Belarussian accent to Kaunas plans
FBK Kaunas will start the new season on 7 April with a new Belarussian coach, but the Lithuanian club's new signings already have Scotland on their minds.
Another trainer from Belarus, Eduard Malofeev, set Kaunas on course for last season's title before joining Heart of Midlothian FC as director of football. Now back at FC MTZ-RIPO Minsk - who like Kaunas and Hearts are owned by Lithuanian Vladimir Romanov - it was Malofeev who recommended Vladimir Kurnev of FC Neman Grodno as the club's new coach.
The 56-year-old will be assisted by Eugenijus Riabovas, who had been in temporary charge, and takes over a Kaunas team who will start the campaign as title favourites. The capital club reached the quarter-finals of this winter's Commonwealth Cup - which brings together the champions of all the former Soviet Republics - in Moscow, losing out on penalties to Latvian champions FK Ventspils. They may get the chance to avenge that defeat in the Baltic League, the new tournament for the top sides in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia which kicks off in April.
Having relinquished the title only once since 2000, Kaunas look strong again this season having taken three Belarussian recruits to their winter training camp in Turkey - Neman midfielder Oleg Tarasenko, and MTZ-RIPO duo Vyacheslav Hleb and Oleg Strakhanovich - and signed Senegalese prospect Pascal Mendi. How effective those new signings will prove is a moot point, with all four expected to join Hearts in the future.
Overseas training camps were previously rare among cash-strapped Lithuanian clubs, but a renewed investment in local football has seen more and more clubs head for warmer climes this winter. Russian investors have helped to fund FK Vėtra's two three-week jaunts in Turkey, where FK Ekranas also trained. FK Sūduva headed to the Black Sea, while FK Žalgiris Vilnius plan a trip to Cyprus.
Narbekovas appoints himself
Finally, Žalgiris president Arminas Narbekovas recently announced that he would be taking over the coaching duties after Benjaminas Zelkevičius and former Lithuania captain Raimondas Žutautas both turned down the job.