The 1-5 pre-season loss against former Champions League winners, Olympique Marseille, was just the latest rung on the ladder to FC Pinzgau Saalfelden/Fan Owned Club’s ultimate destination. It was the first real chance for the Austrian third tier outfit to see up close the level to which they need to aspire in order to make the club’s longer-term Champions League dreams a reality.
Despite FCPS giving a good account of themselves, the French side were just that little bit sharper to the first ball and more clinical in front of goal. The hosts were far from disgraced, however, and there was enough to take from the 90 minutes to know that the forthcoming season’s challenges are going to be met head on.
Although there’s a way to go until we will see FCPS in the premier European competition, and many more chapters of this remarkable story to be written before then, don’t for one moment write them off. Ever since the formation of the club in 2007 to the birth of Fan Owned Club in 2019, FCPS have been battling against the odds and, thanks to a mixture of talent, hard work and serendipity, they’ve consistently beaten them.
COVID-19 couldn’t have happened at a worse time for the club quite frankly, with no European leagues immune to its effects. The most immediate issue that new club CEO, Mark Ciociola, encountered because of the coronavirus was the suspension on the 2019/20 Regionalliga West season, and the eventual postponement of the play-offs.
Christian Ziege’s side had finished the regular season in second place behind SAK 1914 and were playing some of the best football in the division. Just 13 goals conceded throughout the campaign was by far the best in the division, and a +33 goal difference was only bettered by virtue of SAK 1914’s incredible 73 goals scored.
To put the form of the first team in 2019/20 into perspective, before lockdown the only two defeats in the league both came against SAK. From July 27 last year to November 9, the team also earned three draws and 13 wins. Three or more goals were scored in eight of those fixtures, evidencing the front-foot style that Christian Ziege likes to see his team playing.
Expansive, free-flowing and easy on the eye, very few clubs were able to live with an incessant attacking game, and to that end, a successful route out of the play-offs was expected. Although it would never come to fruition, it’s made Ziege and his young squad even more determined to scale the heights again this season.
What the friendly against Marseille showed was that there is plenty to be excited about for the coming season, both on and off the pitch. League action begins again on Saturday, August 8, with an away fixture against SV Wals Grunau, coincidentally our opponents on the opening day last season when a 1-4 away win saw FCPS off to the best possible start.
We’d go on to win 3-0 at home against a team that eventually ended the season in a creditable fifth-place having won seven, lost eight and drawn three. They scored 33 goals scored and conceded 35, and just two more wins would’ve seen them finish a creditable third behind ourselves and SAK 1914. That’s followed by the first home game of the season on Saturday, August 15, at the Saalfelden Area against SV Austria Salzburg, kick-off 16.00 CEST. SVAS were unable to score against us last season (0-3, 1-0), however, they made us work hard for both victories.
With a little extra firepower, they could quite easily make the leap up the table in 2020/21, and that will almost certainly be their main aim once the season gets underway. Matchday 3 on Tuesday, August 18, sees a trip to SV Grödig, kick-off 7.00pm CEST. A fourth from bottom finish for Grödig in 2019/20 doesn’t tell the full story.
Just four points separated them from ending the campaign fourth from top, and their goals scored of 35 was the fourth best in the division, behind only ourselves, SAK and USK. Their tightly packed 4-4-2 formation is going to cause teams an awful lot of problems again. Another away trip to SV Seekirchen comes on Saturday, August 22 with a kick-off time of 5.00pm CEST, and this opponent are another who’ve caused us difficulties previously.
Our 0-2 away win at roughly the same stage of last season was one of the best, because aside from the two losses latterly at SAK, Seekirchen were the only other team to stop us from winning (1-1) from mid-August to the final fixture in November. The more attacking 3-4-3 that they played at the Saalfelden Arena in the second fixture might have played a part, so it will be interesting to see if they’ll adopt the same attacking tactics again.
We see out the month at home on Saturday, August 29, this time against Bischofshofen Sportklub 1933, with a kick-off time of 5.00pm CEST. Last season turned into a recurring nightmare for Bischofshofen, who only managed to acquire a single point from their 18 games.
Our 10-1 home win and 0-4 away victory was indicative of their season, and they don’t appear to have strengthened in personnel terms so arguably will find it just as difficult this time around.
With goal difference potentially being the difference between the top teams, FCPS have to be professional in games such as those two against Bischofshofen. The big one against SAK 1914 opens up our September fixture list, on Tuesday 1 at 7.00pm CEST. They are the only team we failed to beat last season and are likely to be our biggest rivals again in 2020/21. Although FCPS gave a good account of themselves in the away fixture despite losing 3-1, the match at the Saalfelden Arena was the game of the season which SAK narrowly won 1-0.
It’s in matches such as the two against SAK where the experience of playing Marseille will come in handy. Rather than being overawed, Christian Ziege can drum into the players how playing their natural game will stand them in good stead across those 180 minutes. If SAK are to triumph again, then they’ll surely have to work like never before in order to wrestle the points from us. Just four days later, on September 5 at 5.00pm CEST, comes the fixture against USK Maximarkt Anif. A fourth-place finish last season was achieved with the best goals for record (40) amongst every team bar ourselves and SAK.
Unfortunately, their 37 conceded was the fourth worst in the division, with FCPS accounting for six of those thanks to a 1-0 at home and our biggest away win (1-5) of the 2019/20 campaign. SV Kuchl host us on September 12 at 5.00pm CEST. A comfortable win for us at home (3-0) last season, and a 2-3 win away saw us complete the double over a team that finished second bottom of the division, and who will be desperate to improve in the early part of this season.
We close out the first round of nine matches against TSV McDonald’s St. Johann at 5.30pm CEST on September 16. Our two matches against them last season were amongst the closest. Our first home match of 2019/20 saw us only able to draw 1-1 against TSV, with the reverse fixture a narrow 2-1 win. As dogged and hardworking as any other team in the division, their eventual sixth-place finish only came as a result of having the worst goal difference (-11) of the top eight teams in the division.
Then we have the reverse fixtures which will take us up to matchday 18 which is due to take place on November 7. All five matches will kick off on that day at 2.00pm CEST. If we’re able to hit the ground running at the beginning of this season, and maintain our form in the same manner as much of 2019/20, then there’s simply no reason for us not to be challenging for the championship this season. SAK will again take some stopping, but we can take heart in how close we came to inflicting their only defeat of last season.
Concentration levels have to be the same whomever is in front of us, because taking our eyes of the ball for one moment can be the difference between a win or draw, a draw or loss. Live streams of all of our Regionalliga West fixtures will continue right throughout the season, and can be accessed via the FCPS and Fan Owned Club Facebook pages. Digital content will be regularly updated on the club’s websites, and will be available in both German and English.
The aim of the behind the scenes team is to replicate the on-pitch excellence with engaging and informative content, interactive where possible. Our social channels have also been upgraded and will regularly feature match highlights, competitions and interviews with players and the technical team.
Not to mention our wonderful official media partnership with Lee, Tom and Simon of ‘The Other Bundesliga.’ The talented trio will be producing content ranging from The FCPS Show podcast, previews, match reports and matchday commentary… and everything in between.
In short, the club are primed and ready for the big-time and we want you to take this journey with us.