To this day, West Ham fans still chant the name of legendary goalkeeper, Ludek Miklosko, who played for the club from 1990 to 1998.
The song starts, ‘My name is Ludo Miklosko, I come from near Moscow’. However, he doesn’t come from anywhere near the Russian capital – he’s from the Czech Republic.
West Ham’s relationship with the Czech Republic began with Miklosko and is now stronger than ever.
Detailing the West Ham and Czech Republic connection.
A few weeks ago, Czech billionaire, Daniel Kretinsky, purchased 27% of the club. Rumours are already circulating that Kretinsky may become West Ham’s majority shareholder in a few years. The 46-year-old already owns a football club, Sparta Prague. We delve into his ownership of the Czech giants:
Sparta & Kretinsky
To gain a better understanding of the business tycoon’s football background, Green Street Hammers spoke to Czech football expert, @czechfooty, one of the biggest Czech football accounts on Twitter.
He said Kretinsky is not a popular figure amongst Sparta fans: “He was accused of not caring for the club and not investing enough.”
He explains that prior to Kretinsky’s arrival Sparta won eight league titles in 11 years. Since then, they’ve won four and none since 2014, which he describes as a ‘historic drought.’
Kretinksy’s era as a majority owner (2019-) overlaps with arch-rivals, Slavia Prague, dominating Czech football. This, “only makes it worse, especially as he’s clearly shifted his focus to other projects – like building a luxurious hotel next to the stadium that would require demolishing a small part of it,” Czechfooty explains.
He also claims Kretinsky only let go of the idea due to Covid-19 and with him now investing in West Ham, “most Sparta fans would be glad if he turned his back on them, simply because he’s a bit of a symbol of an unsuccessful era.”
Since Miklosko, West ham have had other Czech cult heroes. Defender Tomas Repka played nearly 200 times for the club, but the latest Czech surge has been via Tomas Soucek and Vladimir Coufal.
Soucek has been an exceptional box-to-box midfielder, forming a solid partnership with Declan Rice in the heart of the Hammers midfield, winning Hammer of the Year last season.
Soucek and Rice have been vital in the David Moyes-inspired turnaround that led West Ham to a sixth place finish last season and this campaign’s continued success. The pair have been rarely rested even for the Irons’ Europa League campaign when other changes have been made, such as the introduction of Manuel Lanzini or Issa Diop.
Likewise, Coufal, has been a revelation at right-back. It’s easy to forget he signed for just £5 million. Nobody knew anything about him except for Soucek who is believed to have recommended him to the club. Now, he is one of the Premier League’s best right-backs.
Over the summer, a third ‘Czech Mate” was added, Alex Kral.
Kral’s game time has been very limited since his arrival at West Ham. He was brought in to provide cover for Soucek but has only made one start for the club and was recently out having tested positive for Covid-19.
Fans have not had the chance to see what Kral can do yet but Czechfooty has shone a light on what type of midfielder he is: “You can expect tons of energy, drive through the middle and strength in 1v1 battles. He has plenty of dynamism, though that also has a drawback in a somewhat unpolished first touch.”
He added: “Last year in Russia saw his progress stall a little bit and he’s been poor for the national team after acting as a young mainstay in 2019-20.”
However, at just 23-years-old, Kral has plenty of potential and is capable of playing as a holding midfielder, a box-to-box midfielder, and even a centre-back. Moyes often slowly integrates new players who have played in leagues of a lesser standard in order to give them time to get used to English football and improve on the training pitch first. Kral should start against Dinamo Zagreb though with West Ham already through their Europa League group.
More to Come?
With the ‘Czech Mates’ proving so popular and the arrival of Kretinsky to the boardroom, could West Ham sign more Czech internationals in the future?
It certainly seems possible, Adam Hlozek is a 19-year-old striker who plays for Sparta and is attracting attention from many clubs around Europe.
Czechfooty believes he could go to a bigger club than West Ham such as Bayern Munich. Instead, he thinks the Hammers should target Sparta’s young duo, “Adam Karabec, a creative left-footed midfielder who’s already a star man of the Czech Under-21’s and Ladislav Krejčí, a 22-year-old who’s a bit of a Soucek type player.”