"The players have started to believe in their own abilities and have lost a defeatist attitude," new coach Tomislav Sivić explained, with Diósgyőri VTK turning heads in Hungary.
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Second in the Hungarian First League after an extraordinary run of results from August to October, Diósgyőri VTK are dreaming of a return to their 1970s heyday when they once finished third in the league.
A 2-2 draw at Szombathelyi Haladás at the weekend was something of a letdown for Diósgyőr, given they had won their previous seven top-flight matches without conceding a goal. Still, having taken just three points from their opening four games, they are now unbeaten in nine and Saturday's disappointment may serve as a useful lesson according to assistant coach Ferenc Bene – son of the 1960s and '70s Újpest FC striker of the same name. "If for one minute we think we can be good without working for it, we are done for," he explained.
Diósgyőr's startling form owes much to their new coach, Serbian Tomislav Sivić, who made his name by leading unfancied Kecskeméti TE to Hungarian Cup glory in 2011. "Every member of the back-room staff has their role," said Bene of the new regime. "We prepare professionally for each opponent and pay attention to every little detail. As with every new coach, Sivić has changed lots of things; we play with a different system and training sessions focus on different things."
Sivić drafted in fellow Serb Nenad Rajić in goal, but while the 1.93m-tall custodian has made his presence felt, the 47-year-old coach himself believes their current success is down as much to a change of attitude as a change of personnel among the squad that came tenth last season. "I feel the players have started to believe in their own abilities and have lost a defeatist attitude," Sivić said. "This was the hardest part of my work, to return the team's faith, but that was helped a lot by the victories."
All those wins have left Diósgyőr within three points of league leaders Videoton FC, but in their home town of Miskolc, no one is talking about the possibility of a first title in the club's 103-year history. However, the possibility of emulating the achievements of their golden age – when Diósgyőr lifted the cup in 1976/77 and 1979/80 and finished a best-ever third in 1978/79 – seems more reasonable, as does the prospect of a return to European competition for the first time since 1998.
Bene, though, is not getting ahead of himself. "We have a variety of options in the squad compared with last season; the squad is younger and more ambitious," he said. "We're focusing on each new match as it comes – you should not set unrealistic goals but we want grab any opportunity that football gives us. We need to work hard to turn our dreams into reality."
That approach gained further credence today with a 4-3 Hungarian Cup fourth-round victory away to Cigánd SE.