Illustrative photo – The new Sparta ice hockey head coach Pavel Gross poses during a meeting with journalists, May 26, 2023, Prague.
Prague – A year ago, hockey coach Pavel Gross turned down an offer to work as an assistant on the Czech national team's bench, but now he is returning to the Czech Republic from Germany, where he lived for a long time. As Sparta's new head coach, he will have the task of leading Prague to the title they have been waiting for since 2007. However, he personally refuses to announce a similar goal publicly now.
“If I said something like that, it would be disrespectful,” Gross told reporters at today's meeting. He is ready for great pressure in Sparta. “I was in a similar situation for four years in Mannheim. There are a lot of good teams in the Extraliga that can say when they go into the season that they want to win. Sparta is one of them. But we will not put more pressure on ourselves. Every player, every an employee of the organization knows what the demands are when he comes to Sparta,” noted Gross, who won the top competition in the 1989/90 season with Prague.
Gross played for Sparta for three years. “My Spartan past? It's been many years, but when I came and opened the door, Žemla (Richard Žemlička) and Krosna (Jiří Kročák) were standing there, so I immediately saw two faces I knew. The guys I was with he played,” smiled Gross.
Right from the start, he was impressed by the familiar environment in the sports hall in Holešovice, where the people of Prague prepare. “Absolutely. I have to say that it's a nice, old feeling. I like this old hall, I haven't been to the O2 arena much,” he pointed to the fact that Sparta now plays its matches in the multifunctional arena in Libni.
< p>Together with other members of the sports management, they are now dealing with the composition of the squad for next season, which is largely complete. “We already have about the third meeting behind us. It is important that Jarda (Hlinka), Petr (Ton), Miloš (Hořava) or Tomáš Divíšek are there. In four or five we talk about how we could strengthen and strengthen the team. At the time I don't want to limit the days now, we will find out what can happen with the team,” said Gross.
However, he does not expect the team to change significantly. “I think the foundation is good. It's a good team. There will only be little things that may or may not change,” he said, adding that he wants to get to know the players himself first. “Of course, it's important to ask others how they see it. For me, these few days are good. I'm positive. I think we'll be off to a good start for a good season,” said Gross.
He is happy to be able to work with Miloslav Hořava again. “It was very important for me that he stay here,” said Gross, who was officially appointed head coach, but Hořava will have the same powers. “We announced to Manchester United that Miloš is an equal partner for me,” he said.
He is also clear about the style of play that the team under his leadership should present. “I think that Sparta should be fighting. Everyone should know that when they come here, that they are at Sparta. Above all, so that we are not afraid to play hockey. So that the boys have self-confidence,” he said.
Gross lived in Germany from 1990, played there until 2003, and eighteen years ago began to devote himself fully to coaching. “It gave me a lot. For example, when I look at the Czech league, I know that there are many Czech coaches and few foreign ones. There are also few foreign players. It's about mentality. In Germany, it's a lot of multi-cult. I experienced there everything. From excellent players from Croatia to Finns, Swedes, Canadians, Americans. There are many different styles, opinions and you take the best,” said the native of Ústí nad Labem.
Engagement in the Czech Republic is for him and by returning to his native country. “I'm returning to a republic that is completely different than when I left it. But we're not afraid of that, my family and I used to go here all the time. But this will also be a new challenge,” said Gross.
On the rotation returns after a one-year break, finished in Mannheim last March. “I spent the year in a variety of ways. I visited a few hockey clubs, but also football ones. I went to see what it looks like in various organizations. In Switzerland, in Sweden and here (in the Czech Republic). We were also in the Bundesliga. I also various seminars related to the team or communication. I cleared my head and now you have an appetite for the season,” he said.