"Part of me cannot believe this is really happening," said 2m-tall FK AS Trenčín striker Tomáš Malec who has come from nowhere to score 11 league goals this autumn.
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A star has been born in Slovakia this autumn, with lanky striker Tomáš Malec making a spectacular leap from a loan spell at second division MFK Tatran Liptovský Mikuláš to first-team action with FK AS Trenčín.
One of three players – along with MFK Ružomberok's Miloš Lačný and Leándre Tawamba – to have scored 11 goals in the Slovak First League this term, the 20-year-old Malec has given his side a substantial boost. They head into the winter break in second place, six points behind reigning champions ŠK Slovan Bratislava but with no intention of giving up on their challenge.
"It's not over," snarled Malec after netting the late goal that earned a 2-1 win in Trenčín's final match of 2013, at Ružomberok on Saturday. "We still have a chance to finish first. And we will try to do it."
Trenčín had cause for concern at the start of the campaign when Nigerian ace Fanendo Adi's extraordinary run of seven goals in three league games prompted FC København to sign the western club's standout forward. However, Malec was waiting in the wings, having already proved his potency with a 13-minute hat-trick after coming off the bench in a 4-2 victory against Slovan on 28 July. "I still cannot believe this happened," said the Trencin-born striker afterwards.
One quick glance at Malec, who stands 2m tall, might give a misleading impression of the youngster's biggest virtues as a player – he is great in the air, for sure, but decent with the ball at his feet too. "He is a very valuable team player, as he knows how to win fights for the ball," said Trenčín coach Ivan Vrabec. "He is still a bit inexperienced and can work on his skills, but he is a good player."
Despite struggling with a leg injury during the autumn, the goals have kept flowing for Malec, who is enjoying that feeling of vindication after several seasons in the shadows, culminating in his loan to Liptovský Mikuláš. "It's great to play for this team," he beamed. "Look at where I was just a year ago. I have to be thankful for the coaches who have faith in me and give me regular games."
Even in his wildest dreams, he did not imagine things going quite so well. "It is a big surprise – I didn't expect this," Malec said. "I hope to score more than my rivals in the spring, but this situation is still a bit weird for me. Part of me cannot believe this is really happening."