Myjava is a small town of 12,000 some 10km from the Czech border in the foothills of the White Carpathians, and for the past couple of years its football team has been scaling unprecedented heights.
TJ Spartak Myjava reached the Slovakian top flight for the first time in their 92-year history in 2012 and confounded everyone by finishing fourth last term, just five points behind neighbours FK AS Trenčín and a European spot. Beginners' luck, some said; wait for the second season. To everyone's surprise, however, the second campaign is proving even better than the first.
Fifteen games into 2013/14, Spartak Myjava's haul of 27 points is good enough for a share – with Trenčín – of third position. They are five points adrift of pacesetters ŠK Slovan Bratislava, to whom they gave a major scare at the weekend by racing into a 2-0 lead before the champions fought back to earn a draw.
Despite a budget of only €850,000, Spartak Myjava are underestimated no more and it is testament to the home side's own change in mentality that coach Ladislav Hudec was rueing that the equaliser had not come earlier on Saturday. "If Slovan had scored their second goal earlier than the 86th minute, maybe we could have scored a winner," said the 56-year-old, who arrived at the club from FK Senica in 2010.
The idea then that, one day, 2,700 fans at a sold-out Stadium Myjava would be disappointed by a draw with Slovan might have been hard to entertain. "To be honest, I didn't expect to be so successful," admitted Hudec. "All I wanted, when I came here, was to play good football.
"There is no secret. I try to fill the squad with suitable players, with footballers I know a bit," he added. "There is a special spirit. There are a lot of players – like Peter Solnička, Martin Černáček, Pavol Kosík – who are now in their fifth or sixth season with the team. I am also pleased with the atmosphere we have at the stadium. The atmosphere against Slovan Bratislava was definitely the best of the last two years."
Opposing coach Jozef Valovič was also moved by the "fantastic" backdrop to the match in Myjava, and by the quality of play, noting: "Games like these move the quality of our league forward."
Hudec, however, is not impressed by talk of European places. "We have to continue playing with respect and humility," he told UEFA.com. "It would be nice to play on a higher level but we can't think about that. Maybe our fans can dream about it."
President Pavel Halabrín, the major of Myjava, no doubt shares that ambition and he may reflect favourably on a decision he made two years ago. The step up to the Slovak First League was another sphere financially, and he initially hesitated about accepting promotion before making the bold ascent – neither he nor Spartak Myjava have looked back since.
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