|East Bengal players during a training session, at the
club ground, on Friday. A Telegraph picture
Calcutta: Alan Gow is past for Kingfisher East Bengal. Or is he? When the red and gold brigade face Dempo SC in a crucial I-League encounter on Saturday, Gow will be virtually present at the Salt Lake Stadium. But this time his contribution will be in the favour of the Goan club.
Gow, a talented Scot who had come to ply his trade with East Bengal last season, left midway with the blame of being unable to adapt to the Indian conditions. It is not known whether the Scot holds any grudge against the city club, but courtesy Gow, Dempo now boast of former England Premier League player Rohan Ricketts in their line-up, someone who can make the difference in the game.
It’s needless to say that Ricketts, who is playing as a striker for Dempo, is now one of the most deadly weapons in the team’s armoury in the post-Ranty Martins era. On the eve of the super clash, East Bengal coach Trevor James Morgan is well aware of that. “Well, I’m glad that Gow suggested Ricketts to join a Goa club,” Morgan said after practice on Friday, though what he actually meant remained a mystery.
On a more serious note, however, Morgan said: “Good players always po-se a threat… Although I haven’t seen h-im play, I believe that Ricketts will try to hit us hard. He is that kind of a player, who likes to use the width of the fie-ld. So, we will try not to give him space.”
But in such a high-voltage clash, which involves the champions and the runners-up of the last I-League season, it would not be wise to believe that Ricketts would be the sole attraction. Trust Morgan and his shrewd counterpart Armando Coalco to battle it out in the mind.
According to Morgan, it’s not possible to win every match playing beautiful football. So, he doesn’t mind playing tough at times. Morgan’s tactical acumen elicited praise from the Dempo coach. “At the present moment, Moragn is the best coach in Indian football,” Armando said.
Morgan accepted the compliments with a broad smile.
In the last meeting between the two sides, Morgan got the better of Armando by neutralising Dempo’s midfield with the help of Penn Orji and Mehtab Hussain. The East Bengal duo blocked the opponents’ passes, besides themselves delivering some killer throughs.
While the duo will be relied on again to nullify Dempo’s midfield, led by Japanese Ryuji Sueoka, on Saturday, significant will be the roles of Ishfaq Ahmed and Harmanjyot Singh Khabra, who will operate on the wings.
For the goals, East Bengal will rely on Edeh Chidi and Manandeep Singh. And if Chidi is in form, Ricketts may well meet his match.
What will however worry Morgan is whether both defenders Arnab Mondal and Gurwinder Singh will be able to deliver against a stern opposition in Dempo. They were successful to keep the Dempo strikers at bay during the Federation Cup final, will they be able to repeat that show?
“The Federation Cup final was a different match… It was a knockout game… We had to win. But the way Dempo were playing, I wasn’t sure what the result would have been had the match went on for another five minutes. But that is past and we want to concentrate on Saturday’s match.
“I think it will be an open match… Both the teams will try to outdo each other by scoring goals and playing attacking football. But we also need to defend resiliently,” Morgan said.