We’ve been following our teams (Swansea City, Middlesbrough and Aston Villa) back home for longer than we can remember. Personally, off the top of my head, I can’t even recall The Swans stringing a run of four or five wins together. We’ve had good seasons, we’ve been promoted a few times, we punched above our weight for 7 seasons in the Premier League. However, nothing prepared me for the first half of Divize D with FK Blansko this season.
Following an amateur football team in the Czech Republic comes with a lot of uncertainty. At the end of each half season, you are never sure if you will see the same players lining up after each winter or summer break. At the end of the 2017/18 season, I spoke to one of our defenders and asked him if he will be with us next season. “Not sure. The club want to sign 8 new players”. Now, 8 new players is practically a new team…Here we go…
That evening on Instagram, our top scorer and our centre midfielder posted a picture of themselves in t-shirts with the words “Does anyone want us?”
You don’t really need to be Sherlock Holmes or Major Zeman to know it meant big changes were on the way.
In July, I messaged another player (I don’t stalk them, honestly) and asked if there was any news. He told me that our manager had left and he’d been replaced by Tomas Kolouch, a junior coach at Zbrojovka Brno. No further news.
Around that time we were drawn against SK Lisen in the preliminary round of the Czech Cup.. This was followed by news of the first training session of the season. The faces of 2017/18 had been replaced with new names. Dolezal, Minx, Mezlik, Padera, Sedlo, Huska, Traore, Urbancok, Bednar and Tulaydan had joined the club.. So, not 8 new players, but 10.. a new team. This is how it works in the lower leagues over here.
A few nights later, I was out with a friend and naturally the conversation turned to FK Blansko, well okay, it wasn’t natural, the conversation was always going to be about Blansko. A few years ago, that friend had been playing for Tisnov before injury curtailed his fledgling career. At the beginning he went down to the ground to watch his friends play.. Slowly, his friends, all local footballers, were replaced with a team of bigger and better players and with it went his enjoyment. His view is the first eleven should be full of local players. And to be quite frank, I wholeheartedly agree with this. Losing some of the Blansko players, we’ve grown to love was more than a bit concerning and all of us harboured (and still do) doubts whether we would have similar emotions with our new squad of players.
Now it’s 11thNovember and our final game before the 5 month winter break and some of those concerns are no longer ( does that make us glory hunters?) as we put 9 past Velka Bites (fielding four of our former players) and completed our 15thwin from 15 games – scoring 53 goals on the way. That is quite some achievement, so I asked Chris “Wingy” Wing of The Blansko Klobasa a few questions to help review our first half of the season.
First of all, Wingy, I know you’ve been a Middlesboro fan a bit longer than Blansko, so have you ever experienced a start to the season like 2018/19 with Blanners?
Wingy: To be honest, I can’t really remember. I know that in 1973-74 under Jack Charlton, we lost our first home game to Fulham, then we didn’t lose at home for the rest of the season and I think we had a pretty decent start to the following season in Division one as well.
What has it been like going to Blansko games, knowing we have the strongest squad in the league? Has there been an expectation that we’ve got the 3 points before a ball has been kicked?
Wingy: Inevitably yes. We are almost too dominant. But I will take it. After the Grmela experience, I am thankful for anything.
For those who don’t know, Grmela, a former top division coach with Zbrojovka Brno, was our manager a couple of seasons back. The most disinterested, unmotivated coach we have ever had. He brought his own players from Zbrojovka B in place of the local players and they had the same attitude to Blansko as our manager. Luckily for us, Znojmo (2ndLeague) came in for him during the winter break and he was off…much to our relief.
How do you feel about players turning up on big money? And with it replacing some of our most loyal and local footballers.
Wingy: As a fan you feel they won’t have the same feeling for the club, much like in the Grmela era, and for our support, as the local players. And that does seem to be the case with one or two of the current squad. The price you pay for success, I suppose. (Sigh).
I agree. At the moment we are not too sure of the direction of the club, how much money is being invested and where the investors see the club in the next 5 years. We saw this with AFK Tisnov last season, who were in exactly the same position with the same players, that once the money ran\n out – the players left and Tisnov resigned from Divize D. I suppose all we are looking for is just a little bit of loyalty from this group and with it I am sure the league title will follow.
So, providing we keep the same the same crop of player, what are you hopes and expectations for the season?
Wingy: Promotion surely. With this much of a lead, we would have to seriously tank it to not go up. We can’t expect to keep the 100 percent record forever, but it’s nice while it lasts. I hope we don’t lose some key players and I hope to get to some away days (Rosice or Bystrc)
If we keep hold of the squad (I heard a rumour that Dominik Urbancok is off), I can’t see us failing to go up or losing too many points in the last 15 games. I would love us to go unbeaten – but teams will now be raising their game to beat us..
