Since I-League began in 2007, East Bengal have appointed nine different coaches without tasting title success. Ahead of the final day of the 2017-18 season with East Bengal being the worst placed among four teams who could lift the title, current coach Khalid Jamil is facing the heat.
Appointed with much fanfare in the summer after he led Aizawl FC to a remarkable title triumph way ahead of East Bengal, the Red and Golds faithful thought they finally had the right man at the helm to end their agonising 14-year wait for national glory.
But with a game to go for the season's conclusion, the East Bengal fans are fearing the repeat of an altogether familiar tale — an unsuccessful end to a campaign that promised much.
Jamil, like always, gave little away in terms of emotions in a trademark short press conference. The 40-year-old was grilled about his East Bengal future and questions were raised over his performance at the helm of the Kolkata club. Jamil put up a brave face for most parts of the press briefing but a quick escape from the media room failed to hide the discomfort the Mumbai-based coach was enduring in the City of Joy.
"We will only know about it tomorrow. I can’t tell you now. Let the match get over, then we can sit and analyse," Jamil responded to requests asking him to assess his own tenure, almost pleading for a show of patience.
"I don’t give (myself) any marks. I don’t believe in it and hence won’t think about it. At this point, I am only thinking about tomorrow’s match," he added as he continued to stave off uncomfortable inquiries.
"I have a work to do here and I must complete my job which is to give my best, my hundred percent for every game. That's what I will be doing tomorrow," he continued.
Jamil's East Bengal will start the final day of the season in the fourth position, two points behind leaders Minerva Punjab and one point adrift of their opponents NEROCA FC. A win will keep their dreams of claiming their first title in 14 years alive, only if Minerva and arch-rivals Mohun Bagan fail to win their respective games.
But the former Aizawl manager has vowed to not let his team to drift away from the job at hand.
"I am going to tell the boys to focus on our game, to deal with the task at hand. We will see later where the results in the other matches leave us. This is the only way of going about it," Jamil stressed in the pre-match conference.
Jamil, who was in a similar position as Minerva with Aizawl FC last year, felt being on top of the table going into the final day is a big advantage.
"Minerva are in the strongest position among all the four teams. They have the most points and are at the top of the table. Going into the final day, this is very crucial. So definitely Minerva have the best chance of winning the league," Jamil conceded.
East Bengal could have had the privilege had they not stumbled against Shillong Lajong in their previous game, but the coach feels ruing about the past would be a waste of time.
"There is no point in thinking about what we may have done better. We are not going to get those points. So it is very important for us to only think about tomorrow’s game," Jamil suggested.
The events on the final day could be decisive in determining Jamil's future in Kolkata, but the former Mahindra United midfielder, who saw his playing career come to a premature end due to a knee injury, is a firm believer in destiny.
"I never cry about things that aren't in my control. I think it's important to just keep doing your job and then destiny takes care of the rest. That's how I approach everyday and tomorrow will be no different" Jamil said in an almost philosophical tone.
Over the years, Jamil has been involved in plenty of close and make-or-break finishes on either end of the table, and fate has never deserted him. In the most testing times of his managerial career, it's no surprise that he's banking on it again.
Published Date: Mar 07, 2018 22:07 PM | Updated Date: Mar 07, 2018 22:07 PM