Ivica Vrdoljak Sebastian Mila Pierwsza Liga Review
The End of Two Era
Issue Four - Summer 2012/2013
Sixteen fans give their views on their teams performances during 2012/13 The Good, The Bad and The Ugly - The best and worst teams of the Ekstraklasa season
Sponsors/Patronages The #Ekstraklasa Magazine team would like to thank the following:
Contributors Editor: Ryan Hubbard - @Ryan_Hubbard EKSTRAKLASAreview.co.uk Editor: Michał Zachodny - @polishscout EKSTRAKLASAreview.co.uk Andrzej Gomołysek - @taktycznie - taktycznie.net Dawid Kosmalski - @Angamoss - angamoss.blox.pl Michał Dzida - @michaldzida - sportowyobiektyw.pl Marcus Haydon - @marcusjhaydon Tomasz Galiński - @T_Galinski Mike McKenna - @MikeMcKenna_ Marc Boal - Kolejorz Fans Scotland Season Review: Konrad Ferszter, Kuba Krzyżostaniak, Michał Zachodny, Adam and Piotr Rajpert, Ryan Hubbard, Christopher Lash, Piotr Truchlewski, Maciej Głombiowski, Michał Rygiel, Michał Szewc, Arek S. “Koroniarz”, Andrzej Peterek, Mateusz Cieślak, Borys Jansyn, Krzysiek Wesołowski, Patryk Ostry.
/EKSTRAKLASAreview /EkstraklasaMagazine Cover Photo: Legia.com Artwork: Ryan Hubbard
The Year of the Defeated Polish champions were hammered in Europe. The continental spring has ended for other Ekstraklasa clubs before first rains came. And we should not be surprised that when Waldemar Fornalik hoped to bring some fresh legs against Moldova and turned to league's biggest hope and one of better players Jakub Kosecki, he failed miserably on the international stage - yes, even against such poor opposition. And, by the way, Legia's Jakub Wawrzyniak, For the first forty-five minute we the other player who appeared still believed that this is going to happen. It contracted to Ekstraklasa club, was was going into the right direction. perhaps the worst from the side. Moves were swift, players elegant and well motivated by the coach. Is that still The gap is growing, sadly. We might the game against Greece I'm writing have some great footballers with about? No, it's Moldova vs Poland, the hopeful youngsters making their way match ended with a one-all draw that through, but above all of them is ended our dreams of making it to Brazil Waldemar Fornalik, a man who was successful with Ruch for next summer World Cup. Chorzów but... that was The two games were similar and not only Ruch. And he has only be the ending result. The way not won anything in Poland crumbled under the pressure Poland. He was after the break, when they were second best, getting expected to move even further forward, everything out of attack with more intent and precision, bunch of average showed that mentally nothing has league players which changed over the year. Names might he led to the secondhave changed rapidly, Artur Boruc place finish and now might be back in the goal, three Polish they were second from players took part in the Champions the bottom. Was he League final but on the pitch in the given the job too easily? white-red kits it was same old, same Not being against old. Waldemar Fornalik, one should Our boys once again took one hell of a beating. Not just the main team but U21 boys, the hope for the future, were struggling against Malta for majority of the game, missing glorious chances and only coming out victorious at the very end. The U19 team was playing at home but all they could do in the junior Euro qualifications was the final draw with Greece. Those results reflect on all of us.
Almost to the day it was twelve months since the hype of Euro 2012 exploded in Warsaw - big and loud opening ceremony, Robert Lewandowski glancing his header past Greek goalkeeper, Wojciech Szczęsny being sent off and Przemysław Tytoń saving penalty with his first act in the game. What a day it was, what an end to a beautiful and hopeful set up for the whole country.
For the reasons of the continued slump of the national teams, you have to look at the country. The league was fairly interesting this season, but would we be able to pick more worth remembering moments that happened on the pitch or off it? Polonia Warszawa was devastated by some accidental guy who happened to have an idea how to get out some money of the club.
ask whether he is not too short of qualities to manage on the international stage. He is simply good man for the league. So the first signs of twelve months that followed the opening ceremony of EURO 2012 are bad. But there are also moments of hope and perhaps reasons to believe that it may be better rather sooner than later. Finally some outfield player was bought from Ekstraklasa by Premier League club (Tonev), a few wingers have emerged to create class of their own, Lech and Legia are now looking to spend but also educate in their academies, while the league attracts players from better countries like Scotland. Of course we can live with this hope but that should not mean there is a lot to do. The example must come from the very top and if Zbigniew Boniek, the PZPN president, is as experienced after his great career of player and authority, then he should recognize the real problem. We, as a football country, are lacking a leading example. Allowing such saddening results and performances as against Ukraine or San Marino to go unnoticed and without reaction will hurt us even more than the defeat at EURO 2012.
