Already 4-0 down from the first leg of their UEFA Cup tie against SC Braga, new FC Artmedia Petržalka coach Michal Hipp feels uncertainty at the club is affecting his players, saying: "Maybe they don't see any future here."
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Artmedia claimed a Slovakian double last season and were excited about the prospect of a return to the UEFA Champions League group stage, where they made their debut in 2005/06. However, the story of their season so far has been one of almost unremitting gloom, as they lie at the foot of the table at home with their European dream fading.
Hipp, who took over as coach following Vladimír Weiss's decision to become the new Slovakia coach, has seen his side ousted from the UEFA Champions League by Juventus, while they have won just twice in eight league games to date in the Superliga. "I have been working for Artmedia for six years and this is the first time we have been bottom of the table," said Hipp.
In other circumstances, the knives might have been out for the new coach, but Artmedia can claim mitigating circumstances. "We know about the poor results, but you have seen what has happened," said Hipp. "We are having to move stadium and are playing every match away from home and our owner has left too. Maybe the players don't see any future here."
Artmedia's former owner Ivan Kmotrík left the club in July after he obtained a majority holding in their more illustrious local rivals ŠK Slovan Bratislava, and several of his top players went with him. Midfielder Branislav Obžera and forward Juraj Halenár are now Slovan players, while right-back Marián Čišovský now in Romania with FC Timişoara.
Halenár, who scored against Celtic FC in the UEFA Champions League back in 2005, said: "Artmedia are not the club they once were. I felt I needed to wear a new shirt. It is not true that I was forced to join Slovan – it was my decision - but it must be odd for Artmedia. Three months ago we were celebrating the double, and now they are bottom of the league."
Halenár hoped the club would "get back on their feet and start moving up the table", but until the issue of their home stadium is resolved, that may not be easy. Artmedia have been playing at AŠK Inter Bratislava's stadium or at FC Senec's home, 26km away from the Bratislava suburb of Petrzalka, while the land on which their stadium once lay is being redeveloped.
That hardly helped them as they were heavily beaten in Braga last week, given them a huge task Artmedia with to make the group stage. "The Braga players were much more mobile on the pitch than we were, and we made some big mistakes," said Hipp. "That's the reason we lost so heavily." The coach must now try and lift his side for next Thursday's return leg, but with many predicting Artmedia's imminent demise, that may be some task.