Vladimir Petrović is promising "sweat and tears" from his FK Crvena Zvezda players as they seek to end a painful silverware drought, and having returned to training a week earlier than the rest of the Superliga few would deny he is a man of his word.
Two years is a long time in football: an age for a club like Crvena Zvezda to go without adding to their creaking trophy cabinet. Petrović insists that at "the start of season, the title was a forbidden word" but his team seemed to have nothing else on their mind as they thundered out of the blocks. A haul of 13 wins from 15 games earned a three-point advantage over chief rivals FK Partizan, whose double-double over the past two campaigns has merely salted Crvena Zvezda wounds. During the winter break, however, the silence was broken. "[The title] is our target, our wish and the highest motivation for all of us," stated Petrović. "I told my players they can expect hard work, sweat and tears, but in the end they will be happy."
Strength in depth
Few may have been overly happy to have their holidays curtailed as Petrović recalled them a week early, eager to bed in an eye-catching six new signings – nobody has left. "We saw where we had a problem," he explained, "but now both 'sides' are much stronger. I have two strong teams – the ability to choose a side is very helpful for me." Any coach that can talk of having two XIs at his disposal is leaving nothing to chance, and with right-back Pavle Ninkov and forward Dejan Lekić garnering admiring glances from some of Europe's finest, that strength in depth may prove invaluable. "They can go, but only if we get a really good offer," said Petrović. "But ideally I want to keep them, because the more quality players you have the easier it is to reach your goal."
Also through to the Serbian Cup semi-finals – where the 1991 European champions will face OFK Beograd in April – the only black mark on an otherwise perfect report card for the first half of the season was Crvena Zvezda's UEFA Europa League elimination. "We are no longer challenging in Europe," Petrović lamented. "This is my [long-term] priority – Crvena Zvezda have to return to European glory. It was our trademark; we were famous and must be so again. The road is long and hard, but each step must be in the right direction. We will get there soon. Winning domestic trophies is the right way, gaining good habits and preparing for a higher level. We have potential, I know that …."
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