Aug 22 2011

Baxter’s back! Zilina 0-1 Trnava

Published by at 11:54 am under Domestic and tagged: , ,


If you leave Slovakia for much of July and August, you have to live with missing out on some of the more important footballing matters of the year. This is only exacerbated when you go to England. To twist what a well-known novelist once said about the USA, ‘go to England and watch foreign football disappear’. It’s true ; absorb yourself in English sports media for any length of time and you could be forgiven for thinking that even ‘big’ leagues like the Bundesliga or Serie A don’t exist. Slovak football, of course, has no chance of getting itself noticed.

So this summer I was away for Slovan Bratislava’s disappointing exit from the Champions League and Karel Jarolím’s sudden replacement by none other than Vladimir Weiss. It’s been known for several months now that Weiss wanted a coaching job with a club to go alongside his work with the Slovak national team but I for one was surprised, and unpleasantly so, when that club turned out to be Slovan. With Weiss in charge there, it’s already hard to see the club losing their grip on the Corgoň Liga, to Žilina or anyone else.

But plenty has gone on at Žilina too. Coach Pavel Hapal lost his job after the club’s first competitive match of the season – an abject 3-0 defeat in a Europa League first-leg tie in Rekjavik. He was replaced by Ľuboš Nosický, a seemingly decent chap who’s been around the Slovak football scene for a while without ever achieving an awful lot. I’m giving him a chance though, since similar things were said about Pavel Vrba when he came to Žilina and look what he did for them – and at where he is now.

Results wise, Žilina just failed to turn the Rekjavik tie around in the home leg and, though they’ve dropped domestic points against sides they would hope to beat, in Trenčín and Košice, went into Sunday’s home game against Trnava with the league’s only unbeaten record. As significant as any of this for me, though, is a piece of news which, even in Slovakia, seemed to be little more than a footnote ; that the club have sold Ľubomír Guldan to Ludogorets Razgrad of Bulgaria. I feel Žilina never quite appreciated Guldan and thus never got the best out of him. I certainly don’t think it was an accident that when he finally played in his preferred holding midfield role in the last two games of last season’s Champions League campaign the team produced its most creditable performances. Able to play in central defence and (at a push) at right-back, Guldan might have been a victim of his own versatility. I fear there’ll be occasions this season when Žilina fans wish he was still around.

Trnava, Sunday’s visitors to Štadión pod Dubňom, have also been having an interesting time of it. Things have moved forward off the field, with the fans agreeing to end their long-standing boycott. On the pitch, the signings of Miroslav Karhan and former Žilina striker Tomáš Oravec will surely prove to be good ones though, going into Sunday’s game, the side seemed to be finding it more difficult to earn good results in the domestic league than during their European adventures.


The above paragraphs were written before Sunday’s game. Žilina’s unbeaten league record didn’t survive the evening, nor did the theory that Europa League football necessarily knackers a team out before its next league game. Trnava had a game plan and executed it with diligence and intelligence. In Karhan and Marek Kaščák, they had both a formidable barrier in front of their defence and enough passing quality to retain possession when they got the ball. Žilina went for an unusual solution to their current shortage of central defenders (Prince Ofori has got himelf suspended for six games) by starting with a back three and wing-backs in a kind of 3-5-2 formation. The problem was that there was never enough width going forward. Apart from the opening 10 minutes, when Žilina’s midfield three of Miro Barčík, Peter Šulek and Viktor Pečovský put some sweet moves together, and the odd, isolated second-half flurry, Trnava never looked in trouble. With Oravec on as a second-half substitute, they began to look stronger in attack and finally scored the decisive goal when Patrik Čarnota headed in a left-wing corner.

On this evidence, it’s hard to see a concerted challenge at the top of the league from Žilina.With changes to both team and coaching-staff, they are a club in transition. There are plenty of quality players there but also a few gaps to fill, and Nosický needs time to work out the best ways to make progress. He and the players also need patience from the stands and that’s something that tends to be in short supply here.

That said, Trnava’s goal only underlined the home team’s inability to cause danger from set-pieces. Žilina had enough corners, and free-kicks in promising positions, but did very little with them. Also, in the form of three six-foot strikers, we saw the ‘stick the big boys up front, plenty of long balls forward’ tactic from Žilina once they were behind. Does this ever actually work? Trnava were happy enough dealing with passing moves through the centre of the pitch and were never going to be troubled by anything less subtle than that. Žilina’s best chance of the night – missed by Momodou Ceesay after a brilliant run and cross from Šulek – came after they’d got the ball wide for once, but they didn’t seem to draw inspiration from it.