Michał Zachodny Editor, #Ekstraklasa Magazine
Ekstraklasa: The Predictable Unpredictability Every year we know that Spring will be bronze medal? unpredictable, yet every year we try to Spring also had its fair share of surprises predict it. at the bottom end too. In Issue Three we Whilst in our last edition we may have marked down both Podbeskidzie and deduced that Legia would win the title, it GKS Bełchatów as certainties for the was a lot closer than we imagined at the drop, and even though we had an inkling that Polonia's financial situations would start of 2013. seal their fate, we were sure that at least Who knew that Lech would build up a title one would have been in the Pierwsza challenge after a fairly poor autumn? Liga next term. Whilst we did eventually Who knew that Polonia's exodus would get it right, we never would have guessed have such a massive effect? Who know that GKS's relegation would have only that Górnik's wheels would come off so been by a whisker - Ruch Chorzów only quickly and spectacularly? Who knew escaping the fall by virtue of a head-tothat Piast would be the ones fighting with head result back in Autumn. Śląsk for the The second tier also had its shocks as, nailed on for promotion with seconds of their penultimate game remaining, Termalica Bruk-Bet Nieciecza were staring another Pierwsza Liga season in the face just 60 game-minutes later. Stomil Olsztyn on the other hand, asgood-as relegated in winter, pulled off a stunning comeback to secure their 1.Liga status with a game to spare. And now with the door closed on the Polish season, we're already thinking about next season. The Ekstraklasa’s decision to split the league into two and add an extra seven rounds on at the end was yet another surprise which we weren’t prepared for. With the intention of giving all sides something to play for until the very last game, we can only wait and see whether the idea turns out to be a resounding success or a massive failure. Either way, we are only five weeks away (at the time of writing this) from the big kick-off on July 19 giving us the smallest of summer breaks before we get to see the stars
return to the pitches of Białystok, Kielce and BielskoBiała. As well as its surprises, 2012/13 also had its disappointments, most notably in the form of Polonia Warszawa and ŁKS Łódź’s financial implosions and subsequent demotions (both of which had been written about in previous issues). Now two of Poland’s oldest and proudest clubs must work their way up the pyramid because of the actions of owners who never really had the clubs’ interest at heart. Whilst surprises seemed to be commonplace in the Polish leagues, it was actually the two pre-season favourites for promotion, Cracovia and Zawisza Bydgszcz, who find themselves back in the tp-flight after gaps of twelve months and 19 years respectively.
Ryan Hubbard Editor, #Ekstaklasa Magzine
INSIDE THIS ISSUE 8. The Road to Rio is now closed
53. The Cursed promise of success
Tomasz Galiński reports on Poland’s World Cup Qualifying draw in Moldova.
The problems at Górnik Zabrze extend far beyond their spring collapse. Dawid Kosmalski tells us more.
11. The return of Dariusz Wdowczyk
After his return to management following 56. The end of two era corruption charges, Dariusz Wdowczyk With the culmination of the 2012/13 took the hotseat at Pogoń Szczecin. season, two of Poland’s most renowned Marcus Haydon tells us his story. players, Tomasz Frankowski and Michał Zewłakow retire. Ryan Hubbard profiles 15. The 2012/13 Ekstraklasa Review their careers. Sixteen fans tell us the story of their 61. Legia’s true leader club’s 2012/13 season. Scorer of their late, title-deciding penalty 34. Dynamic Wingers against Lech, Wojskowi skipper Ivica Michał Zachodny talks about the Polish Vrdoljak is profiled by Michał Zachodny. league’s love affair with the winger. 64. Poland’s Forgotten Stadium 37. Pierwsza Liga Once the pride of Polish football, With four clubs contesting promotion up Chorzów’s Stadion Sląski is now just a building site. Ryan Hubbard wonders until the last day, the second-tier was where its future lies. just as thrilling as the first. Ryan Hubbard reports on the season. 68. The view from the gantry 42. Goals are Overrated! After commentating on the Ekstraklasa for British TV station SportsTonight Live, Andrzej Gomołysek ponders whether Mike McKenna has fallen a little in love there is such thing as a “non-scoring with the Ekstraklasa. striker”. 45. Kolejorz Fans Scotland #Ekstraklasa Magazine talks to Marc Boal, founder of Scotland’s only Lech Poznań fan club. 49. Defining a season Michał Zachodny briefs us on the fifteen games which defined the 2012/13 Ekstraklasa season.