Who has been our player of the season so far?
Wingy : Inevitably, got to be Dominik Smerda. What a great talent this boy has and is surely destined for higher things, if he wants it.
Oh, this is probably the first one we disagree on. I rate Dominik very highly (as I do Tomas Feik), but I have to give my P.O.S to David Bednar – he’s been absolutely outstanding in every game he plays and has scored 13 goals in 15 games from midfield. Special mention to Radek Mezlik who has marshalled the defence extremely well, especially when Jiri Huska disappears upfront for parts of the game.
What’s been your favourite game?
Wingy : Was tempted to say the 9-0 against Velka Bites, but would have to go for the 4-0 at home to Rosice. Good entertaining game and the best atmosphere this season.
Loved the Rosice game, mainly because they have the best support in the league and always our games are always entertaining. However, I am going for Novy Sady away. We beat them 7-0 and could have had another seven goals if we’d not taken our foot off the gas. The home crowd seemed to appreciate the quality of our play by applauding the substitutions of Bednar and Traore in the 62ndminute. It was also at this point that I knew we’d go into the winter break with 45 points.
What’s been the best trip this season?
Wingy : Not applicable. Haven’t made any of the away games so far…
It’s a massive shame that, Wingy. This is such a tough one to answer as all trips have been memorable in one way or other. I enjoyed Bzenec as we spent the morning in the lovely town of Uherske Hradiste at a wine festival and walked out to the Jarosov Brewery. Zdar away was also fun for the celebration with the players and finding that the town now has a brewery and good one at that..Lanzhot for stumbling across the archaelogical site at Pohansko and the bunkers built on the Austrian border for fear on invasion.. But, I am going for Polna. Now I have been to the town several times, but this time I had an few hours to walk around and boy was I not disappointed. Great result against a difficult team too.
Best away pub?
Well, seeing as though only I can answer this – I am going to give it to the Rebel pub in Havlickuv Brod. Definitely the best goulash I have ever paid for and served with a 11 degree Rebel.Perfect.
Best Away Ground?
I am sure my choice will be different come the end of the season as we have Humpolec and Bystrc to come, but at the moment it has to be Lanzhot. Terracing behind the goal is rarity in this league, so to stand on an open terrace in glorious sunshine for 90 minutes was the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Who has been the best team we have faced?
Wingy: Difficult to say, as we have been so dominant. Would probably go for Tasovice (although maybe my sight was impaired by the blinding yellow kit….)
I will say Lanzhot, but I am not too sure if they are the best team or the most difficult team we’ve played against. It’s rare to see such partisan crowds in this division, but the 690 making noise for the full 90 minutes were definitely their 12thman. I am really surprised to see them sitting mid-table as we could easily have lost that game.
Has their been a season low for you?
Wingy: Only relative of course. But probably the 1-0 against Strany. Poor performance against an awful team. The showboating against Tasovice was also annoying.
I can’t think of one. I was also a tad annoyed at the showboating against Tasovice, we could easily have lost that game too, if it weren’t for some excellent goalkeeping from Martin Dolezal.
Re the showboating, I have come to accept it now as you can see the players are enjoying themselves.
If I were to pick one disappointment, it is seeing our former captain, Jakub Splichal, sidelined. The heartbeat of the team last year, it’s a shame to see him as a bit part player this season. In my opinion, he’s a better defender than Jiri Huska and deserves a place in the team.
Just to finish off, I thought I would ask Wingy a couple of general questions about Blansko and Czech Football.
Who your cult hero at the club?
Wingy: Difficult to choose between 1. Honza Trtilek 2. Petr Gromsky and 3. Standa Pisek. I think I’d go for Standa, for the hilarious own-goals.
Oh, Standa is a good call, as I am sure he loved us as much as we loved him. I am tempted to say Pavel the Drummer, miss him when he’s not around, when he is around he usually picks an argument with someone either on the pitch or in the stand.
What do you like and dislike about Czech football?
Wingy : Like – it has an old-school feel to it that British football sometimes loses. Dislike – corruption.
I like that Czech football is still affordable for everyone. You can buy a beer for a reasonable price and enjoy it while watching a game of football. I am also fond of kickoffs throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday. For a groundhopper for myself, I love watching a game at 10.15 in the morning and then making it for an afternoon match too.
Like you, Wingy, I dislike corruption. I also hate the racism that seems to have planted itself at Czech football stadiums. Of course, I know it’s not just here, but we need the Czech FA to admit there is a problem to do anything about it.
If you could change one thing about Blansko, what would it be?
Wingy: Bring back Standa Pisek!!
I would continue to clear the weeds and long grass, so we can see the terracing at Udolni again. And…more fans. The players deserve a bit of support..sometimes I get the feeling we are at a theatre..not a football ground.