I don’t particularly mind seeing my team lose and even tactical failings, though frustrating, at least give you material for pub debates. What really made me despair on Sunday, and this seems to have even more relevance given the Slovan-Roma discussion, was the behaviour of some of the home supporters. Žilina, remember, are still under threat of a ground closure following the abandonment of the Slovan match back in April. But much of the chanting at the Trnava game consisted of obscenities directed at the visiting fans and even, unaccountably, at Martin Raška, the away goalkeeper. Just as bad was that the second-half was held up for several minutes after a smoke-bomb was let off in the home end. I for one wouldn’t argue if the authorities do now enforce the closure though somehow I don’t think even that action will make the guilty parties engage the few grey cells they possess. What was it we were saying about things like taking responsibility and having consideration for others?

James Baxter

11 responses so far

11 Responses to “Baxter’s back! Zilina 0-1 Trnava”

  1.   britskibelasion 22 Aug 2011 at 12:01 pm

    Thanks James, interesting stuff. Does this mean to say that the Trnava fans actually behaved themselves?

  2.   James Baxteron 22 Aug 2011 at 4:25 pm

    In the ground, yes. Don’t know about outside, in the toilets, after the game etc, which is why I’m hesitant to say anything too positive. Got bitten that way last November as I recall.

  3.   George Mon 22 Aug 2011 at 5:40 pm

    Phew a bit long winded all that , but I guess we got there in the end James…Perhaps take a hint from a journalist friend of mine … write 700 words then cut 250 , just to make the thing sharper and interesting , rather than a bit of a yawn zzzzzzzz . I mean other than the new match report , you will be repeating these facts all again and again in few weeks .

    I am not sure why football clubs do encourage these numbskull yobs ….somehow they are considered supporters and part of the local community , god help us all . I have have been a long believer in Football Clubs being Licensed and controlled , like night clubs or other pop and rock gatherings-venues in the UK . If there is often agro , yes you get shut down . Not that that would really work in Slovakia, ( yes I was dreaming ) because sure as eggs are eggs , brown envelopes full of stamps, would be then changing hands, as a 10% consultancy fee .

  4.   George Mon 22 Aug 2011 at 5:48 pm

    BTW before I forget, some news in, is that Weiss junior, currently at Man C , is on his way to Moscow Loco, for 3 million quid.

    Can we all have a good laugh at The Arsenal, Wenger and their (non) troubles on this blog, or should we all just avoid internal grief ?

  5.   James Baxteron 22 Aug 2011 at 8:06 pm

    Boring you is one thing George but boring you into abject ‘I can’t take anymore’ submission seems to be quite another. Will the next 1,500 word epic do the trick, I wonder?

    Jesting aside, as to controlling football clubs like nightclubs etc, I wouldn’t dismiss the notion but you know what the counter-argument is ; close down the Miami Club one week and its patrons will move on to the New York Club (or whatever) the next without giving the matter much thought. But put the padlocks on at Millwall and the fans don’t shrug and say, ‘oh well, we’ll go to Charlton next Saturday.’ For better or worse, football clubs inspire a loyalty nightclubs and other businesses just don’t, even here in SK, where clubs and associations per se aren’t quite the social ‘glue’ they are in the UK. The authorities might not like this fact but they know they can’t ignore it.

    Similarly, I’ve heard the Inland Revenue could get winding-up orders against half Britain’s football clubs in any given week if they really wanted to. They don’t because they’re PR conscious enough to know that when it comes to a so-called community concern against a faceless bureaucracy, the latter hasn’t got a hope PR-wise, even when it’s got the law on its side. Not saying that’s right, just how it is.

    As for ‘repeating facts week after week’, tell me what you think you’re doing when you comment on another (eg) Johnny Slota related piece on The Daily. You’re not going to change his behaviour, nor the fact that 5% of Slovaks (we agree on that??) support him. You’re repeating yourself in fact. But you’re also being true to a belief that what the man stands for stinks. Same with my little rant against the Zilina fans here. I’m not going to make them be nicer to Trnava or stop throwing objects but I’m saying what I think about their behaviour, as is my right. Fair enough?

    As for Wenger chat, I suggest you leave us alone here and put yourself in the welcoming hands of Kevin McCarra or whoever’s doing the ‘Arsenal in Crisis’ blog on the Guardian this week. Always plenty of responses there too.

  6.   George Mon 22 Aug 2011 at 8:52 pm

    Bit of an update on Weiss junior …it appears Dynamo Kiev are also interested ….see the Daily Mirror ????

    As for your Blog efforts, well lets say if you wanna write War & Peace epic every time you review or watch a football match …..A guy with your IQ should have a low voice too!

    Sometimes I think you still live in the 1960′s when it comes to football clubs ……….Closing down the Miami Club one week and its patrons will move on to the New York Club and what ??? Putting on the padlocks ( or withdrawing a License ) at Millwall may just make the Club wake up to actually banning these cretins that cause trouble….For better or worse, football clubs inspire a loyalty you claim, but do they inspire the right loyalty and longer term is it right ?? Football now is a business, but ‘supporters’ , still believe a club is a community center run for their benefit !