71. “I stayed so that Sląsk could join the legends” After signing a new three-year deal, Sląsk Wrocław midfielder Sebastian Mila talks to Michał Dzida in an #Ekstraklasa Magazine exclusive. 73. The Good XI, The Bad XI and The Ugly XI 77. Ekstraklasa/1.Liga and 2.Liga Stats, Results and Tables.
The Road to Rio is now closed By Tomasz Galiński
As Poland had tried to chance their fortunes, Fornalik’s substitutions left a lot to be desired. Both Jakub Kosecki and Artur Sobiech showed nothing after entering the pitch. As for the Legia Warszawa midfielder, it could seem that he is solely useful in the Polish Ekstraklasa. The National team is something he cannot yet manage. It is also tough to say anything positive about Hannover striker Sobiech. He was on the pitch for 11 minutes and did hardly anything of note. The only positive from the second half was Piotr Zieliński, who replaced an inconclusive Adrian Spanish referee, Fernando Teixeira Mierzejewski. Just his second game in the decided not to use the whistle. national team, and although he failed to show anything spectacular in the It would seem that it should have been an Moldovan capital, it was still a lot more animated 15 minutes in the locker room than Mierzejewski. during the half-time break. Unfortunately, the second half was much worse than the Poland is now located in 4th place in first. It seemed that the Polish players Group H, 5 points behind the leaders were looking for the winner; Lewandowski Montenegro. attempting twice, but it wasn’t something that the goalkeeper should be surprised by. Meanwhile at the other end, Poland endured a scary moment early in the second half when former Cracovia midfielder Alexandru Suvorov found himself alone in the box, but missed a great chance, eventually losing control of the ball. As the game slowly drew to an end, Poland were forced to accept that they had dropped two important points in Chisinau.
With failure to beat Moldova not an option four Poland’s World Cup qualification chances, just a point from their trip to Chisinau left the Białe-Orły’s trip to Brazil all but over before it had even begun. Shame. Embarrassment. Disgrace. It is tough to find any other words to describe what happened on Friday night in Chisinau. The Polish players only managed to secure a draw against a hopeless Moldova and virtually lost their chances to get promoted to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Despite having a lot of opportunities in the first half, they were only able to score once. Things started well for Waldemar Fornalik’s side as Jakub Błaszczykowski calmly opened the scoring after a great pass from his Dortmund team-mate Robert Lewandowski. Then, for the next 20 minutes, the visitors created three or four guilt-edged chances to score a second. It seemed that the second goal was just matter of time. However, Rybus missed the target twice, Salomon’s header went just wide, Lewandowski hit the post and finally, Polański decided to shoot with Lewandowski alone in the middle of the box. There is no doubt that the second goal for the Poles would have killed the game.. However, then came the 37th minute. The only mistake by Wawrzyniak and Komorowski allowed Eugen Sidorenco to level the game. What’s more, the hosts were demanding a penalty as Grzegorz Krychowiak (allegedly) fouled one of them in the box after a h o r r i b l e misunderstanding with Boruc. Thankfully, the
Poland - Liechtenstein 04.06.2013 - Stadion Cracovii, Krak贸w
The return of Dariusz Wdowczyk By Marcus Haydon After his suspension for match fixing was lifted early, former Legia, Celtic and Reading defender Dariusz Wdowczyk took charge of Ekstraklasa side Pogoń Szczecin earlier this year. At 7am on Friday 28th March 2008 it all came tumbling down. The club hadn’t known; the fans hadn’t known; not even his wife or children had known. But the truth was that Dariusz Wdowczyk had a terrible secret and it was about to be laid bare.
