back, and pairing Singh at the back with him will add teeth. Singh being good in the air can be lethal in front of both the goals. Along with the Gourmangi, Prayag United have also managed to get the sign of left back Ravinder Singh from city rivals East Bengal and right back Gour Naskar from Southern Samity. Gour Naskar has had a more than decent season with the Samity and has been roped in mainly for his experience in the Kolkata League.
THT Verdict: Prayag United has the right mixture of young and the experienced at the back and with as much as four tournaments to prove their point, Prayag United has a more than decent contingent at the back.
Malswam Tulunga, Gouranga Biswas, Asif K, Lester Fernandes, Crispin Chhetri, Somick Chakraborty, Lalkamal Bhowmick, James Singh, MP Zakeer, Baldeep Singh, Tapan Maity
The Pune FC duo of Lester and Baldeep are all set to don the Prayag United jersey this season. Both the players had a prominent season for the Red Lizards, which saw Pune FC finish fifth in the I-league table. They both also donned national colors this year, attesting their rich form. Prayag United have reportedly paid close to 90 lacs for the Lester deal, which includes his annual wages. Signing of former JCT midfielder Baldeep Singh was another shrewd move by Nabab Bhattacharya and his thinking tank. A tireless worker in the middle of the park could shield their attack minded formation in the season to come. MP Zakeer, the talented Churchill Brothers midfielder also inked his deal, initiating the high profile move. Zakeer would be seen partnering captain Lalkamal or James Singh in the middle of the park, taking up the responsibility of spreading the ball and orchestrating the moves. The side also included Tapan Maity, a similar kind of proven player from Mohammedan Sporting, in order to augment their bench strength. Asif Kottyail, who had a noteworthy season with relegated Chirag United Kerala, has also joined the Prayag Bandwagon adding more flavor to the middle of the park.
THT Verdict: Quality additions to the mid field have no doubt increased the spectrum as far as the squad strength is concerned, and some signings are sure to stay for future seasons. New signings would be looking to tread the same path as James Singh, who had a terrific season after his transfer from Salgaocar last season.
Ranti Martins, Md Rafiq, Shankar Oraon, Carlos Hernandez
Prayag United has certainly rumbled a lot over what has been cited as the most expensive transfers in the history of Indian football. The Kolkata side managed to lure Ranti Martins from champions Dempo to join their attack force and if this wasn’t enough, Prayag United management threw the cat among the pigeons when they announced that former Melbourne victory star and Costa Rica international Carlos Hernandez. Although the latter might play in the whole behind Ranti upfront, but he might have already forced a lot of head coaches of competing teams to watch his videos. Along with these two big names, Prayag have retained Mohd. Rafique and Shankar owing to their excellent performances in the I-League and Sahara CFL
THT Verdict: Thirty two goals last season for the golden boot Ranti Martins, and partnering him Carlos Hernandes, coupled with Rafique and Shankar to influence the proceedings from the bench is more than lethal attack force. We can expect a lot of goals being accumulated but either or both of these in the upcoming season.
1) I- league: Without a shadow of the doubt, Prayag United has only one thing in mind this season. The club wants to do really well in the I-league, if not win it. Winning the league would help the brand cash in on nationwide exposure. Big signings and a perfectly balanced squad to cleverly play around when injuries and suspensions come into the picture is something to watch out for. TheHardTackle predicts Prayag United will at least finish among the top three this season in the I-League.
2) Federation Cup: In the 34rd edition of the Federation Cup, Prayag United SC are still to be drawn into a group, but is expected that Prayag United would like to kick off their trophy winning spree by clinching the prestigious Federation Cup in Goa. Last year Prayag United won the group only to witness a semi-final loss to eventual champions East Bengal TheHardTackle predicts the Kolkata based club to sail through the competition and kick start their season with silverware.
3) Durand Cup: The 125th edition of Durand Cup will kick off in the third week of August in New Delhi. (16th Aug- 2nd Sept). The winner of the esteemed Durand Cup gets two million INR in the kitty as well as priceless confidence to face off with the teams in the I-League. Prayag United who were the champions in the 2010 edition, fell short of single penalty as Churchill Brothers clinched the title last year. The re-christened Kolkata side would be hopeful to make it all the way this time. After all the much talked about fortification that has been put in place, anything less than a fighting performance will disappoint the faithful as well as the management.
4) Sahara Calcutta Football League: Prayag United finished third in the CFL premier division last season, which was disappointing for the fans. CFL has always served as something more than just a tournament to groom young players and should be on the Prayag United radar as their bench strength calls for match time in the field. Winning the CFL would definitely be on the cards for the Sonjoy Sen-mentored side.
We have seen teams in the past who splurge money and assemble an overwhelming squad. Prayag United are no strangers to that now after the club spent close to ten crores in this year’s transfer window. TheHardTackle predicts they will make a name for themselves in most of the tournaments this year, but only if the team syncs and gels together.