East Bengal, in their centenary year, are on the move. First came their entry into the now seven-year-old Indian Super League (ISL), shortly followed by a new coach, a Liverpool FC legend into just his third year of management. This message, the confluence of old and new, permeated Robbie Fowler's first press conference as manager of SC East Bengal.
"This is a new club, but one with a 100-year-old heart," said Fowler to a packed virtual conference room. "We will give everything we have got to make this club as successful as possible."
Fowler had been the head coach of Brisbane Roar in the A-league last season, but left earlier this year under rather controversial circumstances. It was while he was in England, that the opportunity to manage in India came about. Why East Bengal, though? And why now, when the world is going through such a tough time? Fowler's response was immediate. "Why not?"
"We know how difficult [it has been] for the world. We are football people, and we know how much joy it brings to people. We are part now of a team, a club, who are trying to make people that little bit happier."
Sat alongside Fowler, his assistant, Tony Grant, agreed. "Football goes on, life goes on. We have to get to the other side, and football might help some people do that. This was such a huge opportunity for us. Football is a universal language, and there is no right or wrong country to play football in."
ISL 2020-21, of course, will be played within a bio-secure bubble, which brings a whole different set of challenges. "I have no doubt it will be a challenge," said Fowler. "But certain situations, certain circumstance we need to adapt to. It's a case of us creating an environment where it is fun, where the players can enjoy. We are not going to be down the players' throats all the time, we are going to be sensible."
Another challenge is that East Bengal was the last of the ISL clubs to appoint a new manager. "We know we are a bit late but no stone will be left unturned. This just means we need to work that much harder on the training ground. That is what we have such a good team [of coaching staff] for. The players need to know that we are here to do a job, to do the very best we can do. We know it's going to be difficult but we will have the team working hard."
"We know the history, we know the traditions, we know the values and we're here to adhere to them." Robbie Fowler
He believes he has enough time to drum his philosophy into his new team. "We want to be competitive, play the right way and get good results. Football is fundamentally about getting good results.
We want to be a possession-based team - and we have done this before. We took a team [Brisbane Roar] that was second-last and made them competitive. In terms of stats, we were by far better than most other teams in the A-league."
For now, he is looking forward to the start of the league, and rushing headlong into Indian football's greatest rivalry - (SC) East Bengal v (ATK) Mohun Bagan. "Football rivalries drive players and fans on. Myself and Tony have been involved in various derbies through the years. We know what it means to the football club, to the fans."
And it was with a message to the fans that Fowler concluded the PC -- "We are going to make them enjoy football. We know the history, we know the traditions, we know the values and we're here to adhere to them. We will leave a legacy where every youngster in Calcutta wants to wear the red and gold."