PFC Krylya Sovetov Samara are second in the Russian Premier-Liga after eleven games, but coach Leonid Slutskiy told uefa.com: "We are not really interested in our league position at the moment; what matters more is how well we play."
The passion for football in Russia's sixth-largest city has rarely been matched by league results, with Krylya Sovetov's best season so far seeing them pick up bronze medals in 2004. However, while problems off the field meant they flirted with relegation in 2007, they have thrived under new ownership in 2009, and lie just a point adrift of champions FC Rubin Kazan at the top of the table.
Having earned his side a place in the inaugural UEFA Europa League with a sixth-placed finish last term, promising young coach Slutskiy has started the new season in even more impressive style, though he said: "We are not really interested in our league position at the moment; what matters more is how well we play. We try to dictate terms to our opponents in every game we play."
Krylya have found it more difficult to impose their game on the bigger sides – their three losses this season came against FC Lokomotiv Moskva, PFC CSKA Moskva and FC Zenit St. Petersburg – and Slutskiy, 38, is in no doubt of where his team stand in the greater scheme of things. "We will try to fight for the gold medals but we are not among the favourites," he said.
When it comes to becoming one of Russian football's superpowers, Slutskiy is aware that Krylya have a way to go. "We have to improve our infrustructure, squad and finances first," he said. "Rubin Kazan, Zenit and CSKA are the main contenders for the title. We are in the next group of teams along with Spartak Moskva, Lokomotiv, Dinamo Moskva and FC Moskva."
Last year, Krylya's form was buoyed by the presence of former Spartak captain Andrei Tikhonov, but even though the 38-year-old midfielder has headed to Kazakhstan to join ambitious FC Lokomotiv Astana, Krylya have plenty of other seasoned talents. "We have key players and they are experienced; Jan Koller and Jiří Jarošík and also 34-year-old Ruslan Adzhindzhal," added Slutskiy.
Those quality players have been a major string to Krylya's bow, but their home support in Samara has been no less significant for Slutskiy. With crowds of around 20,000 at every home game, the coach said: "Fans are very loyal in our city. They are our 12th and even our 13th player. They want everything and they want it now but they continue to back us even if we are not that successful."