Once giants in the former Czechoslovakia, FC Spartak Trnava hope Serbian coach Vladimir Vermezović can rekindle the Slovaks' flame in the UEFA Cup.
Trnava finished fourth in the Slovakian league last season to earn a return to European competition, but the first qualifying round of the UEFA Cup is quite a comedown given that the club reached the semi-final of the 1968/69 European Champion Clubs' Cup, losing out to AFC Ajax. That came at a time when, as older fans of the club will remember only too well, Spartak were domestic titans, winning five titles in six seasons between 1968 and 1973. However, while they have never won a championship since, Trnava remains a footballing hotbed, with the club's decision to refurbish their 18,500-capacity stadium a testament to the impressive support they can muster.
'In his blood'
Their pedigree is not in doubt, then, but what they have been searching for is the right coach to help put the club back into the big time, and in former Yugoslavian international Vladimir Vermezović, they hope they have found him. The 45-year-old joined the club in May after a spell with FK Partizan, and is looking to revive the club's fortunes with the help of his long-time colleague Dejan Ilić. "Vermezović has victory in his blood," said Trnava board representative Peter Bahula. "That was why we took him on. We believe he can bring more victories than last season. With Vermezovič we have one big plan – to win the Slovakian league."
The coach has every confidence that this aim can be achieved, given the right resources. "If I want this to become a reality, I must be able to put together a solid team – a team mixing young and old players with winning mentality," he said. "I would also like to give the team a mix of Serbian and Slovakian footballing style." To that end, Vermezović has signed Serbian playmaker Nebojša Jelenković, formerly captain of PFC Litex Lovech in Bulgaria, as well as one-time Albacete Balompié midfielder Carlos Pérez García.
The new-look side will be able to assess their strength as they meet FC WIT Georgia in the UEFA Cup first qualifying round on 17 and 31 July, looking to erase the memory of a defeat against another side from the Caucasus – Azerbaijan's FK Karvan Evlakh – at the same stage of the competition two years ago. "We haven't got much information about them, but clubs from countries like this are usually dangerous," said club general secretary Ján Greguš. "[WIT] have had no problems bringing in solid players from abroad." Now Spartak will hope a similar policy will bring them success in Slovakia.
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