Staring down the barrel of relegation in each of the last two seasons, FK Sutjeska have enjoyed a remarkable resurgence to lead the Montenegrin First League heading into the winter break.
One of the oldest clubs in the country and, along with FK Budućnost Podgorica, one of only two Montenegrin teams to play in the old Yugoslavian top flight, Sutjeska finished eighth last term and needed a play-off to avoid the drop in 2010/11. With almost the same squad that suffered such travails, Dragan Radojičić's side can now lay claim to the title of winter champions.
"The main difference is in the players' minds," said Radojičić, who left FK Rudar Pljevlja to assume the reins at Sutjeska in July. "I knew Sutjeska had a very talented generation and players with fighting spirit. However, for some reason, they didn't realise that last season. We have had a great relationship from the first day. I spoke a lot with them about their mental preparation for matches and I think I have succeeded in giving them a lot of confidence."
That renewed buoyancy was evident from the off, Sutjeska opening their league campaign with six successive victories. "Those results were very important because we could play without pressure, as our ambitions were very modest – to have a season without turbulence and to try to qualify for Europe," added Radojičić.
Despite being a point clear of Budućnost after 17 fixtures, the club's objectives have not changed too much. "We leave other teams to think about the title, we have our own plans and our own story,"” said Radojičić, a forward with Sutjeska during his playing career. "What makes me most satisfied is the fact we have five players in the Under-21 national team and a lot of youngsters who could play at U19 level. I hope we keep faith in our academy, which has produced a lot of talent such as [Juventus striker] Mirko Vučinić."
One of the most promising members of the current crop is 20-year old forward Djordje Šušnjar, who has scored nine league goals this term. "I am glad to help my team back where they belong," said Šušnjar, who arrived a year ago on loan from Serbian outfit FK Vojvodina. "I hope those years when Sutjeska were fighting for relegation are over forever.
"We will fight for the title and do everything we can to succeed. It will be a hard battle between us and Budućnost, but we will show we have quality. We are young and hungry for victories and trophies – that's our main advantage over our rivals."
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