Vrba to become national soccer coach after huge success with Plzeň

Pavel Vrba, photo: CTK

There was exciting news for Czech soccer fans on Monday evening with the announcement that Pavel Vrba will become national team manager in January. The highly respected coach is free to take the post after a buy-out clause was activated in his contract with Viktoria Plzeň, the club he led in 2011 to their first ever league title and a berth in the Champions League, a “double” he repeated this year.

Pavel Vrba,  photo: CTK
The Czech Football Association are paying a full CZK 8 million to get Vrba out of his contract; I asked journalist Karel Häring of Deník Sport why they want the coach so much?

“I think [meeting the buy-out clause] is a very unusual step in Czech conditions. But the reason is clear: Pavel Vrba has been the most successful coach in recent years in this country.

“He has won two titles and qualified twice for the Champions League, so there is no discussion about the fact that he is the most successful coach in recent years.”

What about his style as a manager? What will he bring to the national team? And should fans by excited about the appointment?

“I think this was one of the reasons why the Czech FA wanted Pavel Vrba – he plays an attractive style of offensive football with Viktoria.

“And if we remember the spell of [previous manager] Michal Bílek, the team was heavily criticised for playing boring football. So this is one of the biggest expectations: more offensive football.

“Vrba prefers a 4-2-3-1 formation, without two forwards, but it’s a really offensive style.”

Viktoria Plzeň,  photo: CTK
I’m sure this news is a huge disappointment to fans of Viktoria Plzeň, and I know some people have criticised him for leaving halfway through the season. But after all of his success at Plzeň, was there anything left for him to achieve after five years?

“This is also one of the reasons the coach decided to go, I think. In those conditions…Viktoria is still only a small club, despite their recent successes.

“I think you can’t achieve too much with a team with this budget, so this is one of the reasons the coach probably thinks there is nothing much more to prove in Plzeň.”

I suppose he won’t be very popular if he ever goes back to visit Plzeň [he is staying for some more games, including two in the Champions League] – people there seem to be quite angry.

“Yes. At the moment it seems that some of the fans are upset. But I think after a couple of months the situation will be calmer. I think Vrba will remain popular in Plzeň for all the titles and Champions League games he gave to the fans.”

He’s only 49 and international management is seen as a kind of part-time job. Also if you consider the fact that the Czech national team have some good players but this is by no means a great generation, do you think it’s the right move for him at this time?

“That’s a good question. Maybe it’s difficult to say clearly if it’s a good step for him.

Pavel Vrba,  photo: CTK
“But there are some factors that are positive for him. You are right, the current generation is not so top as was the case six or 10 years ago.

“But Vrba has one advantage: There are a lot of players at the moment who play or have played for Viktoria. So he knows players like Darida, Jiráček, Pilář and Limberský, and he knows what he can expect from them.

“And also there are clever players like Rosický; I’m sure if he continues in his international career, he will like the style of Vrba’s football.”