Losing finalists in last season's Hungarian Cup, Debreceni VSC have been big winners in Europe this season. The club are now flying the flag for Hungary as they take on Greek side FC PAOK in the UEFA Cup second round.
Thus coach Lázár Szentes is reminding the big Budapest teams that there is footballing life outside the capital. Since being appointed by Debrecen in 2002, he has led the club to a third-placed finish in the league as well as the cup final that opened their path to continental competition.
Nonetheless, Szentes maintains that a coach's lot is not entirely a happy one. "
A coach doesn't have too much joy in his life," he told uefa.com. "He is always under pressure because of results, the club, the supporters and the media. That is how it works."
Fate seems to have kept the 47-year-old away from Budapest. The Bonyhád-born forward played for provincial sides Zalaegerszegi TE and Györi Rába ETO (now Györi ETO FC) in Hungary before three seasons in Portugal from 1987-90.
His coaching career began at Rába in 1992, and he went on to spend five years managing lower-league teams in Austria before returning to Hungary to coach Haladás FC and then Debrecen, who are based in the east of the country near the Romanian border.
Working away from the traditional Budapest powerhouses of MTK Hungária FC, Ferencvárosi TC and Újpesti TE, the odds have always been against Szentes. "The best thing a trainer can do in this situation is to strive for maximum performance," he said. "Consequently, I must be very dedicated."
This policy has worked well enough in this season's UEFA Cup. Debrecen slipped past Lithuania's FK Ekranas in the qualifying round before overcoming NK Varteks of Croatia in the first round en route to their tie with PAOK, which begins with an away fixture on Thursday.
While it was a 3-1 first-leg success at Varteks that paved their way to the second round, Szentes knows that Debrecen are strongest on home ground, where they have secured wins against VfL Wolfsburg and FC Girondins de Bordeaux in recent years.
"The club does well in the UEFA Cup, particularly when the red-and-whites are at home," he said. "We are given enormous support from the fans so the players feel relaxed and even more motivated and therefore perform better."
The aim for this week is to ensure Debrecen leave themselves with a reasonable target for victory after the first leg in Thessaloniki. "
We have a chance although at the moment it is nothing more than that," he said. "We need to concentrate for the whole 90 minutes. That's the most important aim for UEFA Cup games."
European competition has brought the best out of Debrecen, and they have been performing well in the league too, lying behind MTK in joint-second place. However, Szentes believes his attack-minded team, who employ speedy wingers and boast excellent movement off the ball, have more to prove in the league than the UEFA Cup.
"A club has to bring many things together to finish at the top of the table, especially if they're not from Budapest," he said. "To win one match on the European stage, which is sometimes enough to secure qualification, is completely different to being victorious week in, week out."
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