Eelco Schattorie has stepped up to head coach following his spell as assistant to Avram Grant at NorthEast United. Avram has moved to one side and taken up the role as a technical advisor which is strange for a couple of reasons. Initially, when Avram joined NorthEast United, he was meant to be in the role as a technical advisor but ended up on the sidelines. That was at a point when NorthEast were still supposed to be searching for a new manager, so in part it’s understandable. On the other hand, if things don’t go to plan for Eelco, what’s stopping Avram from sticking his nose in? That’s a question for another day and thinking out loud, I don’t think Eelco would have too much of an issue with Grant’s help as they both share the same agent.

Looking at Eelco from a tactical point of view is a bit difficult as there isn’t a plethora of information knocking about regarding the clubs he’s worked at. Nonetheless, where there’s a will, there’s normally a way. His last spell in charge of a club, or so Transfermarkt has me believe was in Saudi Arabia. At none other than Al-Ettifaq. He oversaw nine games at the back end of the 16/17 season as he looked to keep Al-Ettifaq in the Saudi Arabian top flight and he did enough. Just. Picking up five points from the final seven league games of the season might not seem like a lot to some people, but at the end of the day, it was the difference between surviving and sinking, so the Dutchman deserves credit for that.

I Like To Dominate

When I spoke to Eelco earlier this year, when he and Avram first arrived in India, it was a very different proposition that the pair of them were facing. Eelco spoke about his desire to play an attacking brand of football but was also very wary that it was going to be difficult to do so with a downbeat squad and no sustained amount of time on the training ground, ala preseason. Naturally, with Eelco having a preseason on this occasion, it will be interesting to see how much substance his words have…

“To play fantastic, attacking football are our principles but you normally have a pre-season to do so, we don’t have that chance now. I like to play football and I like to dominate.”

A lot of the people in charge of first-team affairs at clubs this year in the ISL all seem to be banging on about playing possession football. It will either make for a really entertaining season OR it will go right the other way and be a disaster. Let’s hope for the former. Bouncing back to Eelco momentarily, let’s look at the statistics from the nine games in his most recent spell in Saudi Arabia.

Keep The Ball!

The opening game of Eelco’s (third?!) reign at Al-Ettifaq was a King’s Cup encounter against Al-Fateh and he got off to a blinding start, winning the last sixteen game, 1-0. That game saw Eelco’s side shade the possession 51-49, but also fashion seven attempts in the penalty area, albeit, only two were on target. Promising signs, all the same. His maiden league game was a match against Al-Raed and Al-Ettifaq did everything but score. Eight attempts made inside the penalty area, SIXTY-FIVE per cent possession. Yet, they were undone by an eighty-ninth minute penalty.

Al-Taawoun hosted Eelco’s side next and it was Schattorie’s first game on the road. It was another late goal which sunk Al-Ettifaq, although it’s hard to say Al-Taawoun didn’t deserve it as they dominated the away team. Revenge is a dish best served right away and Eelco & Al-Ettifaq had the perfect chance to do just that as their next game was against their victors from last time out, Al-Taawoun. Two differences this time. Number one, Al-Ettifaq were at home. Number two, it was the cup. In complete contrast to the league meeting, Eelco’s side dominated. The astutely named Hazzaa Al-Hazzaa was brought off the bench in the 72nd minute by Eelco and just five minutes later, he was on the scoresheet. 2-2. As the story goes, Al-Ettifaq lost on penalties. Regardless of the result, one thing was becoming clearer by the game, Eelco’s side loves to play at home.

It Doesn’t Matter If You’re Playing In The ISL Or Barcelona

Finding out all these stats about how Eelco’s sides like to dominate at home sits very well with me as Schattorie said this in January:

“(When you) play at home, you always go for a win. ISL or Barcelona, 50% of each game is organisation and doing your job and that’s something we’re trying to get across. First, make sure you’re stable. Most important thing is to be stable.”

After their cup exit, Al-Ettifaq had to brush themselves down as they had an important clash coming next. Fortunately, they were at home, which meant they were going to put on a show, right? You bet your life they did. 54%, fourteen shots and a 3-1 win for good measure. If there was just one criticism, it would be that Al-Ettifaq didn’t hit the target nearly as much as they should. From those aforementioned fourteen shots, only four hit the target. Maybe it was a personnel issue.

A trip to Al-Faisaly was next on the menu. Eelco’s side, once again, had more of the ball (55-45) and come from 2-0 & 3-2 down to eventually draw 3-3, job done. Alarmingly, it was yet again only the four shots on target. This time from twelve shots. Highly flying Al-Ittihad visited next and they finally made Eelco’s side pay for their lack of conviction. Astonishingly, Al-Ettifaq had four more shots and the same number of shots on target as their visitors but still managed to lose 4-1. Figure that one out.

The final two games of the season played out with little event as the season culminated with Eelco keeping his side up by a single point. Talk about cutting it fine, eh?

What Have We Learned?

Well, for starters, it’s a good job Eelco hasn’t signed any strikers from Al-Ettifaq as NorthEast’s scoring record would’ve somehow ended up worse than last season! Jokes aside, Eelco puts into practice what he preaches which is refreshing to see. NorthEast United fans can expect chances in abundance, the majority of them falling in the area and some good, old-fashioned, possession football, especially at home.

“I’m a big fan of Pep Guardiola, you never hear him talk about the championship or the position, he only focuses on today. I was reading a book by John Woods, a basketball coach, who only focused on principles as in doing your job, play in your position and work hard, focus on what you need to prove that day.”

I haven’t trawled through the masses of press conferences so I’m not sure if Eelco has contradicted himself in any way shape or form, although I’d like to think he’s true to his word. After all, he has been about everything else.

Following on from NorthEast’s mediocre season in front of goal, Eelco has gone shopping. He’s brought in, Augustine Okrah, Juan Cruz Mascia and the well-travelled Bartholomew Ogbeche. All three of them are interesting signings in their own regard and Eelco’s influence is clear in the Okrah and Ogbeche signings especially. Okrah came through the youth system at Red Bull Ghana, where Eelco used to work and Ogbeche came from Willem II, who are Dutch. Where’s Eelco from? Yup. The Netherlands.


Eelco’s side are going to be playing, possession-based, progressive football and they’ll be looking to pick up a decent return from their nine home games this season. If you were to aim for an average of two points a game from the nine home games, that would give you a fantastic starting block to make a charge for the playoffs and I’m sure that’s in the back of Schattorie’s mind. It’ll be a breath of fresh air for NorthEast’s loyal fans who have had to put up with a lot of garbage over the last twelve months.

One More Thing

If I was a betting man and luckily I am, I’d be backing Eelco to lead NorthEast to a finish of sixth or higher. They may not seem that optimistic, nevertheless, when you consider they finished at the foot of the table last season, anything is an improvement.

Until the next time.