After two lean seasons in the Turkish Super Lig, Bursaspor is ready to challenge for a spot in Europe once again.
That's the view of Socceroos defender Aziz Behich, who spoke of his desire to lead Bursaspor - one of just five clubs to be crowned champion in Turkey - back to the glory days its die-hard fans crave.
A tumultuous campaign last season resulted in the sacking of manager Paul Le Guen, as Bursaspor staved off relegation under the guidance of interim manager Mustafa Er.
With Samet Aybaba now at the helm, Bursaspor is in the midst of a makeover and vice captain Behich is confident the pieces are assembling to halt two seasons of mediocrity.
“We’ve had a lot of change this season, we’ve had a lot of players leave and we’ve got a new coaching staff that has come in and we’re all trying to gel together and adapt,” he said. “I’m always optimistic and confident because I have been here for so long.”
"I’ve seen the best and I’ve seen the worst at the club. I’ve played in cup finals and I’ve played in relegations battles on the last day of the season.”
“It will be a very competitive season no doubt and we will be ready come round one”
As the most-capped outfield player for Bursaspor last season, Behich is well-established as a key figure at Timsah Arena having endured as torrid a journey to the top level in Europe, as the one faced by his club over the past two years.
Six months after sealing a dream move to the Turkish Super Lig in 2013, the former Melbourne Heart defender returned to the A-League on loan, disillusioned and hungry for game time.
“When I first came [to Bursaspor] it was very difficult, I hardly played in the first six months,” Behich said. “It’s cut-throat because players look at you, especially when you come as a foreigner who doesn’t know anybody. They look at you like you’re trying to take their bread money.”
A loan back to Australia only served to fuel his desire to make the move to Europe permanent.
“Initially, I was told it wasn’t going to happen [at Bursaspor] but after I was here for the first six months, I decided I wanted to play here," he said. “I saw the supporters and the club and said no I’ve got to keep going “
Bursaspor is one of five clubs to have won the Turkish Super Lig, and Behich is determined to see the club back playing continental football.
“When you look back at our club we’re up there with the best in turkey. City wise, club stadium and supporter base is one of the best here”
“Our expectations are that we should always be striving to qualify for Europe.”
Bursa will have to be at its best from day one with powerhouse Fenerbache laying wait in the opening round, but Behich believes a strong record against the league’s giants puts his side in good stead heading into Sunday’s (AEST) clash.
“It’s obviously a difficult start but we’ve always matched well against the big teams and it will be no different this time.”