Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler is headed to East Bengal
Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler is headed to East Bengal Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: East Bengal could not have got a better deal as former England and Liverpool star Robbie Fowler takes over as head coach.

The 45-year-old Fowler’s appointment was confirmed late on Friday with an initial two-year deal ahead of the Indian Super League (ISL) that is scheduled to commence from next month in a centralised venue.

Fowler, who was a coach with the Brisbane Roar in Australia, is being accompanied by a team of coaches to assist him at the Red and Golds.

Former Manchester City midfielder Anthony Grant will continue to be his assistant along with former Indian international footballer Renedy Singh. Terence McPhillips, a former youth product from Liverpool who later moved to League One side Blackpool until just two seasons ago, will be the set-piece coach.

Fowler has opted for Robert Mimms, a former goalkeeper at Tottenham Hotspur as the goalkeeper coach. Mimms has spent a few seasons in India after having worked at Jamshedpur during the 2017-18 season followed by a second season with Atletico Kolkata (ATK) under coach Steve Coppell.

Jack Inman, who has prior experience of working as a sports scientist at English clubs Macclesfield Town and Bury, will be the sports scientist, while Michael Harding and Joseph Walmsley will act as physio and analyst, respectively as East Bengal become the latest team to join the ISL.

The Kolkata giants became the newest entrants in the ISL after they roped in Shree Cement as their new investors last month.

Fowler is certainly not the first high-profile former footballer who has entered the ISL. Now rechristened as Odisha in 2019, the Delhi Dynamos had hired two rookie big-name managers in 2015 and 2016 and those two seasons turned out to be the most successful years in the club’s brief history.

First it was Brazilian legend Roberto Carlos taking up his new role as player-manager with Delhi in 2015 and the former top-class defender ensured the club reached the play-offs after finishing fourth on the league table.

The following year, legendary Italian defender Gianluca Zambrotta coached the team to a third-place finish, the club’s highest ever league position so far, before once again being knocked out in the play-offs.

Italy’s World Cup-winning defender Marco Materazzi started his managerial career at ISL side Chennaiyin after joining the side as player-manager, in 2014. His national team captain Fabio Cannavaro was also rumoured to be linked to the ISL the same year, but a delay in kicking off the competition saw the Italian head to China on his first coaching assignment.

Materazzi’s biggest achievement was in the second season when Chennaiyin won the title by beating Goa in a dramatic final.

And then closer to memory was another English legend, Teddy Sheringham who was in-charge of ATK during the 2017-18 season. The former Manchester United striker had a forgetful stint in Kolkata and ended up parting ways even before the season ended following some below-par performances.

The ISL season will run from November to March and will be hosted behind closed doors across three venues in Goa due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

ATK are the defending champions after they defeated Chennaiyin in the 2020 ISL final.