Overseas signings hungry to succeed

Reporter: Athletic with Tony Bugby
Date published: 22 September 2009

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FORWARD-THINKING Athletic have entered into a ground-breaking link-up with MTK Budapest which has seen them sign seven Hungarian players.

The youngsters, who are all in their final year at MTK’s Academy, will spend the 2009/10 season on loan at Boundary Park.

The link with MTK, which has been described as a “co-operation agreement”, is initially for 12 months, although there is scope to extend it.

Athletic became involved through their contacts at Liverpool, who have a formal partnership with MTK, one of Hungary’s top teams.

Liverpool have already signed Krisztian Nemeth from MTK although the 20-year-old striker is currently on loan at Greek club AEK Athens.

And MTK goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi is training with the first-team squad at Anfield.

Athletic chief executive Alan Hardy said: “MTK entered the agreement with Liverpool which will earn them money if they sell their players.

“The Hungarian players with us will get experience of English football which will make it easier for them to settle should they come here permanently.

“It also gives Liverpool the chance to see them playing here for our reserves and if they prove good enough they can sign them or maybe they will be sold to another club in a higher division.

“As far as we are concerned, we are willing to give it a go. We can only gain from it.”

Hungarian coach Zsolt Szekely admitted the football in England is far different to that in Hungary, so their teenagers are on a steep learning curve.

He said: “At home we teach a Spanish-style passing game, but here it’s much faster, but not so good technically.

“The players are learning to use their bodies to protect the ball more.

“Here in England players are willing to kick the ball away, whereas in Hungary we look to pass and keep the ball at all times.”

Athletic’s injury crisis has meant that three of the players - all seven are Hungarian under-19 internationals - have been called into Athletic’s first-team squad.

Striker Patrik Tischler, the only one of the seven to have appeared in MTK’s first team, has been included, as have David Kalnoki-Kis and Norbert Csiki.

The seven players - one has since returned home for an operation after being injured - have been joined in England by Szekely.

He speaks good English which is vital as most of the youngsters only have a basic grasp of the language despite receiving lessons.

Mr Hardy, who has been working on the tie-up with MTK since January, admitted there had been a lot of hurdles to overcome before Athletic were able to sign seven players on loan from a foreign club.

But after extensive negotiations with the Football Association and Football League, Athletic were given permission to register them.

The youngsters, who are living in club houses near to Boundary Park, have settled, but Szekely admitted they had suffered difficulty in adjusting to the food and weather.

Oldham is far removed from Budapest, the lively Hungarian capital which has two million inhabitants, but Athletic’s new signings have been exploring Manchester as well as attending games at Liverpool