To believe that a football club is only dependent on its players for success will be a deceiving assumption. Despite clinching the IFA Shield and finishing fourth in the I-League last year, United SC find themselves without a title sponsor this season, something that threatens to destroy the very existence of the Kolkata based football club. While city rivals were busy assembling and strengthening their squad, United are still on the lookout for a sponsor to bear the financial burden of the club. In a rare show of loyalty and generosity, United players have decided to start the season without any signing fee thus enabling the club to keep the wheels running while they search desperately for a sponsor. 25 players along with 3 foreigners have been brought on board and it will be interesting to see how the coming season pans out for United SC.
Will they be able to ride out the storm or will they bow down in defeat? Lets take a quick look at the squad.
Goalkeepers: Sangram Mukherjee, Ishan Debnath, Avijit Das, Swaroop Das
United SC will be without Subrata Pal in the coming season as the national team goalkeeper has decided to play in the newly initiated IMG-Reliance football league. The manager will be looking up to Sangram Mukherjee and Ishan Debnath to fill in the void successfully. Mukherjee, a former Indian National team goalkeeper is most likely to be Eelco Schattorie’s first choice ‘keeper this season. After having conceded more than one goal per match last season, United SC will be looking to plug the loopholes in their defence with a safe pair of hands between the posts.
Defenders: Gour Naskar, Dhanachandra Singh, Bello Razaq, Deepak Mondal, Sukhen Dey, Bapi Saha, Anupam Sarkar, Souvik Ghosh, Snehasish Chakraborty
United SC will be banking heavily on Bello to lead the team’s defence this season. The club conceded a staggering 35 goals in 26 games in their previous campaign which reflected the lack of depth in the defensive line-up. Gouramangi Singh was a disappointment last season and will not be featuring for the club after having decided to ply his trade in the IMG-Reliance sponsored league. Deepak Mondal will be playing a crucial role this season and his team will be banking heavily on his experience and ability to read the game if they are to succeed at the back. Dhanachandra Singh will be playing on the left flank and the 23 year old defender from Manipur will be getting plenty of opportunities this year to prove his worth in the squad.
Midfielders: Tapan Maity, Vineeth C.K, K.Asif, Lal Kamal Bhowmick, Usman Ashik, Baldip Singh
Ask any football expert and he will tell you that all the football battles are won and lost in the midfield. United SC will be pinning their hopes on their midfielders if they have to seriously contend for the silverware this season. Strong performances by Lalkamal Bhowmick and Vinneth C.K along with Tapan Maity and Snehashish helped the club finish 4th in the league. In Vineeth they have one of the brightest left midfielders in the country who has the ability to provide brilliant assists as well as goals through out the season. Asif K will have to go all guns blazing to provide a multi dimensional attack to the team. Eelco Schattorie will be depending on Lalkamal Bhowmick to dictate the pace of the game and the midfielder will be crucial for United this season.
Tulunga will be missed in the midfield and it will be interesting to see how the new manager replaces the player. Erick Brown’s arrival at the club from ONGC should provide United SC with interesting combinations in the midfield and it remains to be seen how he utilizes the plethora of talent available at his disposal.
Forwards: Lal Mohan Hansda, Mohammed Rafique, Ranti Martins, Surajit Bose, Biswajit Biswas
Ranti Martins will be the key to United SC ’s success this season. The prolific goal scorer single handedly led the team to their maiden IFA Shield last season and will be looked upon to deliver the goods again if the team is to succeed. Though Carlos Hernandez partnered the Nigerian last season to lead the attack, it will be interesting to see how the manager exploits his attacking options in the coming campaign. He might also play a single striker and strengthen his midfield instead. But whatever be the formation, Ranti Martins is sure to figure in the starting eleven and will be looking to kick start the campaign with an aim of winning his fourth consecutive golden boot. Lal Mohan Hansda and Mohammed Rafique will also be adding to United’s attacking prowess giving the manager plenty of options upfront.
To expect the club to perform brilliantly in the coming season will be a grave injustice to the team. In the absence of a title sponsor, the coming season will be extremely challenging for the players and will test their mettle and resolve. It will be interesting to see how the manager motivates the players in the coming months as the club gears up for a tumultuous season.
I League- Top 8 finish
Federation Cup- Group Stage Exit
Sahara Calcutta Football League- Top half finish