NorthEast United’s Eelco Schattorie has answered his critics
Mumbai: Expectations were low from NorthEast United after four seasons of disappointment in the Indian Super League (ISL). However, Eelco Schattorie created history when he led the Highlanders to their first ever ISL semi-finals, overcoming all sorts of hurdles.
Even though the Dutchman joined the club midway through the previous season, he took over the team only six weeks before the season began.
But, there was no continuity as such with only seven Indian players being retained from a treacherous 2017-18 season where the club registered only 11 points from 18 games, finishing at the bottom of the pack.
Schattorie has never remained shy of voicing his unhappiness with the team’s preparations leading onto the season. The delay in rubber-stamping his appointment in the first place itself after Avram Grant took on an advisory role was a tedious process where the “club had to pulls some strings”, as Schattorie himself mentions.
By his own admission, the most of the recruitment was done long before he was handed the reigns.
Budget was tight as they could not splurge much like the other teams in the league like ATK and Bengaluru FC. Even their planned pre-season trip to Sweden was called off.
Bartholomew Ogbeche, who has played with the likes of Ronaldinho at Paris Saint-Germain as a teenager, turned out to be a prolific signing. The Nigerian had scored ten goals in the previous season with Willem II in Schattorie’s native Holland. His 12 goals is a new club record, surpassing the previous best by Nicolas Velez who scored 8 in 25 appearances over two seasons.
Schattorie’s ingenious man-management has been on the forefront throughout this season. Maintaining a steady nucleus throughout the campaign with little tweaks and nudges quickly saw NorthEast garner five wins from the first eight games. In this period, four of their wins came away from home – a compelling statement halfway through the season.