[were] doing everything we can do, but the results [were] different,” the former Celtic defender recalls. “So I thought this was the only way we could do it: to give a green light to this guy to talk to referees with some money.”
Korona went on to lift the title that season before Wdowczyk left Kielce in 2004, going on to lead Legia Warsaw to the Ekstraklasa title in 2006, the second of his career after an earlier and far more surprising success at city rivals Polonia in 2000. After that silverware with Legia, Wdowczyk’s reputation was strong enough for him to be touted as a candidate to take over the Polish national team, only for Leo Beenhakker to be chosen instead.
Four years earlier things had seemed much more tranquil. Wdowczyk was leading his Korona Kielce side to the third division title (south-east region). He was a big fish at that level; you don’t find too many former national team captains and Ekstraklasa champions floating around in the regional leagues, but Wdowczyk had been lured to Kielce by the challenge of starting a project from scratch, backed Within two years, that by a wealthy owner with ambitions of fateful knock on the door arrived. Sat in a reaching the Ekstraklasa. police cell in Wrocław, His first season in Kielce had been Wdowczyk was left to relatively successful but ultimately reflect on his actions. fruitless, missing out on the title to “You start to think: Cracovia. Wdowczyk, though, was ‘what have I done?’ suspicious of outside influence. The You start to realise you did following campaign, he began to tire as that key results again went against Korona something stupid. I and pressure began to mount on his don’t wish for that famous name. “In some games we were sort of experience – just being punished for nothing [by it’s not a good sort of referees],” he claimed when I met him in experience. Me and Warsaw café in 2011. “And that’s when my family were a guy came to me and said that he could hurting for a long time.” help.” That “guy” turned out to be a fixer. ‘Andrzej B’, to give him his legal moniker, approached Wdowczyk claiming to be the man behind Cracovia’s promotion the previous year. Frustrated by what he saw as influences out of his control, Wdowczyk took up the offer. “We [were] playing hard, we [were] working hard, we
Critically for Wdowczyk, when the Polish authorities opened their investigation into football corruption in 2005, they chose not just to monitor the
current situation, but also to retrospectively prosecute those they believed to be involved in corrupt activities in the past. The investigations have proven deeply controversial and resulted in hundreds of arrests throughout the game, though few as high profile as Wdowczyk’s. After pleading guilty to the charges, he received a suspended prison sentence and was banned from footballing activities for five years by the court and seven years by the Polish Football Association (PZPN). We met while he was serving that ban and he admitted his phonebook was much lighter and his life much slower, but he vowed to return to football. “I know that there is a great stain against my name, but I would say that I have to work from the beginning for this name again.
That’s a challenge.” Last July, with time still to run on those bans, he won an appeal to have the suspension of his licence reduced. “I am pleased with this document,” he told reporters as he emerged from the PZPN offices, gripping his UEFA Pro licence. Almost from the day he was convicted Wdowczyk vowed to return to the dugout. The question was, who would take him? Last October he was spotted in a hotel in Katowice meeting with representatives of relegation threatened Podbeskidzie Bielsko-Biala, but nothing transpired. However, when Pogoń Szczecin sacked Artur Skowronek in March, Wdowczyk had found a suitor.
