Often referred to in Montenegro as a "talent factory", FK Mladost Podgorica are back in the top flight after a two-year absence, pledging to continue the famous tradition of nurturing young players.
Known as OFK Titograd Mladost before the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, Mladost have a reputation for spawning some of Montenegro's foremost footballing names. Former AC Milan midfielder Dejan Savićević, ex-Real Madrid CF striker Predrag Mijatović and ACF Fiorentina playmaker Stevan Jovetić are among the academy's highest-profile exports. Rather aptly, Mladost in Montenegrin means youth.
Miodrag Vukotić, a former Mladost player and now the First League club's coach, said: "Who knows when such talents will emerge again, therefore the club must do everything to help our young players develop and become professionals. We had a small setback with relegation two years ago but now we can start again with enthusiasm and ambition.
"Our Under-19 and U17 teams will play in the Montenegrin youth competitions, but our most talented boys will be in contention for the senior squad," continued the 36-year-old, who was on Milan's books in the mid-1990s. "With a mix of youngsters and experienced players we could achieve our aim – not to be relegated ever again, and in the near future to qualify for Europe. But, first of all, Mladost must focus on the academy because we will never have the money to buy players from bigger clubs."
Some of Mladost's most celebrated sons were nurtured when the club were without their own stadium or training ground. Now, with everything in place after occupying a facility within the Football Federation of Montenegro (FSCG) training headquarters, Vukotić would love nothing more than to say he helped produce the next Jovetić.
"This is the first step in a young player's development, and hard work and ability are the basis for achieving any kind of result. I have a real desire to help the boys here.
Watching young players became real players is a brilliant feeling. I would like to be able to say that one day a new star, such as Jovetić, was born under my control."
Vukotić's plans almost fell apart, however, when a financial crisis hit Mladost in pre-season. Luckily, new sponsorship was found even if it came too late to prevent eight first-team players departing. "They didn't have the patience to wait, which is absolutely normal because they didn't know what would happen," explained Vukotić, whose side begin the 2010/11 campaign away to FK Lovcen on 14 August.
"Now the situation is stable but I was forced to make big changes to the squad, to start almost from zero. However, we could be a surprise package this season. We have a team with lots of talent and we are hoping for success."
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