Birthday presents are often problematic, but what do you get to mark a 120th? Even the most hard-to-please of AC Sparta Praha fans would struggle not to appreciate the efforts of Vítězslav Lavička and his side.
The Czech Republic's most successful club mark their 120th anniversary on Saturday, during the international break, and recent on-the-pitch success has added a bit of joviality to celebrations. Sparta are five points clear of reigning champions FC Viktoria Plzeň at the top of the First League table and still unbeaten in the top flight in 2013/14 after 11 wins and three draws. At home they have won seven out of seven.
"We are proud to be a part of such a rich history," Lavička told UEFA.com. "Sparta always have the highest of targets and our task is to win in the league as well as in the cup. We feel even more responsibility this season with the club celebrating such an important anniversary." Add into the mix that a run of three seasons without a championship marks the club's worst return in over a quarter of a century.
Expectations are always high, self-perpetuating; each of the Czech league titles (35), Czech Cup wins (19) and UEFA Champions League group stage campaigns (six) brings more belief that Sparta belong at the top. That faith was born during the glory years of 1919 and 1927, when the side known as 'Iron Sparta' collecting four titles. In the annus mirabilis of 1920 their record read: 57 games, 53 wins and four draws.
The meeting with FK Mladá Boleslav a week on Saturday has been designated the anniversary game, but there is no shortage of gestures in and around the club. The famous red jerseys have been decorated with a commemorative crest this season while on Monday a specially designed tram was introduced to the streets of Prague. Yet perhaps another parade, next May, for Lavička's charges would be the most meaningful way of marking the occasion.
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