The winter break was almost too short this year. After only two weeks of practice sessions and preparations, Viktoria will play first spring league match in Příbram. “We want to win and get off on the right foot into the spring period,” said head coach Adrian Guľa in an interview for the club website.
Unusually short winter break is over. How was is like for the team?
“Well, we can’t even talk about a proper winter preparation period. On the other hand – we knew about it and we could prepare for it accordingly. In fact, we already adjusted the program at the end of autumn, in order for the players to be physically prepared to play after such a short break. It’s just not possible to prepare for the first spring matches only for ten days, that’s out of question. We even prepared individual training plans for the players according to their workload in matches.
In such an elite and professional club, you have to be prepared all the time. In my opinion, you can’t just have a month off and then start with the practice. The lifestyle of a professional athlete has to be adjusted in such a way he can quickly jump into match mode, whenever necessary.”
Due to the pandemics, even the training camp abroad was cancelled…
“It was the best possible decision at the given moment. Due to the coronavirus situation in the whole Europe, due to travel limitations and constant need of testing. Moreover, we have absolutely top conditions and facilities in Pilsen, including the undersoil heating. There’s nothing we miss here, so we made the right decision.
I just think it wouldn’t be good in a long-term basis. Clubs and players need an international confrontation to compare themselves with European teams, preferably top teams. And that is exactly what the preparatory matches at the training camps can offer. I believe there will be such an option again in the summer.”
What was the structure and schedule of the winter preparation period?
“There were some changes within our physiotherapist department during the winter break. It was therefore necessary for them to properly examine the players and get acquainted with their condition. The players also took the physical tests, right at the beginning of the winter preparation period. But as I mentioned, we didn’t start from scratch, we just smoothly continued. The volume was not overwhelming, but this aspects was also included. It was really demanding and difficult for the players, which was reflected a bit in the preparatory match. But we knew about it and expected it."
You played only one preparatory game during the break.
“We decided to use more time for training. But you can also play a model match during the training and such a match will show you a lot of things.”
Let us go back to the autumn. The ninth place is not so satisfactory, is it?
“Ninth place is unacceptable. Unacceptable in terms of the quality of the squad, the energy invested in the team, conditions for the players and the position of the club, which was built up by the results and success in recent years. I believe the autumn has alarmed us enough to jump out of certain stereotypes. We have to show much more in the spring, both towards our fans and towards ourselves. In order to change things around us, we have to change ourselves first. That’s the way I see and feel it.”
After the autumn period you and the sports management department performed an thorough analysis. What did it show?
“We consult and analyze such things as we go along. We can’t just be quiet for half a year and then solve problems. At the end of the autumn period we performed another thorough analysis. Thanks to it, we saw some clear shortcomings in our game – instability in the defense of the whole team, low scoring considering the number of chances we were able to create. We have to be more responsible, make more effort and be willing to go to the absolute maximum in every moment of the game. The lack of that was reflected in the imbalance and differences in our home and visiting matches.
However, it is important to reflect the results of the analysis and respond to them. We can’t just talk about it, we have to work and find the right and effective solution. In this matter, I expect progress from all of us. From the players, from the coaching staff and from myself."
The inadequate results brought a wave of criticism from the fans and media. How did you feel it?
“It’s only a logical part of having an opportunity to work in such an ambitious club. And at the same time, I see it as a penalty for the autumn results that were just not good at all. I try to remain disciplined and to be kind of oblivious to the media. We can call it a media diet. I need to have a clear optics for the players. But you can’t fully avoid it, that’s for sure. I can accept constructive criticism, I have no problem with it. In fact, it pushes you forward.
Before stepping into Viktoria, I knew what I was getting into. I’m in a club with great facilities, great conditions, great fans and great success. That means working under scrutiny. It’s nonsense to think everyone will just praise you for everything. I put myself under great pressure, I expects results. And the autumn was no success at all. It just wasn’t what we wanted, what we tried to achieve and what we expected. That is the reality.”
Do you think the only way to get better is a long-term demanding performance in all areas?
“Yes, that’s the only way to see it. We can get out only by intensive work. We have to be demanding and work hard. That’s the way I see it everywhere, no only in football. Otherwise, nothing works out.
I am glad the club sees it the same way and gave me the chance. Every change we make in the whole setting is just a test. Whether we will be patient, demanding and even willing to change. Everything was working for half a year and then it just stopped. We had to evaluate and analyze such a downfall and adopt some changes. It was necessary to do something different. We will be even more hard and strict in many aspects in the future.”
Pavel Šulc and Lukáš Matějka returned to Viktoria. Did they refreshed the atmosphere within the team?
“Talking about Pavel, it’s great he played and tried it somewhere else in such a young age. He found out what it’s like elsewhere and what Viktoria can offer him compared to other clubs. He returned in a completely different mindset than he has had a year ago. That’s the key process. And the age is not the decisive parameter, I want to emphasize that. The player’s shape and readiness, that’s what matters.
The same applies for Lukáš Matějka as well. I feel he’s willing to work, he’s open to new things and he’s very hungry for success. These are all important requirements."
Josef Koželuh and Václav Míka from the B-team are also training with the team, as they did couple of times already during the autumn as well.
“The whole work system is important for us. You have to devote yourself to the whole club, not just your crown jewel, the A-team. And that is achieved by letting the players peek into the league team. We’ve been trying to do that from day one. Open the door a little for them. But there’s the question of readiness again, the players have to be willing to work for the club. That’s crucial. If they want to, we are open to them. We need the players to be ready. Then all of the boys have a chance."
You finished the transfer of Šimon Falta at the beginning of this week.
“And I’m glad for that. It’s an interesting player, both technically and by his running parameters and human values as well. I believe he will be a vital asset to the team and that he will adapt and fit it quickly. He is experienced, tested during the years in the Czech league."
The spring starts on Sunday in Příbram. Are you looking forward to it?
“I am! I believe we will perform well and win the match. I hope it will be a good start to the spring period for us. We need to get off on the right foot and make our fans happy again.”