back into the dugout, that wish was extinguished in the pre-match press conferences when his opposite number, Mariusz Rumak, stated that he couldn’t help but think about the honest coaches deprived of an opportunity by the return of Wdowczyk. The words were not laden with resentment, but they certainly added to the unease felt by his return. Pogoń lost that match to Lech and took just one point from the following three games. By the time bottom side GKS Bełc
“Five years I’ve been waiting for this day,” he told the Polska Times after his unveiling. His appointment was met by a mixed reaction from the national media and Pogoń’s supporters. Views ranged between those who felt he should never work in football again to those who suggested he’d been a sacrificial big-name for the authorities. One internet poster described him as “[just] a small drop in the corruption cesspool”. “Looking at what is happening in Polish sport, I'm starting to wonder about what values it turns to,” said Artur Jedrych, former head of discipline at the PZPN, when questioned on Wdowczyk’s return. “For those who have been found guilty of participation in a corruption scandal, in general there should be no place in football.” Roman Kosecki, vicepresident of Jedrych’s former employers, meanwhile, had a different view: “The hatów came to corruption case involved more than 600 Szczecin in Wdowczyk’s people. Dariusz Wdowczyk is one of the seventh game, the club’s supporters few who pleaded guilty and was sentenced. I see no reason to believe why he should were making their displeasure heard. be burnt socially and forbidden to return to “What are doing?” they chanted. “You dishonour our Pogoń.” A banner in the the coaching bench.” stands threatened physical violence Wdowczyk inherited a difficult situation in against the manager and his team if they Szczecin. Pogoń were hovering just above didn’t win the match. Against a backdrop the relegation zone and had taken just one of whistles and jeers, Pogoń lost 10. point from their previous six matches. It Things appeared bleak, but Wdowczyk and represented a gamble on both fronts: his players found answers just in time and Pogoń on a coach with pedigree, but a after a fraught 3-2 victory against Ruch tarnished reputation; and Wdowczyk with Chorzów, Pogoń mustered the points a club in a delicate situation and with whom necessary survive, albeit eased by the off-field demise of Polonia Warsaw. he probably can’t afford to fail. His first game in charge was against Lech It’s not been the most auspicious of returns, Poznań and if he’d hoped to slip quietly but Wdowczyk has at least kept Pogoń in
the Ekstraklasa. It perhaps says more about the scale of the corruption in Polish football than Wdowczyk’s credentials that he has return to the country’s top flight so soon after having his license reinstated. It’s now up to him to silence his critics and, this being football, that will most likely be determined by results on the field.
No agendas, no bias. Just sixteen fans from sixteen clubs, giving their opinions on their sideâ€™s performances. Welcome toâ€Ś
The 2012/13 Ekstraklasa Review
Champions: Legia Warszawa
It was seven long years. Seven years of disappointment with only short moments of happiness thanks to three Polish Cups and the adventure in last season’s Europa League.
You could find many sceptic Legia fans under Maciej Skorża were key players in After losing the title in the last days of the after this choice. They asked if Urban was Jan Urban’s squad. With Ljuboja, Radović, 2011/12 season, many of us asked the right man in the right place after he Saganowski and Vrdoljak in good form ourselves when we would finally achieve failed in Lubin just a couple of months they made a brilliant mixture which the main target of the league title. earlier.
dominated the league in the first round.
Especially as we couldn’t do it with a good squad
Ljuboja, After the 2012/13 season we can now Jan Urban has completely changed the
Żewłakow and Radović, hot prospects like comfortably say that Urban deserved the mentality of this team. In 2011/12. As well Wolski, and one of the best managers in highest respect. He built a strong team as earlier seasons, if the team lost a goal the country. We had everything; players, and gave Legia their first double since it was nearly impossible to win a game. coach, stadium, fans, budget, a good 1995. With nearly the same squad, he Urban made them a team with strong autumn round, and our usual rivals, Wisła created one of the best results in the psyche. Working out a result wasn’t a Kraków for example, struggling to find club’s history. He took a lesson from the problem like in the past seasons. their best form. Yet we failed once again... mistakes of his predecessor. The key moment of the season took place After Maciej Skorża’s departure, the club In his first days at the club he underlined in winter when the club announced announced that new manager of the team that he would love to see Legia less Bogusław Leśnodorski as its new would be Jan Urban, who was previously addicted to Danijel Ljuboja’s form. He was chairman. Mr Leśnodorski didn’t want to Legia coach from 2007 to March 2010, not afraid of giving a chance to Łukasik, waste time, and just after his nomination winning one Polish Cup and twice ending Furman and Kosecki as well. These made big work in the winter transfer the league just behind the champions. youngsters who couldn’t play for Legia window. Vladimir Dvalishvili and Tomasz Brzyski (both from Polonia Warsaw), Jodłowiec
Bereszyński from Lech Poznań, all moved to Łazienkowska in the winter break. Jealous fans from nearly
began to say that Legia had bought quantity rather than quality and called them “FC Hollywood”.
