Having gone into the winter break five points clear at the top of the Bulgarian A League, and still undefeated after 15 games, defending champions PFC Litex Lovech have cause for cheer.
Forward Svetoslav Todorov, meanwhile, has more reason for quiet satisfaction than most. He may have been something of a forgotten man in Bulgaria at the time he rejoined Litex in 2009 following an eight-year absence, but his five goals in 14 games in the autumn have helped the club enormously – not least his late winner at home to closest rivals PFC Levski Sofia on 25 October.
"We won at home against Levski Sofia, Lokomotiv Sofia and Slavia Sofia," the 32-year-old Todorov told UEFA.com. "We drew away to CSKA Sofia too and those results show we deserve to be top of the table."
After winning Bulgarian titles with Litex in 1998 and 1999, 'Toddy' left Litex for West Ham United FC in 2001, and represented Portsmouth FC, Wigan Athletic FC and Charlton Athletic FC over the following years, while racking up 42 Bulgaria caps. He never quite hit the heights in England, yet remains enormously proud of his achievements.
"I played in the Premier League with three sides," he said. "You have to work really hard, be disciplined and totally committed to succeed in England. It is a great achievement to go from Bulgaria to the English league. I had to compete for a first-team place with players like Jermain Defoe, Frédéric Kanouté, Davor Šuker and Paolo Di Canio and it was a great experience for me."
Now he is delighted to be giving Litex the benefit of that experience during an occasionally turbulent spell for the club. Having steered the Oranges to last season's title, Angel Chervenkov started 2010/11 in charge, but he was replaced first by stand-in Petko Petkov and then by Luboslav Penev, the 44-year-old former Bulgaria striker who had begun his coaching career at CSKA Sofia in 2009.
Penev looked to have been dealt a tough hand, with Litex having lost their leading forward, Ivelin Popov, to Turkish side Gaziantepspor, yet Todorov – voted Litex's player of the year for 2010 – shouldered the additional responsibility and is driving the team on towards what would be his fourth Bulgarian title.
I'd be lying if I said we weren't thinking about the championship," he said. "We are top of the table and will fight until the end to retain that position. All my goals from the first half of the season mean so much to me, but the winner against Levski is the most important as I scored against direct title contender and it was at our stadium."
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