    Many of them think they should or are run the club … not the guys who own it . Sorry to me, like any go to view business, you pay your entry ticket, you get your seat …you have your cheer , shout and moan , then you go home ………Why should fan base have any say in a shareholding business , especially one that ( like Man U ) does not really need them, other than as a bum on seat ? I am lost at this anti Glazer protest movement….the ManU club has had so much success , worth 2 billion ….and these Green & Yellow shirted tossers moan on and on .

    As for the Inland Revenue well shut them down I say, do the leagues a favour. Why should these guy not pay there taxes, when others have too ?? Not saying that’s right, just how it is in year , oh yes 2011 .

  7.   James Baxteron 23 Aug 2011 at 12:28 pm

    As you said before, you’re dreaming. Even Maggie Thatcher in her prime couldn’t close down one football club, even when the game was at its lowest ebb.

    As for the Glazers (and Abramovic, the Arab Sheiks and so on), they’re in football to make money out of TV, international markets and so on. But there would be no mileage in that were it not for the fact that those clubs had traditions (including of success), local fan-bases etc long before these owners arrived. Your argument puts cart before horse.

    Then what about these supporter-owned clubs like AFC Wimbledon, AFC Telford, Exeter, Chester etc that have sprung up in the wake of the failure of the original clubs? Or the Bundesliga model, where every club has to be 50% owned by its members?

    Re the IR, I agree with you, though with the caveat that the IR could also do more to chase up the rest of the 40% of tax owed to the UK that goes unpaid every year. They should have got Portsmouth closed down I reckon – but if they had, the supporters would have a new club going by now, no question.

    Even in fickle old Slovakia, once Kmotrik had flounced out of Petrzalka, the club kept going, in part thanks to people working voluntarily. And, in every other village on a Sunday, 100 or so people gather, come rain or shine, to watch 22 guys with beer bellies huffing and puffing around a football pitch. Whatever our explanations for this irrational phenomen, we can’t deny it happens. I’d say that, at its root, it’s got sth to do with community, fellow-feeling or whatever. Sport can inspire that, more than nightclubs, supermarkets etc can.

    Don’t misunderstand me, though, nowhere do I say that football clubs should be above the law. If the SFZ/ULK close Zilina down for a game after Sunday’s incidents, they’ll be rightly enforcing a condition they themselves laid down back in April.

  8.   George Mon 23 Aug 2011 at 1:31 pm

    Sorry but now you moved the goal post . My idea of a License was to pull it , only if the club and the fans did not behave, safety or there were constant issues . ie ….is it right that Slovan fans attack Roma fans with no real penalty ….Can Zilina get away with smoke bombing a match to an end….Trnava setting a bonfire to the plastic seats in stand ???

    Wake up James, fans these days just do not matter …..stop dreaming that they still do and/or tradition means anything to a business. They stopped being a community center in the first three divisions of the English League years ago . They are there in business to print invoices , and employment and a fanclub are a pain in the bum bi-product of the business . Business are just interested in the fans for their disposable income . A seat , a home and away shirt, etc . You have been reading too many of the PR leaflets and live in the 1960′s.

    In this day and age of global football brands and huge television contracts football is a business, plain and simple. In any other business if you spend more than you have, then adverse consequences happen. Be it a requirement to cut back on expenditure or to fold and go into administration. Business is about discipline and football is no exception. Whilst I have a sneaky admiration for Leeds United and what Ridgedale tried to achieve in 3 years, ( ie they almost won the European Chumps Cup ) they are one of the biggest examples in this country, of overspending, once the wheels came off because they’d overspent so badly they just crumbled.

    There shouldn’t be a way of bailing out clubs ( or passed over by the IR ) that overspend as it’s a slap in the face to all the clubs that kept their finances in order. We need the ruling bodies to be strong and do something about these clubs that overspend and ruin clubs. I think docking 10 points for going into administration is a good move, for the business , but terrible for the players and the fans. But it’ll catch out a lot of clubs in the short term who haven’t had a chance to adjust their finances .

    Nobody wants to see a club go out of business, but we can’t just protect them because it’s a football club. Otherwise where is the incentive to keep finances or their ground behaviour in any order? If clubs are protected from going bankrupt or being closed it’ll make the whole system even worse .

  9.   Stary Jazvecon 24 Aug 2011 at 3:55 pm

    Breaking news: Goram to Weiss Jnr., “You’re sh*t.”

  10.   George Mon 24 Aug 2011 at 7:00 pm

    A former scottish ( whoops…. it when through my legs, or ..I got beaten at my near post, or …I misjudged or dropped the corner ) goalkeeper commenting on another player is a bit like the joke about the shark and the crocodile .

  11.   James Baxteron 24 Aug 2011 at 7:20 pm

    No, but since constantly leaving Johnny Evans on his arse in NI 2 years or so ago, young Vlado has only performed in fits and starts. Guess we’ll see over the next couple of months how highly his own dad rates him…

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