Prague - An unsuccessful week, in which Sparta Praha was humiliated by Liberec and Slavia and a mere tie with Dinamo Zagreb marred its bid to qualify for the UEFA cup, has cost coach Vítězslav Lavička his job.
The club management last night accepted his resignation, prompted by a defeat by Slavia on Sunday.
The team will now be coached by Jozef Chovanec, the club's sports manager who at the end of last season temporarily filled in for another dismissed coach, Michal Bílek.
"We asked Mr Lavička to identify specific causes of our present difficulties and to come up with a clear proposal for a solution. Unfortunately, since no such scenario was found we have accepted his resignation," said Sparta board chairman Daniel Křetínský in a press release.
Assistant coaches Michal Zach and Dragan Vujovič will leave together with Lavička. Chovanec will name his aides in the following days.
Six coaches in four years
Lavička is the fifth coach leaving Sparta in less than four years under Křetínský's chairmanship. The most controversial was the departure of František Straka and his replacement with Jaroslav Hřebík in winter 2004, when Sparta was leading the top Czech league with a nine-point margin.
Křetínský said the reason behind the move was Sparta's poor play in the Champions League. But the mere fact that Sparta had qualified was a success.
Sparta played the Champions League again in the following season under Hřebík's leadership. But even Hřebík lasted less than a year, after which he was replaced by Stanislav Griga. The Slovak coach was in turn replaced by Michal Bílek in autumn 2006, after less than one season.
Bílek, a former national team player who is now coaching Ružomberok, lasted longest of all coaches under Křetínský's chairmanship. After seeing Sparta through 54 games in the domestic league, he lost his job in spring 2007 when Tomáš Řepka's agressive foul, penilized by a red card, deprived Sparta of an almost certain title.
Grand expectations disappointed
Lavička joined the team before the current season kicked off, raising high expectations among Sparta supporters. The 45-year-old coach took the job although he had to give up a promising career at the under-21 national team.
With Lavička in its back, Sparta was invincible for seven league rounds. But, after last week's 3-0 debacle in Liberec and a 4-1 defeat in a derby against Slavia, he too has to pack his bags.
Although outraged fans on Sunday night demanded the resignation of Křetínský and some players and never said a word about Lavička, it was, not too surprisingly, the coach who in the end has resigned.
The following weeks or months will show if the management's decision was correct and whether Chovanec can manage to lead the team back to its former victorious path.