Slavia fans have gone through a lot in the six years since the celebrated Prague club last won the league title and there’s no sign that the 2015/16 season will end their suffering.
Under normal circumstances, the appointment of Dusan Uhrin, Jr., a respected coach with a record of success – most notably at Mladá Boleslav in the mid-2000s – would be grounds for cautious optimism. The normal rules rarely apply at Eden, however, where financial problems and behind-the-scenes intrigues have overshadowed the mediocre offerings on the pitch in recent years.
Last season: 11th
Odds: 80/1 (Bwin)
Owner Ales Rebicek took charge of a club in turmoil when he bought Slavia in 2011. The former government minister has notably failed to bring stability to Eden since then, however, opting to hire and fire coaches rather than stick to a long-term strategy.
Compared to some of Rebicek’s spectacularly misjudged appointments – among them diehard Spartan Frantisek Straka and lavishly paid Dutchman Alex Pastoor – Uhrin isn’t a bad choice, but the same could also be said of his predecessor, Miroslav Beranek, who was given the boot after just one season.
The full extent of the challenge facing Uhrin was revealed on 17th July, when, by court order, Slavia were forced to publish their accounts. The picture wasn’t a pretty one: debts totalling 168 million crowns (around 4.3 million pounds), of which 11 million are overdue, plus a commitment to sell striker Milan Skoda and rising star Jaromir Zmrhal to help balance the books.
The Slavia squad is, if anything, weaker than the one that flirted with relegation last season. Hungarian left back Krisztián Tamás and Serbian wide man Vukadin Vukadinovic have both come to the end of loan spells; French/Algerian playmaker Damien Boudjemaa has been released; and midfielder Aldo Baez has been loaned back to Spartak Trnava.
In their place are only a couple of significant new signings: forward Radek Voltr jumps out of the frying pan at debt-ridden Viktoria Zizkov and into the fire at Eden and left-sided midfielder Miljan Vukadinovic (Vukadin’s brother) joins Slavia on loan from Mlada Boleslav. Otherwise, Uhrin will be relying on the products of Slavia’s youth system to improve on last season’s 11th-place finish.
Given the circumstances, it’s hard to see Slavia climbing higher than mid-table, and another season of struggle seems more likely. The days when Slavia outshone historic rivals Sparta and competed in the Champions League are fading into history and, under the current ownership, are likely to stay there.
One to watch
Dame Diop – On Slavia’s books since August of last year, the talented 22-year-old Senegalese forward looks ready to make an impact this season. Largely a reserve-team player last season, Diop scored a hat-trick in a pre-season friendly against WSG Wattens (admittedly an Austrian third-division team) and could benefit if Slavia do cash in on Milan Skoda.
This preview was written by Sam Beckwith, who is pretty much the trend-setter when it comes to writing about Czech football in English. Besides being a regular for World Soccer and countless others, Sam, who lives in Prague, looks after The Prague Pig, a website devoted to Czech tabloid culture.
- Posted by Chris Boothroyd
- On 22nd July 2015