Enjoying his first full season on the FK Grbalj bench, Aleksandar Nedović has made a seamless transition from recently retired player to top-flight coach.
The new manager, Nebojša Vignjević, quickly became the fans' favorite with preference for high-tempo football and the hard-working Grbalj team impressed once again at the start of season by cruising to 2–1 victories against two title contenders – Budućnost Podgorica and Mogren.
Prior to the 2008–09 season, Grbalj was given a lot of attention by the national media and they were even awarded with a potential title challenger tag. The departure of creative forwards Dražen Ajković to Budućnost and Božo Milić to Petrovac was quickly made up for when the club signed perspective striker Marko Kasalica from Sutjeska and the former Zeta, Budućnost Podgorica and Mogren journeyman forward Dražen Milić.
The second round draw was not so favorable for the Montenegrins, facing them off against an ambitious Sivasspor of Turkey, yet it was in these two games that the motivated Grbalj side produced the most breathtaking displays of football. After failing to capitalize on a lead at home and succumbing to an unlucky 2–2 draw, the team put up a hard fight away from home, missing several scoring opportunities before being punished by Sivasspor with an 85' minute goal.
So far so good for sixth-placed Grbalj, a small seaside club whose pre-season aim was to stay clear of the relegation zone and to promote young players to the first team. "We are close to fulfilling our goal in the championship and exceeding expectations in the cup," explained Nedović. "We have already achieved our second objective. Our young striker Nemanja Nikolić signed for Russian top-division club FC Rostov, which makes me very proud."
In the 2007–08 season, FK Grbalj participated in the UEFA Intertoto Cup, thus becoming the first Montenegrin league side to ever compete in a European competitions. They were knocked out in the first round by an ambitious Romanian Gloria Bistriţa team. Nevertheless, the European debutants from Montenegro had impressed in both matches, and failed to materialize the advantage they had on the pitch by conceding two cheap goals away from home.
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"I will try to learn as much as possible, to educate myself in every way, and I hope one day I will have a chance to work abroad. I know it is not easy to have a coaching career from Montenegro, but who knows? I must be prepared for possible future challenges."
Nedović is not a one-off – he believes others like him will soon be making their mark in the technical area. "It's not easy for a young coach to reach the highest level, but a new generation is coming, one that is educated and has modern ideas. We are a small and young football nation and we need new blood, both on the pitch and on the bench.
The Grbalj side claimed an impressive third place in the inaugural season of Montenegrin first division, 2006–07, just behind the two clubs that were deemed invincible in the national competitions, Zeta and Budućnost Podgorica. The subsequent season was much more competitive, and Grbalj struggled in the first half of the season to keep up with the new divisional powerhouse Mogren and a strong Rudar team. But the side fought bravely and snatched the 4th place in the dying rounds of the season.
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"When I was near the end of my career, I realised I was thinking about tactics more than my performance on the pitch. Thanks to Grbalj, I immediately got an opportunity in the top flight and I want to grab that chance."
A No10 in his day, Nedović has moulded his side into a cohesive unit – Grbalj have conceded just seven goals in 18 matches, comfortably the best record in the 12-team league. "Defence is the core of the team, but we are not playing catenaccio," he stressed. "Put simply, I have players with better defensive instincts, although we always try to attack with at least five players. We are tough to beat."
Moving into the dugout was always a natural progression for the former Yugoslav youth international midfielder, who turned out for FK Budućnost Podgorica and FK Partizan in his playing days. "I always had an affinity for coaching," said the 2007 Montenegrin footballer of the year.
Nedović, the youngest trainer in the Montenegrin First League, has steered the coastal side to mid-table safety, but greater rewards could yet lie ahead for the club who experienced UEFA Intertoto Cup football in 2007 and 2008. "We are in the semi-finals [of the domestic cup] and I am sure we can make a step forward and fight for the trophy," said the 34-year-old.