Trevor James Morgan is arguably the best foreign coach to ply his trade in India. The Englishman took charge of East Bengal in 2010 and instantly made an impact. In his first competition with the club, Morgan guided the Red and Gold to their seventh Federation Cup triumph after they beat their arch-rivals Mohun Bagan 1-0 in the final. It was just the beginning of an era as the former Bolton Wanderers man delivered seven more trophies to the Kolkata giants in his three-year stint with the club.
A likable personality coupled with the ability to bond well with his players made Morgan an instant hit among the East Bengal faithfuls. One must remember that it is considered an achievement if a coach remains a season in charge on any Kolkata club because of the sheer fan pressure and substandard ways of managing clubs in the city. So, Morgan attaining cult-status among East Bengal fans surely meant that he was doing something right.
After winning the Federation Cup in his first season with the club, Morgan guided his side to another trophy in the form of the Mohammedan Platinum Jubilee Cup. Maybe the competition was not important, but East Bengal winning the cup by defeating Mohun Bagan yet again made Morgan a hero amongst everyone associated the club. But this was not the end, Morgan-magic was just beginning. The 57-year-old then won the Calcutta Football League, a tournament which East Bengal had failed to win since 2006. And once again, East Bengal defeated Mohun Bagan to clinch the title, which made the victory even more special. However, Morgan failed to deliver the I-League as the Kolkata club finished runners-up behind Salgaocar. East Bengal were favourites to win the league title for almost the entire length of the campaign, but some poor results in the business-end of the season, most notably their 3-2 loss to Salgaocar after leading the Goan outfit 2-0, seriously hampered their chances. However, Morgan managed to infuse the confidence into his charges that they too are capable of winning the country’s top tournament as East Bengal performed very poorly and were often involved in relegation dog-fights in the previous campaigns.
In his next two seasons with East Bengal, Morgan managed to win one Federation Cup, one Super Cup, one IFA Shield and two Calcutta Football League titles, but the I-League crown remained elusive as his side finished second and third in the 2011-12 and the 2012-13 seasons respectively. However, some say that despite winning eight trophies with the Kolkata club, Morgan’s biggest achievement was to guide East Bengal to the quarter-finals of the 2013 AFC Cup with an unbeaten record, a feat unmatched by any other Indian club. East Bengal were also undefeated for 30 games on the trot in a calendar year under his stewardship. But despite all the positives, the former Sorrento FC boss decided to part ways with East Bengal citing family reasons. Thousands of East Bengal supporters were disheartened by his decision including some club officials. It was a very rare situation in Kolkata as coaches are fired under the smallest of pretexts in the city.
Despite failing to win the I-League in his three-year stay at the club, Morgan can be categorised as a successful coach. He was more a friend than a coach to his charges and the players too gave their all in return. Morgan, who induced passing football rather than preaching for long balls, was also exceptional in man management. Players like Mehtab Hossain and Sandip Nandy resurrected their career under him. Australian import Tolgay Ozbey became an instant hit in India while Penn Orji transformed into one of the best foreign midfielders in the division from a talented youngster. Another success of Morgan was that he was able to keep the core of his squad intact during his tenure, a rare trait amongst Kolkata clubs. This was a big reason behind East Bengal becoming a dominant force in Indian football. On top of that, he was always calm. He did not panic when star players like Ozbey, Rahim Nabi and Nirmal Chettri left for Mohun Bagan.
However, everything was not perfect during his managerial stint at East Bengal as he had clashes with some of the club’s officials. Morgan was furious when East Bengal let go of Nandy at the start of the 2012/13 season and his rage was justified when the custodian played a key role in Churchill Brothers winning the I-League, while the Red and Gold suffered between the sticks throughout the campaign. Morgan also came under criticism for not being flexible. He sometimes was very stubborn with his tactics and formations even if they were not yielding positive outcomes. But despite these cons, Morgan was loved by most and he also boasts of a very successful record. He managed to turn around the fortunes of East Bengal in a remarkable way than no one did in recent years and his popularity amongst the club supporters can only be compared to Subhash Bhowmick, an East Bengal legend.
East Bengal have failed to maintain their consistency, which was one of their trademarks under Morgan, in the current campaign. Marcos Falopa, who succeeded the British, lost the confidence of the dressing room and was quickly shown the door despite managing to reach the semi-finals of the AFC Cup. Falopa was replaced by five-time I-League winning coach Armando Colaco. But Colaco too is struggling to find his mark at the club. East Bengal, who are currently eighth in the I-League standings, have a chance of striding up the league table as they have quite a few games in hand. However, not even the most passionate of East Bengal fans are dreaming about lifting the title this term as the Kolkata club are looking far from the cohesive unit they were under the former Hull City development coach. In addition, the players, who were much used to Morgan’s style of coaching, are finding it difficult to adjust to the ways of his successors. Yes, they are professional players, they should be able to play well under any coach, but there is no denying the fact that Morgan did left his mark amongst his boys. The fans are also demanding the club to bring back Morgan, and being a supporter-based club it remains to be seen how long East Bengal stick to Colaco.
Will East Bengal be a force to reckon with if Morgan returns? It is difficult to say as it is a very unpredictable sport and there are loads of examples in world football where a manager has failed to make a mark when he returns to a club he has previously managed. But going by Morgan’s record, it is definitely worth to bring back the British one more time to the Red and Gold hot-seat. Morgan will also be desperate to improve his record at the club by winning the only trophy that has eluded him in his previous spell at the club, the I-League. Also, East Bengal looked a much more balanced and professional side under his coaching. And last but not the least, Morgan made it clear a number of times that he is in love with the club, another rare trait amongst foreign coaches in the country.
By guest author Samya Majumdar