What a few days it has been for supporters of Omiya Ardija. With huge concerns over the club's lack of investment during the World Cup break, it was with more than a degree of trepidation that fans approached the first fixture against Jubilo Iwata, but a positive attacking performance against a decent side resulted in chances being created and ultimately a 2-1 victory. Off the pitch, there was a massive amount of media interest in the presence at the match of new Japan coach Ivica Osim - and Squirrels supporters could be forgiven for having a wry smile on their faces when they scan the headlines of Japan's sports papers at the moment to read phrases such as "post-Nakata" being used in conjunction with Ardija's own Daigo Kobayashi.
For a matter of just a couple of months ago, it felt as if Kobayashi and the stunning success of his move from Tokyo Verdy 1969 was a secret shared only by the orange part of Saitama's football community. The half-joke at that time was that Daigo could have been a wildcard late addition to Zico's World Cup squad - when in fact, Zico was so far from being a wildcard kind of coach that he instead elected to stick to so many older, out-of-form players that Japan had little opportunity to make an impact in Germany. Now, of course, the whole of the Japanese media is writing about Omiya's star turn as symbolic of a new team and a new beginning on the road to South Africa 2010.
As yet, this sudden attention seems to have succeeded only in renewing the determination of the level-headed 23-year-old Kobayashi to work hard and improve further. Clearly in the short-term this can only be of benefit to Omiya Ardija, although fans - by nature a pessimistic bunch - will no doubt be asking themselves how long a small club like Ardija can hold on to a talent that has blossomed so rapidly since the beginning of the season. Seeing the player in a red shirt for the JOMO All Stars game was in some senses a heart-stoppingly unpleasant experience for orange supporters.
But problems of that type are in the future; for now, there's a further acknowledgment to be made as to how the current situation of high excitement has come about. Given that he has received such criticism for perceived inflexibility and frequently poor decisions in the transfer market, credit must also be given to coach Toshiya Miura for pushing Daigo into a more attacking midfield role, to which he has demonstrated himself to be so eminently well-suited.
The press have concentrated on Kobayashi's remarkable scoring record and the number of assists he has contributed to a largely mediocre team this year and it should not be forgotten that despite picking up a considerable amount of experience for a young player when he was with Verdy, it has only been since his transfer to Saitama that Daigo has had the chance to shine as a genuine playmaker.
Until the first Osim national team squad is announced on 6th August for the friendly against Trinidad and Tobago, doubtless the speculation will continue. Ardija fans will hope that not only Kobayashi but the whole of the Omiya team will be able to continue the good work of the Jubilo game against Kofu on Saturday, followed rapidly by further fixtures with Nagoya and Kyoto next week.
Kofu of course means one thing to Squirrels fans: the threat of Bare, who was off target during the teams' Nabisco Cup meeting early in May, but can never be discounted from giving a defence a hard time with his pace and strength. Kofu have made some signings during the break - notably tough tackling midfielder Takehito Shigehara and striker Hiroyuki Ishida - that may bolster their attempts to stay in J1, but Biju will be missing from Saturday's game due to suspension and anything less than three points will surely be considered a failure for this buoyant Omiya side.