Budapest Honvéd FC have reacted to a disappointing first half of the 1. Liga season by drastically overhauling their playing staff in search of an improvement in their fortunes when the campaign resumes next month.
The Hungarian side lost their most famous son in November when Ferenc Puskás died at the age of 79, and the club's glory days have long since passed. After 17 games the 13-time champions occupy 13th position in the 16-team top flight with 19 points, although eighth-placed Paksi SE are only three points better off. Nevertheless, the final league match of 2006 – a 2-1 win at Kaposvári Rákóczi FC on 8 December, the side's second in succession – preceded major changes at Honvéd.
Coach Attila Supka, who guided Debreceni VSC to the title in 2005 and 2006, succeeded Aldo Dolcetti in October and has wasted little time in making his mark. No fewer than 12 players had their contracts terminated at the end of 2006, with experienced defender Zoltán Vincze recruited from FC Fehérvár and 19-year-old midfielder Gellért Ivancsics joining from FC Sopron. Midfielder Tibor Szabó also returned for a second spell, signing a contract until 2009, before Supka turned to the international market.
Honvéd subsequently landed seven players, all of different nationalities, with Croatian keeper Sandro Tomić arriving after five seasons with Debrecen and highly-rated Mexican Under-20 international midfielder José Manuel Rivera coming from Slovakia's FC Spartak Trnava. Also added to the squad are 18-year-old Brazilian forward Diego Rigonato Rodrigues - who had been on trial - Cameroonian striker Edouard Ndjodo from FC Tatabánya, Serbian defender Mićo Smiljanić, Senegal's Dieng Cheikh Abass and forward Abraham Guie Guie from the Ivory Coast.
"We have signed players for particular positions," said Supka of his acquisitions. "We have enough time to gel together and I don't think the number of new players will be a problem when the season restarts. The owner's expectations are realistic so the pressure is not too high on the players." Honvéd have also been busy with off-pitch affairs over the winter break, refurbishing the Bozsik Stadium and giving fans the opportunity to submit graphic designs - the best will be used to decorate the ground. With the league resuming on 24 February, Honvéd will be hoping happier times lie ahead in the spring.
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