With record title winners Ferencvaros back in the top flight after three years, the new campaign could spring a few surprises.
By Peterjon Cresswell
Last season’s champions Debrecen – who claimed their fourth title in five years – have a shrewd transfer policy that is the envy of many. With the window still open, they have so far acquired David Mohl from Fehervar and Adamo Coulibaly from Royal Antwerp. Under Gabor Szima’s wise ownership, the experienced coaching of Andras Herczeg and the firepower of top scorer Gergely Rudolf, the provincial outfit should once again be the measure of most teams in Hungary.
As for Ferencvaros, Szima himself doesn’t rate their chances, claiming: “They’re simply not good enough.” Despite the rumoured arrival of several English players, only Peter Poloskey and David Kulcsar are definitely confirmed, joining from Szombathely and second-tier Vecses respectively. Coach Bobby Davison will have his work cut out raising his side’s game after three years of lower-league football as the expectations – not to mention season-ticket sales – are high.
Their Budapest rivals Ujpest are as chaotic as ever. The arrival of coach Willie McStay from Celtic reserves became a charade of missed faxes and training sessions, but the Scot has rolled up his sleeves and made last season’s top scorer Peter Kabat his captain and lynchpin. However, UTE must play their first three home games behind closed doors after crowd trouble.
Having made it through the first qualifying round of the Europa League after a tricky tie against Irtysh of Kazakhstan, Szombathely have lost key forward Krisztian Kenesei to a wrist injury. Although not yet championship material under able coach Aurel Csertoi, last year’s third-placed finishers should surprise a few people.
Local rivals Zalaegerszeg, who finished a point behind, have brought in two players from Diosgyor – Bosnian midfielder Djordje Kamber and Serb defender Milan Bogonuvic. Another strong provincial outfit, Kecskemet, may improve with the signing of Slovene forward Uros Veselic from Rudar Velenje, while Kaposvar will be hoping to build on last season’s ninth place.
Still in the provinces, promoted Lombard-Papa, who owe their new status to Gyirmot’s failure to gain a top-flight licence, have claimed on-loan Togo midfielder Euloge Ahodikpe back from Diosgyor and signed a handful of modest domestic players.
Meanwhile, Fehervar brightened the close season with on-off rumours of former national boss Lothar Matthaus coming in as coach, only for wily old Gyorgy Mezey to take the post instead.
Back in Budapest, George Hemingway – owner of Honved and head of the league chairmen’s body – has been preoccupied with the battle over TV rights and his club have therefore not signed any big names. The on-loan poaching of MTK’s Adam Hrepka is the most notable arrival.
MTK themselves seem to be facing more mediocrity judging by the quality of the players signed, while cash-strapped Vasas continue to seek new investment while getting rid of their best players.
In the east, Diosgyor had looked to be going out of business. Although top-flight status has been maintained, perhaps briefly, the departure of a dozen players doesn’t bode well. Local rivals Nyiregyhaza benefitted from their plight by picking up lively Japanese forward Honma Kazuo.
Paks have not only managed to keep prolific striker Attila Tokoli, they have teamed him up with midfielder Krisztian Lisztes, another ex-Ferencvaros favourite. Gyor have signed players from Slovakia, Georgia, Croatia, Cameroon and Bulgaria and beat modest foreign opposition in pre-season friendlies, but whether the new arrivals can gel in time to lift them from last year’s mid-table mediocrity remains to be seen.