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Opinion

No title but successful Indian season for Australian contingent

(L-R) Erik Paartalu, David WIlliams, Jordan Murray Source: Twitter

The 2020-21 Indian Super League season ended in what was quite a familiar way for fans in Australia: Adam Le Fondre was celebrating a title win.

The Mumbai City striker’s tweet: “Indian Super League. Completed it mate”, summed it all up. 

It could have gone differently as David Williams put ATK Mohun Bagan ahead in the championship final but the Kolkata club could not hold on.

For a while it looked as if Australian hands would grip the trophy and while it wasn’t to be, it was still a successful season for the nine Australians who spent the last four or five months in the bubble of Goa.

In Asia at least, it is hard to think of a collective overseas stint that went so well. Any limits on playing time were injury-induced and there were many fine individual performances.

One thing is for sure: there will be plenty of demand for Australian talent next season.

There is time however to have a quick look back at how the Aussies did in the ISL season, one in which the tournament was the official top tier of Indian football.

David Williams - ATK Mohun Bagan

The forward started slowly at the defending champions but was soon getting into his groove, chipping in with six goals, some of them vital, to provide support to Roy Krishna.

The ex-Melbourne City and Wellington man scored in the second leg of the semi-final play-off and put ATK ahead in the final with a fierce strike from just inside the area that was the trademark of a forward in form.

It was a fine goal but not quite enough to take the title that the team probably deserved, with Mumbai City snatching it in the last minute.

Dylan Fox - NorthEast United

A consistent presence, along with Belgium's Benjamin Lambot, at the back for the Highlanders who came within a whisker of reaching the final.

Fox was calm and steady and fitted in from the get-go, helping a team who finished ninth last season take fourth to enter the play-offs. United came close to getting into the final too.

Jordan Murray - Kerala Blasters

The southerners, runners-up twice in the ISL’s first three seasons, have fallen on hard times and slumped to a 10th-placed finish.

While the likes of Krishna and Le Fondre got the headlines, Murray was seriously impressive in his first season for the Yellow Army, scoring seven goals in his first season with the struggling outfit.

Jacob Tratt - Odisha FC

It was a traumatic season for the team that finished bottom and lost coach Stuart Baxter after the Scot made inappropriate post-match comments.

Replacement Gerry Peyton lasted just a couple of games. It is not surprising then that, amid such chaos, Tratt struggled to establish a solid defensive understanding with former Newcastle United and Wellington Phoenix veteran Steven Taylor, though some felt that the ex-EPL man did not provide the necessary leadership for the struggling team.

Tratt performed as well as could be expected in trying circumstances.

Scott Neville - East Bengal

The Kolkata giants did not have the best pre-season, putting a team together hastily and hiring Robbie Fowler just before it all started.

It was not a major surprise that it started slowly with one point from their first five games.

In what was quite a chaotic season, Neville took time to get to grips with the Indian game but improved throughout the season in a defence that was changed a little too much to bring much-needed solidity.

Erik Paartalu - Bengaluru

The granddaddy of Aussies in India needed all that experience in a disappointing season for Bengaluru.

The club have a short history but it is one of almost constant success. This time, however, the Blues just could not get going.

An eight-game winless streak cost coach Carles Cuadrat his job early in the New Year.

The usually dependable backline looked shaky despite Paartalu’s best efforts - though he provided leadership in a team that saw the emergence of some young prospects and German coach Marco Pezzaiuoli that bodes well for next season.

Nick Fitzgerald - Jamshedpur

Injury robbed the winger of playing time in a season when coach Owen Coyle could have done with his talents as the team struggled in front of goal.

The inconsistent Red Miners finished sixth - a decent showing with hopes for the future, especially when the coach can field a full-strength eleven.

James Donachie - FC Goa

It was a shame that the Australian’s final kick of the season was a penalty miss in the play-off semi-final loss to Mumbai City.

The ex-Melbourne man had an excellent season. Not one of those defenders who throws himself around, Donachie impressed with his reading of the game and his distribution.

Joel Chianese - Hyderabad

Injuries meant that the former Perth and Sydney star missed almost half of the regular season.

Had the 31-year-old, who looked lively when fit, been available for the full campaign, then surely Hyderabad would not have missed out on the play-offs.