"It's not always been sparkling stuff, but top spot is what counts," said Viktoria Plzen attacking midfielder Daniel Kolar as he discussed the state of play in the Gambrinus League with FIFA.com.
With six games to go this term, the unfancied side are poised to claim a maiden Czech championship title. However, Kolar insisted, the prospect of the trophy is of no concern to the players right now, as they focus solely on the next challenge in the Czech top flight: "I think we’ve matched our own expectations up to now, but the season’s far from over, and we’ll have to concentrate fully on the remaining games."
However, given their six-point lead over closest rivals Sparta Prague, the club from the west Bohemian town of 170,000 inhabitants holds all the trumps in the quest to mark their centenary in triumphant fashion with a first-ever league title.
"I’m not interested in Sparta," said Kolar. "We have to concentrate on ourselves. It's getting harder with every match, that much is clear. If we want to win the league, we’ll simply have to deal with the pressure. And I’m convinced this team can hit its targets.
Prolific attacking force
Plzen, beaten only twice in the league this term, boast easily the best attack in the section with 59 goals. Apart from Kolar, the chief contributors have been Czech international Jan Rezek with 11 goals, and Marek Bakos and seasoned campaigner Pavel Horvath, who have each chipped in with seven.
The 25-year-old Kolar, who turned pro in 2004 with Slovacko and arrived in Plzen in 2009, says the club’s prolific strike force is the key to their success this season. "We’ve been together as a team for a while now, but the biggest difference this term is the number of clear-cut chances we’re creating, and the number we’re putting away. That's not always been the case in the past. This season, we’ve shown we can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in just a couple of minutes.”
Kolar and Co have won 18 games so far, more than any other club, leaving the player on the verge of another championship winners’ medal to go with the one he collected in 2007, when he claimed the first honours of his career with this season’s main rivals Sparta.
The title would be Viktoria Plzen’s greatest triumph, but winning it is hard work.
"The title would be Viktoria Plzen’s greatest triumph, but winning it is hard work,” smiled the former U-21 international. "I’ve already been through it with Sparta Prague. Every pro plays to win trophies, but if you’d told us before the season we’d be in with a shout of the title, we’d never have believed you."
Since taking the helm in summer 2008, coach Pavel Vrba has succeeded in transforming a relegation-haunted side into a unit potentially capable of winning the league. By way of an appetizer, Viktoria won the cup last year, their first trophy in 39 years. Unsurprisingly, Kolar has nothing but praise for his current boss and employer.
"Every since I came to Plzen, it’s got better and better every season. I hope we’re still a long way off exploiting our full potential and that we’ll keep on improving in the future,” declared the 5'11" man, who earned his solitary senior cap to date in June 2009 as the Czechs beat Malta 1-0.
"The national coach picks his team. I think there are a large number of good guys who are playing overseas in the same position as me. The national team remains an unfulfilled dream for me,” said a crestfallen Kolar, patently frustrated at the lack of call-ups despite consistently effective displays for his club.
However, the goal-hungry midfielder is still aiming high for the future and refuses to be thrown off course, although he is in one sense his own harshest critic. "I’m scoring goals, but I have to keep on improving as a footballer. That applies to every area of my game,” he exclusively revealed to FIFA.com.
"My dream is to play abroad, but I’m enjoying the success we have in Plzen right now. If we keep playing well as a team, I reckon one or two individuals will be offered the chance of a move overseas."