So what went right for a team that got it so wrong last term and ended up being demoted in an embarrassing manner?
Sigma certainly benefitted from being by far the biggest fish in a tiny pond. There aren’t many clubs of the size of Sigma in the Synot Liga, let alone in the Czech second division. They were installed as the odds on favourite for the league title right back at the start of this campaign and their promotion should come as no surprise.
But in recent years there have been numerous examples of smaller regional clubs upsetting the apple cart, Znojmo, Banik Sokolov and Taborsko are just three examples. On the other hand bigger names have often struggled in the FNL. Zlin – this season aside – have often flattered to deceive, Opava have dropped as far as the third tier and Zbrojovka Brno were remarkably fortunate to be immediately promoted a couple of seasons ago. These aren’t calm waters by any stretch of the imagination as they found out at the start of the campaign.
The season was a barely a month old and Sigma had already tasted defeated three times, losing to Viktoria Zizkov, Banik Sokolov and Znojmo. But after the international break at the start of September they went on a remarkable sixteen game undefeated streak, handing out hidings left, right and centre. They thrashed Sokolov 7-0, swatted aside Vlasim 6-0 and dispatched Usti nad Labem 5-0; their 4-1 victory over bottom club Kolin looks remarkably tame with hindsight.
Promotion was secured with a competent, no-frills victory in Pardubice. The title should already be wrapped up, but they conceded a tame last-minute equaliser against Karvina last weekend which put the coronation party on hold for seven days at least. As luck and fate would have it, they play Varnsdorf next in a game where both clubs would be content with a point.
Who are their key men?
Vaclav Vasicek leads the goalscoring charts with thirteen in twenty-three appearances. A perennial threat to second-tier defences, he finally got to lead the line for a Synot Liga club last season with Znojmo – a club he’s joined on loan four times in the past five seasons – and hit ten goals. Kalvoda ensured that he would be (metaphorically) handed the number nine shirt. It’s been far too late in coming, but he’s finally being used to the best of his abilities at the Andruv Stadion.
There’s a talented supporting cast too: Michal Ordos has chipped in with his fair share of goals, suggesting that he’s back in the form that saw him emerge on the fringes of the Czech National Team a couple of years ago. There’s also Jan Navratil, similarly well versed in the professional game; Czech U21 midfielder David Houska, who has matured into a first-team regular for club and country over the past twelve months and Jakub Plsek, who, by all accounts, is one to keep an eye on as he grows in stature and confidence. And Jan Rajnoch‘s presence in defence cannot be underestimated either, despite Liberec’s belief that the 33-year-old is over the hill.
The kids aren’t bad
Sigma’s academy is one of the best in the country and whilst a prolonged stay in the second tier would have severely hurt their ability to keep hold of their most promising youngsters, this short stint has done wonders to promote them into prominent first-team roles. Houska (21) and goalkeeper Michal Riechl (22) are set for a summer spent with the Czech Under-21s, whilst the highly rated pair of Tomas Chory (20) and Tomas Zahradnicek (21) have also been brought into the fore.
Who’s the boss?
Leos Kalvoda spent eight years as a professional on Sigma’s books before closing his playing career out with stints at Siegless and Banik Ratiskovice. Upon hanging up his boots he returned to the Andruv Stadion as assistant to Karel Bruckner, before taking over Sigma’s reserve squad in 1997. He took over the first team squad in 2000, but his tenure didn’t last long and after a shaky start he was soon out on his ear.
Spells in Zilina (where he won the Corgon Liga) and Hradec followed, before he return to Olomouc with HFK, where he would stay for three years. A slightly nomadic existence followed until he settled at Znojmo and led the small Moravian club to the Synot Liga.
Animated, Kalvoda installed a vibrant team spirit in Znojmo, one that was crucial to the side’s flirtation with survival. This siege mentality and never-say-die attitude won him admirers and Sigma came calling. Unable to resist the bright lights he signed a contract to return, even if Znojmo survived.
At both Sigma and Znojmo Kalvoda has appeared to favour a 4-3-3/4-5-1 that’s characterised by direct wide play, complemented by a very creative centre – not to mention Vaclav Vasicek as the lone front-man.
One’s to look out for
There’s been a buzz around Tomas Zahradnicek for a while now, but it’s the central midfield pairing of David Houska and Jakub Plsek that will be drawing the attention of opposing managers, scouts and chairmen in the immediate future. Especially Plsek who has flittered in and out of the team, but has made a remarkable impact scoring ten times.
Alongside those already named, Simga has a triumvirate of Czech Under-19 internationals on their books that could push through into the senior ranks next season. Keep an eye out for Lukas Buchvaldek, Lukas Kalvach and Jakub Yunis, whether they’re playing for Sigma’s first-team or their all conquering ‘reserve’ side who are currently tearing up the third-tier MSFL.
How will they do next season?
There’s no reason to expect Sigma Olomouc to struggle next season. They will need to strengthen, and Kalvoda has already spoken about sourcing reinforcements in central areas but on paper, this squad is more than good enough to survive.
But assuming this methodical approach continues, the big names stay in place and the youngster are continued to be given chances, Sigma Olomouc could well push on for a top half finish in the Synot Liga next season.
In truth, that’s where they belong.
- Posted by Chris Boothroyd
- On 19th May 2015