AFW EXCLUSIVE: Czech point
He’s tutored some of Czech Republic’s biggest stars and coached in the European Champions League, now VITEZSLAV LAVICKA plans to propel Sydney FC back into the Asian equivalent
He-s tutored some of Czech Republic-s biggest stars and coached in the European Champions League, now VITEZSLAV LAVICKA plans to propel Sydney FC back into the Asian equivalent
Four coaches in four seasons and their fifth has just signed a one year contract. Welcome to Sydney FC, a club whose definition of stability differs greatly to most others.
The latest to strap in to the hot-seat is Czech coach Vitezslav Lavicka, the club-s third foreigner, after Pierre Littbarski and Terry Butcher. Lavicka-s CV reads impressively: a title as well as Champions League football with Slovan Liberec, a UEFA Cup place with Sparta Prague and a stint as Czech under 21 coach.
His English is far from perfect, but he is able to make himself understood and knows enough to get his message across. And the message is clear: Sydney FC must qualify for the Asian Champions League next season.
“We have to win, we have to be successful for Australia and make the step to the Asian Champions League. I know it will be difficult but I want to try,” Lavicka tells AFW from Prague. “I have to be successful for next season and in the future. I believe to get there we have to work together and we have to go step by step.
“The first step is to be among the best four teams (make the finals) and get to the grand final, then we have a vision for more success. I know it is very difficult to win the title, but we definitely want to qualify for the Champions League. I know in Australian competition will have two more teams and every match will be very difficult, I know it. But I believe with step by step, we can have success.”
‘Vita-, as he is affectionately known in his homeland, is polite and softly spoken, but having coached the likes of Petr Cech and Jiri Jarosik, he is not short on self confidence, which is why the Sydney FC job does not seem to daunt him.
A young coach at 45 years old, with a decent track record, he was not desperate for a job, but he was confident enough to accept a one year deal with Sydney - with the option of a second. Asked if he was aware of Sydney-s history of sacking coaches and who they were, he said: “I know Kosmina. Well I don-t know him but we saw the last match against Newcastle, they won 4-0 and it was a good performance, but the problem is they finished in fifth position and the club was not satisfied.”
Lavicka plans to bring success back to Sydney Football Stadium and win the fans back by playing an attacking brand, but a look back at his championship-winning year in the Czech Republic tells a different story. Slovan-s 43 goals was third highest, but their thrifty defence conceded just 22 goals in 30 games to wrap up the championship by five points.
“We want to play attractive for the fans, but I know it-s not easy to do it,” he says. “I want to play offensive but I want to co-operate with my assistants (Michal Zach) and Tony Popovic, who I know was a very good defender, he will help me and the team to get the best results.”
After winning the inaugural A-League title, Sydney FC have been a picture of turbulence and instability. Lavicka has either done his homework, been extremely well briefed, or both. Asked repeatedly if he needed to win the championship to stay on, he said what was most important was that everyone was on the same page - something that hasn-t been evident in FC-s short history, even dating back to Littbarski-s championship-winning days.
“Team spirit and teamwork; we need to have the same idea and the same vision - the club, the team, the players, the staff and the fans,” Lavicka says. “We have to be a united power to be a success.
“I know the expectations of Sydney FC fans is very high, but I want to get on well with the fans because their support is very important for success. We have to try and be successful straight away, one vision for me and for whole team and whole club.”
German giants Bayern Munich were known as FC Hollywood for the calamitous situations they often found themselves in, and Sydney FC could easily take on that moniker in Australia. Even Newcastle Jets, whose owner Con Constantine is afraid of drawing adverse attention to the club, have more stability than Sydney.
Throughout the second half of this season, John Kosmina lost a lot of players to other A-League franchises and clubs overseas, but it would seem his card marked well before the final rounds of competition. A photo of Lavicka holding up a Sydney FC scarf (taken a month before he was appointed) is proof and he admits dialogue opened well before then.
“The first contact was on December 24, I spoke by phone with Scott Barlow, director of Sydney FC and he told me that there might be a job there,” Lavicka says. “I was out of coaching because I finished with Sparta Prague in October. I started looking for a new job and now I am very satisfied.”
For now, Lavicka remains in Prague. He will meet the players for their friendly against Shanghai Shenhua in late March before arriving in Sydney to commence pre-season in April.
So what was so appealing about Sydney FC?
“What is my long term vision? I want to improve in my job,” he says. “I have tried some jobs in Czech first league and I wanted to try and work abroad and this is a good chance for me, a new experience.
“I coached the Czech under-21 team also, and that was a good experience. Now I am ready to use that experience here. I have ambitions I have to improve all the time. This is a good challenge for me to see if I can improve with Sydney FC.”
Sydeny FC are on the search for “special" players, but their new coach has left the door ajar for the maligned John Aloisi to remain. Although the decision may be out of his hands, Vitezslav Lavicka wants to sit down with the marquee striker to outline his blueprint for success - something he plans to do with the players individually and collectively.
Aloisi, who was slammed in some quarters for being a big money flop since signing from Central Coast, netted just twice in 16 games. However, it is understood Lavicka has been briefed that Aloisi-s poor form may have been - at least in part - due to a poor relationship with former coach John Kosmina, and some believe the Czech may be able to extract the best from Aloisi.
“I would like John Aloisi and all the players to receive my vision and go on together next season,” Lavicka said. “I would like to speak to him, we have to work for the team. I know he is a good striker. I saw DVDs and games and I want to use him for the success of the team.”
Lavicka was hoping to tap into his European contacts to bolster FC-s squad and admitted there could be a Sydney exodus. He said more lengthy discussions would take place with the Sydney board before signings were made.
“Some will be leaving the team and going abroad and I-m thinking about bringing two or three players in, but we are not sure at the moment,” he said. “We might bring players from Europe, maybe from Asia. We are looking for special kinds of players for Sydney FC.”
Lavicka said recruiting players from his homeland was a possibility.
“It may be difficult to sign players from the best teams in the Czech league because of financial conditions in Australia,” Lavicka said. “The best players in the Czech league want to go to Germany, France, England or Italy, but some players want to play in Australia too. Maybe players who are just below that top tier, they would see it as a good experience.”