Can Albert Roca lead Hyderabad to their destined heights?
Great things were expected of the Hyderabad FC side during their first season in the Indian Super League, but the club could not live up to their expectations. Having finished bottom of the league with just two wins and a goal difference of -18, their English head coach Phil Brown was sacked mid-season and was soon replaced by Spanish coach Albert Roca.
The club have begun their resurgence under the new head coach, who has experience in Indian football, having previously managed former I-League, Super Cup and ISL champions, Bengaluru FC. With the club captained by the iconic Sunil Chhetri, Bengaluru reached the reach the final of the AFC Cup, becoming the first Indian team in the country to achieve the feat but eventually losing 0–1 to Iraq's Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya. In their first season in the Hero ISL, Bengaluru FC lost the ISL trophy to Chennaiyin FC.
Prior to moving to India, Roca was part of Frank Rijkaard’s coaching staff at Barcelona, managing their famed La Masia, and was also instrumental in the resurgence of many young talents at the Bengaluru-based club, including the likes of Udanta Singh and Nishu Kumar, both of whom have gone on to perform at the international level.
These attributes of the Spanish head coach speak volume of the future at stake for Hyderabad FC, who will be looking to make the most of the many young guns at the side. Another sign of the future to come can be seen with his first signing at the club in the form of Liston Colaco.
Roca officially signed for the club as a Technical Director for the remainder of the 2019-20 season, before penning a two-year deal on January 12 2020. Three days later, the Hyderabad attack was buoyed by the addition of Liston Colaco, who was previously at FC Goa, but played a bit-part role, with Sergio Lobera preferring to field Manvir Singh or Seiminlen Doungel.
During his time with the club, Colaco shone up front and on the wings, scoring two goals in their last match of the season against NorthEast United FC, while winning the Hero of the Match in his two starts last season. Rich with a pool of talent like Sahil Panwar, Ashis Rai, Rohit Kumar, Abhishek Halder and Dimple Bhagat, the future of the club under the Spanish head coach seems bright at best.
However, the challenge at hand at Hyderabad will be a lot tougher than the one he faced at his previous club, with Roca admitting to this in an interview to telenganatoday.com.
“It is very different at Hyderabad FC compared to back when I joined Bengaluru FC. These are two totally different situations. Back then, they were playing the AFC Cup knockouts and having won the league in the previous season, the goals were different,” said Albert Roca. "HFC is a new team and we have to form a new-look squad and it’s not going to be easy. The most important thing is that we get everyone together and ready for a tough season. I think it’s more ambitious as a challenge,” added the head coach.
What remains to be seen is whether the board will be able to back the head coach with a strong budget as his former club did. Under him, Bengaluru were a rock-solid defensive unit and a threatening attacking force, with Roca bringing in the likes of Miku, Juanan, and Erik Paartalu, all of whom became fan favourites in no time. They might not have won the ISL, but their victory in the Super Cup is a testament of his prowess.
Keeping in line with this, the club have let go of keeper Kamaljit Singh, who joined Odisha FC, while bringing in the 2017-18 Golden Glove winner and Indian football legend Subrata Paul. The signing marks off the beginning of Albert Roca’s project, while retaining a few of their consistent performers in the likes of Nikhil Poojary, Ashis Rai and Mohammad Yasir shows that the future of the club might just be in the right hands. What remains to be seen is the foreign imports of the club, but with his initial forays indicating the perfect rebuild is in store for the Hyderabad based club, the future of the club is seemingly brighter.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Manjunath Kiran