František Straka and the Impossible Job

Posted on November 7, 2011 by

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Former Sparta Prague player and manager František Straka is doing his utmost to win over the Slavia Prague fans, his side has now won 3 games on the bounce – which was unheard of under former management. Czech champions Viktoria Plzen were their latest victims at Eden; the 2-1 victory could prove pivotal in winning over the red and white Ultras.

Straka has a reputation for being a bit of a nut job so it was no surprise when he accepted the manager’s role at Slavia, his interviews can be as enthusiastic and flamboyant as his dress sense but now it looks like he is translating this entertainment onto the pitch.

Straka played over 200 games for Sparta Prague in the 1980’s and even managed the side for a brief spell in 2004. Given this employment history the fans backlash was always inevitable when he was given the job but the extreme brevity of the abuse has been sickening at times.

Infact, his first match in charge saw him flanked by two bodyguards in the away dugout at Zizkov such was the protection needed. Banners such as “Straka R.I.P.” have been displayed at Eden along with his hometown and house being targeted with graffiti and other vitriol.

Finding successful examples of managers trading one half of the city for another are few and far between. You can make a case that George Graham had success at Spurs (after previously managing North London neighbours Arsenal). – he led Spurs to their first trophy in 8 years with a League Cup win in 1999,  but still remained vastly unpopular with the Spurs fans. Eventually the board at Spurs (ENIC) run out of patience with Graham and relieved him of his duties just two years into the job.

Writing about managers receiving abuse invariably leads me to Harry Redknapp, the wheeler dealer himself made a shock switch from Portsmouth to bitter rivals Southampton in 2004 after he fell out with the board at Pompey. Both sets of fans were angered by the switch, especially the Southampton fans as he ended their sides 27 year stay in the Premier League with relegation in 2005.

Just months after leaving Southampton he returned to Portsmouth in December 2005 and went on to win the FA Cup in 2008 and was awarded the freedom of Portsmouth – more likely for his exploits in relegating neighbours Southampton than the FA Cup win itself. But despite the unlikely FA Cup success, some of the Pompey fans never forgave Redknapp for managing their most hated rivals.

František Straka is in the same boat, he might have won the battle yesterday with victory over Plzen but he is far from winning the war with the Slavia fans. As soon as Slavia incur their next bad result the fans will be calling for ex Sparta manager’s head.

Which is a shame, as a Slavia fan myself (since 2009) I would love to see Straka become a success at Eden and silence his critics. I may well be in the minority but I am enjoying his garish outfits and animated celebrations, watching Slavia scoring goals is also a novelty right now and long may it continue.

Victory over Sparta Prague on March 31 would be a BIG step in the right direction for Straka, but winning over the hardcore and loyal fans will remain a near on impossible job; just ask Harry Redknapp and George Graham.

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