almost sure of their thesis after two spring games, when Urban team’s won only one point - losing to Korona and drawing against
It was the best season for Legia in But most of all, Legia have to stabilize domestic competiton for many years. their position in the Polish league. They
But the team woke up. After the defeat in Now it’s time to show how we can have to build on this championship,step Kielce, Legia didn’t lose until the end of participate
the season. Wisła were beaten in Kraków, Rosenborg
to by step staying stronger and stronger. At big this time I think we have t right guys in
Polonia at Konwiktorska, and Lech at disappointment for all of us. Now we have the right place inside the club. We have home. Many bad runs had come to an a chance to reach the group phase of the everything to be a dominant side in this end. Ivica Vrdoljak’s penalty against Lech Champions League. It has been “Mission league for years. We’ve been missing in Ekstraklasa matchday 27 practically Impossible” for Polish teams for many one thing for years, but now we have a gave us a title.
years, and to be honest I can’t see Legia mentality of champions… finally. making it this year. It’s too early,
Legia didn’t play well this spring and especially with new players in the
that’s a fact. It was difficult to describe the defensive line, which will be almost
style of this team. But despite this, and completely new with Jędrzejczyk moving
the problems with Ljuboja and Radović to Krasnodar and the departures of after winning the Polish Cup, the team Żewłakow, Choto and probably Astiz and were still able to achieve the target. In the Suler. In my opinion the European most difficult moments they showed team challenge for Legia is to qualify for the spirit and cool heads - something that Europa League group phase, and play they lacked last year.
there as well as they can. It will be great to see them again in the knockout phase.
Runners Up: Lech Poznań
this team was getting results, but just barely. The signing of Finnish international Kasper Hamalainen added an experienced and skilled player to the midfield, and he was soon joined by the young Lukasz Teodorczyk from Polonia Warsaw. Thanks to good results from Lech and some dropped points from Legia, the distance between the top two was cut to just a couple of points at one point. Lech broke the spell of their inability to win at home, and players found form at just the right time. Hungarian loanee Gergo Lovrenscics in particular wanted to ensure he wouldn’t be returning to Lombard Papa at the end of the season and went on a streak of scoring goals in consecutive games, earning a four-year contract by the time he was finished. A 0:1 loss in Warsaw eliminated Lech from the title race, though they still had amassed enough points to ensure a second place finish with a comfortable margin over third place. The Lech players will have a sour taste in their mouth, knowing that they were so close to a title. The experience of the pressure of being involved in a title race though will have done wonders for a very young squad that was still gelling together. They can now regroup, and with a few additions to the squad, a push for the group stage of the Europa League and another run at the title should be the minimum expectations for this group. Kuba Krzyżostaniak
With the departure of five key players not being able to win in front of their last summer, most notably super striker home fans. The young team, seemingly Artjom Rudnevs, most Lech fans crippled by the expectations of Poznan approached this season with a nagging crowd, struggled to score even a single worry at how the team would cope. goal at times, and were completely Mariusz Rumak started his first full unable to break down teams that could season in charge by bringing a number sit back and defend. Looking back, of youth up in to the first team, and only these dropped points would end up made a few transfers. Sitting here, being crucial as Lech chased first place celebrating the clubs first ever viceLegia Warszawa throughout the year. champion finish, the phrase „In Rumak What ever they lacked at home, the We Trust“ rings out. opposite Lech was traveling around Poland and building one of the most An early exit from Europa League impressive away records in all of qualifying at the hands of AIK Solna Europe this season. Many of the results meant that the only hope left was for a were 1:0 wins, but the trial by fire ended proper domestic push. The fall round of up being a massive leap of experience the season, Lech brought to life Dr. for young players who were thriving like Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in the form of a Karol Linetty. football club. Unfortuneatly for fans in Poznan, the ugly side of the team would Lech went in to the long winter rear it’s head during home matches as break with a sigh of relief. Despite being Lech were unable to break a streak of in a comfortable position, it was clear
Such a mess Śląsk is. No direction, no consequence and no real passion behind this team. It should be there, especially in the season they should defend the championship. Too many poor results and poor performances coming from absolutely nowhere, leaving Levy clueless as of what to do next. He coped quite well, but opinion of him might be harmed by the way he used Dalibor Stevanović, sometimes elegant and mostly lazy central midfielder. This season should be a lesson to all of them. There is no chance that even as good team as we had, one that won the title in 2012, will fight to the end with as many problems surrounding it - players arriving drunk, coach moaning about drinking culture, club sinking in debts, license in danger, contracts left to expire, best players leaving the club... This summer it has to change and for once there is a need of a person who will take this mess and clean it up. Stanislav Levy is the one to do it on the pitch, especially having Sebastian Mila for three more years, but went unpaid for months. What is even without help of the board, Śląsk will never worse, Śląsk's board didn't really care or catch Lech nor Legia. They will remain knew about players contracts and when the nearly men. the winter has ended, they have lost Tomasz Jodłowiec, while announcing signing of ex-Ligue 1 winger, Eric Michał Zachodny Mouloungui. The only problem with him was that he never regained his fitness, @polishscout never looked sharp and could not finish the season with Śląsk when signing the EKSTRAKLASAreview.co.uk/Slasknet deal, someone failed to notice that .com season ends in July, not with end of May...
