A crazy conclusion to the Slovakian First Division saw Vladimir Latunov lift his eighth national title on his Soviet Surge with FC Nitra. That success meant he was back on the move with a tenth club in nine countries across Eastern Europe.
His new side took him to Serbia with FK Radnicki 1923 Kragujevac. Catchy. And not to be confused with the Super League sides FK Radnicki Nis and FK Radnicki (P), neither of which are rival clubs. Confusing much?
Who are FK Radnicki 1923?
FK Radnicki 1923 was, unsurprisingly, formed in 1923 and plays in the Serbian city of Kragujevac at the 15,100 capacity Cika Daca. The club has never been national champion but won the second-tier First League three teams during this save. Radnicki was relegated from the Serbian Super League in the 2032/33 campaign despite the media predicting it would finish fourth and coming sixth the previous season!
As a result, the aim for the new season is to gain promotion, which should be more than doable. And the media expect Radnicki to finish second behind massive favourites Vojvodina, whose entire team makes up the media’s dream 11!
The best five players at the club all came through the Radnicki youth academy. The pick of the squad is 21-year-old left winger Dobrivoje Dukic, followed by 23-year-old strikers Nikola Mitrovic and Nikola Milosevic. While 20-year-old right winger Bozidar Scepovic is also a solid prospect and there are several exciting youngsters in the Under 19s squad. Latunov removed some of the deadwood from the squad and added to it with a loan deal for striker Kruno Krizmanic.
Notably, he has a very young squad to work with that includes a starting centre-back partnership of 18-year-old Igor Jovanovic and 19-year-old Nikola Nikolic and very exciting 18-year-old central midfielder Zarko Novakovic. Tactically, Latunov decided to revert to his attacking 4-4-2 formation that had worked well with Honvéd and Shakhtar in previous roles.
A strong start to life in Serbia
The 16 team second tier of Serbian football begins with the Serbian First League Preliminary Phase, in which teams play each other twice. The league then splits into two Final Phase stages, in which the top two get promoted, the third and fourth place sides go into a playoff, and the bottom four go down.
Life in Serbia began in fine style as Radnicki raced into a 2-0 lead over Borac inside 15 minutes with goals from diminutive midfielder Aleksander Jovicic and Mitrovic. Borac got one back three minutes later but Milosevic restored the two-goal lead, Scepovic added a fourth and Milosevic doubled his tally inside 40 minutes! Scepovic got himself sent off and Borac pulled another back as Radnicki missed even more chances after the break but eventually won 5-2.
Latunov’s first away game took his side to Zeleznicar, who scored a dubious penalty. But another Milosevic brace turned things around before half-time then goals from Novakovic and Mitrovic sealed it before Milosevic wrapped up his hat-trick and a 5-1 thumping. Two games played, ten goals scored!
The winning start continued with an easy 3-1 home domination of local rivals Smederov and a 3-0 win at Kolubara before some dubious defending led to a 2-2 draw at third-place Javor despite another Milosevic brace. The striker was at it again with another brace in a 4-2 win over Zemun, which took him to 10 goals in six games having only scored six in 36 last season! A draw at Kabel was followed by a 1-0 win at home to Metalac and a 3-1 win at Jagodina thanks to another Milosevic brace.
His strike partner Mitrovic notched just his third of the season to open the scoring alongside a brilliant Milosevic finish sealed a 3-1 win over Zlatibor. However, Milosevic was swiftly ruled out for six weeks with a hernia. On the first game without him, Radnicki had winger Rajko Dmitrovic sent off after 80 seconds and went behind at Zarkov to the hosts’ first shot. But Mitrovic scored again to claim a 1-1 draw a Zarkov.
Motrovic began to step up as Radnicki scored straight from the kick-off inside 11 seconds at home to struggling Kolubara. Krizmanic scored his goal for the club and they somehow allowed the visitors a late goal to only win 2-1 despite 26 shots to three. A Scepovic goal was enough for a 1-0 win over next-to-bottom Buducnost on the same day that title favourites Vojvodina lost 5-1 at second-place Zemun.
Radnicki were top, three points clear of Zemun and six clear of Vojvodina after 14 games. That streak equalled the club’s record unbeaten run, and was broken with a 2-0 win at home to mid-table Trayal. And they extended it further with a 3-0 win at Proleter, thanks to three goals in the first 26 minutes, then hammered Borac 6-3 away, where they scored three in the first 13 minutes before a fourth inside half an hour.
Latunov’s 600th game in management came as his Radnicki side entertained Zeleznicar, which saw Milosevic return to the side. The striker took 10 minutes to get back to scoring ways, which teed up a 3-1 success. Three consecutive away draws saw the unbeaten run stretch to 21 games, which set a new Serbian First League record, but reduced their lead at the top to four points.
A good chance to get back to winning ways came as they entertained bottom of the league Kabel, who scored with thier only shot of the first half. But a quick-fire Mitrovic brace turned things around on the same day Vojvodina lost 4-0 at Proleter. A tougher task followed at home to fourth-place Javor but Dmitrovic and a Mitrovic brace made light work of the visitors.
That took Radnicki into a three-month winter break sitting top of the Serbian First League still unbeaten and seven points clear at the top. After 23 games, they’d won 16 and drawn seven, scoring 57 and conceding 24. Milosevic and Mitrovic were joint-second in the goalscorer chart with 16 each, only behind Proleter striker Milutin Raicevic, whose tally of 18 included all four against Vojvodina. Radnicki also had all of the top four assist makers in the league!
Join us next time as Vladimir Latunov looks to continue his great start with Radnicki 1923 and lead the club back to the Serbian Higher League.