Slovakian champions MŠK Žilina suffered only their second defeat of the First League season as the campaign resumed last weekend following the winter break – losing 2-0 at 1. FC Tatran Prešov.
Winless in their last three outings, Žilina are just three points clear of ambitious FK Senica, although the nation's most celebrated coach, Dr Jozef Vengloš, believes Pavel Hapal's side are still safe. "It looks like Žilina will end up winning it again, but I feel [ŠK] Slovan Bratislava could still finish higher up the table," he said.
A midfielder with Slovan from 1954 to 1966, and the capital club's coach between 1973 and 1976, Dr Vengloš remains committed to his old team, who lie fifth in the First League. He won two Czechoslovakian titles at the Slovan helm and received a special blue Slovan rose to mark his 75th birthday on 18 February. His work with the Bratislava outfit was also crucial to him making an international impact.
Initially, he combined his duties as Slovan coach with assisting Václav Ježek, coach of the Czechoslovakian national side, as the pair forged the squad that won the 1976 UEFA European Football Championship. Dr Vengloš went on to coach Sporting Clube de Portugal, Aston Villa FC, Fenerbahçe SK and Celtic FC among others, and insists travel broadens the mind.
"People still love football and they like to come to stadiums and watch games," he said, reflecting on the state of the Slovakian game. "But if clubs want more fans to come to games, the players have to look for inspiration from the top European leagues, like England's Premier League. The atmosphere there is fantastic, the same in Scotland too."
Slovakia's success in reaching last summer's FIFA World Cup may have boosted attendances this term, yet while Dr Vengloš would welcome further investment in the local footballing infrastructure, he is nonetheless happy to see the country's best talents head abroad. "There is no better way to learn soccer than going abroad. You can't buy experience like that."
Slovakia coach from 1993 to 1995, Dr Vengloš has also seen the national team endure something of a recent slump. While they kicked off their UEFA EURO 2012 Group B campaign with wins against Russia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, a defeat in Armenia and a draw with the Republic of Ireland have left them fourth in the section.
A 2-1 friendly defeat by Luxembourg in February also invited criticism of Vladimír Weiss's team, but Dr Vengloš is staying positive. "These things happen. Žilina lost all six of their UEFA Champions League group stage games too, but that is no reason to be pessimistic or stop coming to the matches. All big teams have bad periods."
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