A mystifying presence in the realm of Czech football, Pribram shocked and surprised everybody last season by not wandering around in a perpetual haze of mid-table aimlessness, nor did they stumble and fall down the trapdoor to the second division. Instead, against all logic, the club from the banks of the River Litavka almost squeezed their way into the Europa League. Only a final day defeat at the hands of Viktoria Plzen, coupled with Liberec’s dramatic penalty shootout victory in the Czech Cup final, stood between the small Stredocesky kraj outfit from mixing it up with Europe’s best.
Pribram is a mysterious entity: Over the years they’ve made a habit of signing elder statesmen and wayward journeymen, often at the expense of their highly regarded academy graduates who are often sold before making it into the first-team. That changed though when Pavel Tobias was promoted into the manager’s dugout, replacing the hapless Petr Cuhel, and things began to look a little bit ‘normal’. The Ales Mateju and Jan Suchan stepped up into the starting XI and quickly got tongues wagging; Martin Zeman produced the form we thought had been consigned to the history books and Roman Bednar rolled back the years. Yes, there was incredulity from some quarters, but with hindsight their push for Europe was very much deserved.
Last season: 5th
Odds: 300/1 (Bwin)
But can they do it again?
The vultures were already circling and it came as no surprise when Mateju and Suchan were announced as Viktoria Plzen’s latest recruits shortly after season ended (Note: Suchan has since returned on loan). Also off to pastures new were Martin Fillo (Teplice), Martin Zeman (Sion) and Milan Nitriansky (Avellino). Some of these departures have been replaced, with Pribram’s most eye-catching signing thus far being the former Plzen winger Jan Rezek. But, crucially, some haven’t – and some key individuals are yet another year older.
It’s hard to see Pribram maintaining the form that saw them leap up from the lower reaches of the Synot Liga table to fifth and that’s without accounting for an improvement from the likes of Teplice, Slovan Liberec and (dare we say it) Slavia Prague. A mid-table finish, free from drama, looks to be their most likely course.
The one unknown in all of this is the youth academy. Patrik Brandner is expected to see more first-team action with striking options thin on the ground, as is Czech U19 international midfielder Antonin Barak and defender Petr Rys. If they break through and immediately hit the ground running like Suchan and Mateju did, then who knows what could happen: An average looking side could be transformed into a pretty good one.
Roman Bednar: After being left on the sidelines at Sparta, Bednar joined Pribram on loan in one of the most predictable transfers of all time and began scoring for fun once more. Needless to say, his goals will be vital. There is a question about his dedication to the cause – his agent is known to be looking to secure one last foreign payday for Bednar – but as long as the former Hearts and West Brom striker remains playing in the Czech Republic he’ll trouble opposing defences.
One to watch
Jan Suchan: After just fifteen Synot Liga appearances (eight of those in the starting line-up), Viktoria Plzen had seen enough in the nineteen year-old to suggest that he could be the long-term successor to Daniel Kolar. Out came the chequebook. The attacking midfielder has returned to Pribram on loan for the 2015-16 where he’ll continue to get first-team football and have the chance to build upon his impressive start in the senior ranks
- Posted by Chris Boothroyd
- On 30th July 2015