Newly promoted to the Austrian Bundesliga, SV Grödig have surprised many with a fine start to the season that has catapulted them to second place, two points shy of FC Salzburg.
SK Sturm Graz were Grödig's hosts on matchday two of the campaign and came up with a novel welcome for a side hailing from a Salzburg-Umgebung village of just 6,900 inhabitants: Grödig were greeted by the Village People's hit YMCA. The visitors thanked their hosts, won 2-0 and headed home with three points.
That was one of five victories already this campaign, including a 7-1 triumph over FC Admira Wacker Mödling in August. They even prevailed 3-2 at champions FK Austria Wien earlier this month. "We won't get carried away," said coach Adi Hütter. "We know what we have to focus on. There's still a long way to go this season."
Toni Haas – together with his son, sporting director Christian – has been in control of the club since the turn of the century, leading them from the depths of Austria's sixth tier to the top flight. Grödig did not even have their first taste of professional football until 2008, making the step up to the Bundesliga in summer 2013. Even then there was work to be done, with their stadium – the Untersbergarena – below league requirements. It is now suitable, though still holding only 4,000 spectators – small by Austrian standards. "The team needed less improvement than everything else," said Christian Haas.
Indeed Hütter and his assistant Eduard Glieder – both former players for the club now known as Salzburg – limited their summer shopping. New signings Philipp Zulechner, Dieter Elsneg and Philipp Huspek have been worthy investments though, providing goals, tireless running and assists respectively. Zulechner has already netted seven times in the league, one behind leading scorer Jonatan Soriano of Salzburg. His most recent strike came in Saturday's 3-3 draw with FC Wacker Innsbruck that had Hütter claiming his side are "enriching the division at the moment".
If Grödig's copybook was slightly blotted by a penalty shoot-out defeat by third-division SV Austria Salzburg in the ÖFB Cup first round, there is no denying they have come flying out of the blocks. Their coach, however, is staying grounded. "
I am confident we won't be involved in a relegation battle," he said.
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