A first top-three history in their brief history saw Ulisses FC confirmed as the surprise package of the 2009 Armenian season, but the Yerevan club are looking to build on that success this season.
Founded as recently as 2006, it took a while for Ulisses to find their feet, with work on club infrastructure and the founding of a football academy going hand in hand with efforts to build a squad. "We knew that it wouldn't be easy, but despite all the problems we kept climbing towards our goal by forming a mobile squad that could challenge the leaders," said team director Slava Sarkisyan.
Sevada Arzumanyan was the club's first coach, but resigned after his side lost their first seven games under his command, returning a year later as assistant to Suren Barseghyan. He resumed sole command after Barseghyan left and has been a successful influence ever since, though the 40-year-old former midfielder told UEFA.com: "A coach's job is not an easy one. If the team wins, the players take all the credit; if you lose, the coach is to blame. But I never let my head drop and always try to find ways to improve. Of course, you need good players to do that and I'm glad we have some."
The 2009 Ulisses squad was indeed a strong one, boasting the likes of 15-goal top scorer Artur Kocharyan, centre-back Hrayr Mkoyan, goalkeeper Gevorg Kasparov and his fellow Armenia internationals Karen Aleksanyan, David Grigoryan and Egishe Melikyan. They never aimed for the title, but came close to finishing second, with Arzumanyan explaining: "Appetite comes with eating. We felt that we could fight for a medal place.
Confidence came with winning games and we continued to build the new team."
Third place earned Ulisses a place in 2010/11 UEFA Europa League qualifying. However in the aftermath of their success, several players left the club; Kocharyan joined FC Gandzasar Kapan, Kasparov left for Iran, signing for Saniti Kaveh Tehran FC, while Mkoyan moved to FC Mika.
Eleven new signings filled some of the gaps in the Ulisses squad, but while they are third in the table after five fixtures, Arzumanyan believes they have yet to hit peak form. "We have to give a solid performance in every game to prepare well for the European ties," he said. "At the moment, Ulisses are far from top form but we are improving. We will put maximum effort in to get decent results in Europe."
Captain Melikyan is looking to embody that aim on the pitch, with the 30-times capped 30-year-old midfielder saying: "I have to lead my team-mates but they take every game seriously anyway," he said. "It is a good working atmosphere. We think hard about every game and aim for victory. That mentality always helps.
Ulisses are ready to take it to another level."
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