ABOUT KERALA BLASTERS FC
After a forgettable 2015 season, the Sachin Tendulkar owned franchisee has appointed former Manchester United winger and England international and their national team manager Steve Coppell as their new head coach. Coppell, a legend among the Mancunians has managed clubs like Manchester City, Crystal Palace, Brentford, Reading and Bristol City. He was last associated with Portsmouth football club as their Director of Football.
The Sachin Tendulkar co-owned franchise lost the final of the inaugural season to Atletico de Kolkata, had a shambolic last season in which they shipped in 27 goals, the worst record in the league and thereby finishing at the bottom of the pile. Team Manager Peter Taylor, the former England U-21 coach, resigned midway due to poor performances, and the team was later care taken by Terry Phelan. Injuries to crucial players also marred their progress with marquee signing Spaniard Carlos Marchena picking up back injury early on in the season and flew back to Spain.
The team has had an ownership change this time around with Hyderabad-based Prasad Group bagging 80 percent share of the franchise, with Sachin Tendulkar’s share that was halved to 20 per cent.
Blasters, looking to put behind them the troubled previous season, has prepared well for the third edition in Thailand and returned with impressive outings against top notch clubs.
On July 28, 2016, the team brought in Northern Ireland national team international defender Aaron Hughes as their new marquee player. The former Newcastle United, Fulham, Aston Villa and QPR player has played over 450 games in the Premier League without getting dismissed even once. He has earned 103 caps for Northern Ireland behind only to the legendary Spurs custodian Pat Jennings. Hughes has primarily played as a defensive midfielder or as a defender throughout his career.
The team has roped in former Arsenal Goalkeeper Graham Stack who is expected to be behind the bars for the Blasters for the majority of the games. Blasters defence will be well supported by Rino Anto who played for Atletico de Kolkata in the 2015 season, their warriors for the past two years Sandesh Jinghan and Gurwinder Singh. The French right back Cedric Hengbart has returned after playing for the North East in the 2015 season.
The club has also re-signed former England U23 striker Michael Chopra who made very little impact for them while playing in the inaugural season. Other noticeable signings are the 24-year-old Haitian International striker Kervens Belfort who has scored 11 goals in 30 international games for Haiti and striker Duckens Nazon who plied his trade in France and Portugal. The strike force will amply be supported with the arrival of 23-year-old Thongkhosiem Haokip who netted a hattrick in the last seasons game for FC Goa against Mumbai City FC. The club has also signed three defensive midfielders Azrack Mahamat, a 28-year-old French born Chadian International defensive midfielder who earlier played for clubs like Auxerre, Espanyol etc, former Ivory Coast U-23 footballer Didier Kadio and Senegalese Elhadji Ndoye who has mostly played for Belgian clubs has also joined the Blasters squad.
The team has also retained players like Spaniard Josue, CK Vineeth, Ishfaq Ahamed, Mehtab Hossain, Mohammed Rafi, Sandip Nandy etc. The super star for the last year Antonio German who scored 6 goals in 9 appearances for the Blasters last year has also been retained by the Blasters for the 2016 season. However, the Blasters are expected to miss the services of Rino Anto and CK Vineeth for at least four matches as they are playing for Bengaluru FC in the AFC Cup semi-finals.
Blasters will play the inaugural game of the season against the Highlanders at Guwahati before being back to their home ground, the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium at Cochin for three home games on the trot. They will complete their group fixtures with the game against the North East at Cochin on December 04, 2016.
KERALA BLASTERS FC SQUAD
Goalkeepers: Stephen Bywater, Shilton Paul, Sandip Nandy
Defenders: Rahul Bheke, Saumik Dey, Sandesh Jhingan, Gurwinder Singh, Ramandeep Singh, Carlos Marchena, Bruno Perone, Peter Ramage, Marcus Williams.
Midfielders: Josue Currias Prieto, Pulga, Joao Coimbra, Antonio German, Ishfaq Ahmed , Cavin Lobo, Peter Carvalo, Mehtab Hossain, Shankar Sampingiraj.
Forwards: Manandeep Singh, Chris Dagnell, Sanchez Vats, C.K. Vineeth, Mohammed Rafi