Stability has hardly been a byword at FC Timişoara this season, but with former coach Dušan Uhrin Jr back in the dugout, the club are optimistic they can leapfrog FC Oţelul Galaţi and win their first Romanian title when the season resumes next month.
Only five top-flight teams will return to action guided by the same coach they started with last summer and Timişoara are one of seven employing at least their third trainer this term. Vladimir Petrović left to take the Serbia reins in September and his replacement, Cosmin Contra, departed at the start of the winter break. However, despite the disruption, Timişoara lie second in the standings – five points behind Oţelul – and are the only unbeaten side in the division.
Their sequence of 18 games without defeat is a club record and Uhrin Jr is desperate to build on those foundations when Timişoara continue their title bid at home to CS Gaz Metan Mediaş on 25 February. The Czech coach was previously at the Timişoara helm between summer 2007 and December 2008, and during that initial stint led them into continental competition for the first time since 1992.
That adventure ended in the first round of the 2008/09 UEFA Cup, but with 2011/12 the last season in which the Romanian champions will be guaranteed entry to the UEFA Champions League group stage, Europe is sure to be prominent in his thoughts again. "I know things will be much more difficult than in my first spell because the club did not have such important and big targets back then," said Uhrin Jr, back in Romania – where he has also held the reins at CFR 1907 Cluj – following a spell with AEL Limassol FC in Cyprus.
One of only three foreign coaches now operating in the Romanian First Division, the 43-year-old intends to be successful with "offensive football, and a completely attacking approach". He added: "I want to have the stadium full of fans and the same excellent relationship with them I had in my first spell."
The players are equally excited about the months ahead, with captain Dan Alexa saying: "We can win the title. There are 16 rounds left to play and everything is possible. It'll be an extremely tough second half to the season, but Dušan Uhrin knows us very well and we're all happy that he came back. He can lead us to victory." As if to underline the point, forward Ianis Zicu suggested that "not winning the title would be a disaster".
Oţelul ought to prove difficult to unseat as they are also pursuing their first title, but there is no mistaking the growing buzz around Timisoara, the western city which has not produced a championship-winning side since now dissolved outfit FC Ripensia Timişoara prevailed in 1937/38. "The points difference between ourselves and Oţelul is not that big," added Romanian international goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon. "We've narrowly missed out on the title for the last two seasons – now it's time."
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