Sleeping giants for far too long according to their frustrated fans, Vyacheslav Mogilniy is the latest coach to be charged with the challenge of reviving FK Žalgiris Vilnius' fortunes.
Žalgiris were the leading Baltic side during the Soviet era, yet the capital club have fallen on relatively hard times in recent years. Without a league title since 1999, many thought their wait was over midway through last season as they stalked A-Lyga leaders FBK Kaunas but the challenge petered out, the side eventually finishing fourth. Something had to give; and it did, as Žalgiris coach and president Arminas Narbekovas moved on to pastures new.
Vadim Kastuev, a well-known businessman in Lithuania, was installed as the club's president while Mogilniy took over as coach, stepping up from his position as goalkeeper trainer. The 36-year-old enjoyed some success in that role, with Marius Rapalis and Ernestas Šetkus both members of the Lithuania national squad. Having been limited to the custodians until now, he is keen to impress his philosophy on the rest of the side: "The next game is always the most important."
State of flux
The side is very different from last season, with a host of new signings led by Vitoldas Cepauskas and Marius Dovydenas, while Audrius Veikutis and Nerijus Vasiliauskas both return to Žalgiris from SC Tavriya Simferopol. It is not the only change at the club. "Obviously there is a difference in team training last season and this campaign," said Mogilniy. "At this stage it's very important to work on the player's physical conditions, as we have a long season. We need to build good partnerships in every area of the field as we have a lot of newcomers in the team."
Žalgiris have been preparing for the new season at a training camp in Turkey, and Mogilniy has certainly been putting them through their paces with five games in ten days. Losses to FC Chornomorets Odesa and FC Lokomotiv Moskva were followed by three draws, and the coach hopes it will stand them in good stead. "We tried to play tough opponents," he explained. "Only in such games can we see our mistakes. There is no point in beating weak teams as it's going to be very difficult championship. We have to get to the top three."
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