Having taken over NorthEast United FC’s reins from Gerard Nus, newly-appointed coach Khalid Jamil made a winning start in ISL 2020-21.
NorthEast United FC, on Sunday, seemed a team reborn as they beat Jamshedpur FC 2-1 in the Indian Super League (ISL) to finally end a seven-match winless run.
Indian defender Ashutosh Mehta and Jamaican striker Deshorn Brown, who was making his debut for the Highlanders, were on the scoresheet for NorthEast but much of the credit for the long-awaited victory goes to new interim head coach Khalid Jamil.
Jamil, who was in charge of NorthEast United's academy, was handed the reins of the team after the club parted ways with former Spanish head coach Gerard Nus last week following the seven-match winless streak.
The 43-year-old Khalid Jamil's impact was evident on the night.
“Khalid told the players to give their best effort and work hard, more than the opponent team. This will encourage the whole team and hopefully, they will remain consistent in the upcoming matches,” NEUFC assistant coach Alison Kharsyntiew, who was at the post-match press conference on Jamil's behalf, said after the win.
Perhaps Khalid Jamil's biggest masterstroke in the match was getting the best out of captain Federico Gallego in midfield.
The Uruguayan playmaker had seemed like a mere shadow of his former self heading into the match but was the architect of Sunday's win. He had a hand in both NorthEast United goals. Jamil's tactical changes played a big part in that.
Though still pretty young as a coach, Khalid Jamil is a veteran of Indian football and knows his ropes well.
The former India international is adept at instilling a never-say-die mentality in his players - a quality which garnered immense respect during his stint with Mumbai FC in the I-League.
Though a team built with limited budget and means, Khalid Jamil's Mumbai FC earned a reputation of being giant killers.
He only built on the reputation after leading Aizawl FC to the 2026-17 I-League title.
Before Jamil's arrival in December 2016, Aizawl were considered as relegation candidates and had only stayed up in the top division that season due to Goan clubs Salgaocar and Sporting Club de Goa withdrawing from the tournament.
What ensued was one of the biggest fairytale runs in Indian football.
Coached by Khalid Jamil, a young and untested bunch of players, largely local ones from the club's home state of Mizoram, humbled some of the traditional big guns, including East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, to win the league.
Aizawl were the first team from the northeastern region of India to win the I-League title and still the only one till date.
Jamil also coached both the Kolkata giants East Bengal and Mohun Bagan before entering the ISL as NorthEast's assistant coach under Croatian World Cup winner Robert Jarni during ISL 2019-20.
Jarni's departure towards the end of the campaign also saw Jamil step in as the interim coach for the team's final three matches last season, which were largely inconsequential.
This season, however, Jamil will have a lot more time to prove his mettle on the big stage.
Propelled by Sunday's win, NorthEast United rose to fifth on the ISL points table. Just a single point off the top four and eight matches in the league phase still remaining, Jamil's Highlanders are very much in the mix for a playoff spot.
_Lead photo: Twitter/NorthEast United FC