3rd: Śląsk Wrocław As Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Śląsk Wrocław had one hell of a season. Changing its shape, playing one of the best football in the country - as Mariusz Rumak admitted at the end of the season - and then collapsing totally at Legia's stadium. If only Stanislav Levy knew how to make them play only the right, the winning way. It's not easy to assess this season without really knowing how much was going on in Wrocław off the pitch. Players were conflicted with former manager Orest Lenczyk for most of last season and only as current campaign has started, it reached all critical levels and someone had to go. Stanislav Levy was chosen mostly because he was the unknown option, someone from the outside of so well known and used environment in Poland. He was supposed to be the extra motivational kick for the players occasionally, he was. Śląsk was battling on the European stage but... that might be too much to say - they were kicked out of Europe after just one win in six games. Brutal assessment of summer activity but also true evaluation of the class and Levy's first weeks in the job were even made harder as the squad
So this season - poor in Europe, nearly men in the domestic cup after losing to Legia and third in the league which probably reflects true class of the team. Again, that wasn't the season of Śląsk's strikers. Cristian Diaz was too fat to play, Johan Voskamp failed to score since fall of 2011 and Łukasz Gikiewicz should feel lucky to be where he is, despite simply not being good enough. Behind the scenes, two main shareholders were fighting each other to the point where European license was in danger, and when they reached agreement, Śląsk's two of three best players were already gone for free.
4th: Piast Gliwice Yeah, we had some bad times with Marcin Brosz, standing on two different sides. He was close to leaving the club, we were close to celebrating that moment. But now? We are celebrating together as our success allows us to play European football in Gliwice next season - only a few years from the time when our home was declared not good enough to even host league games. As for the manager, we look at his time here as a constant learning process and also a good one. Both he and Piast become better with the time, learning from tough defeats and a hurtful period after our first relegation from Ekstraklasa. If all of that was needed for us to be where we are now - fourth place, Europe, high in best striker, and even though without him people's estimation - then so be it, all Ruben Jurado's form dropped, there was should be forgotten. always a solution for Piast. We knew how weak our defence was, but thankfully we This season was delightful. Even if our had Dariusz Trela in goal, and he earned defence was sinking more goals than us a few points this season. The other bottom of the table GKS Bełchatów, we problem was how poor our midfield could knew that there would be some price to be at the creative side of our game. Too pay for our status as newcomers. But that much depends on how Tomasz Podgórski has disappeared with time too as people plays on the day. Young Radosław started to look and admire our attacking Murawski is one for the future, while performances, the way our team pressed Mateusz Matras is developing quickly their opponents, how we used wings and given how strong he is as a player, how forced mistakes. It was a pleasure to great his stamina is. observe as Brosz and his team gained confidence and raised their awareness I have spoken with Marcin Brosz recently, that this league is... weak. That even we only asked him why we have achieved so can do something well here. much this season. He answered that all factors were important - the training base, We are far from project finished. We know stadium, atmosphere around the team, there is much to improve as knows it size of the team and good competition for Marcin Brosz and club's board. There may places in the squad. I think it is also worth be a glass ceiling above our heads that it to add that both our coaches, Brosz and we may not break because of our tight Dariusz Dudek are still learning, taking budget or small stadium or average city. chances to go abroad and observe how it But if we play those factors to the works at bigger clubs with better and more maximum, I'm sure we can go forward and experienced managers. then perhaps take advantage of them whereas minimalism will be treated as an example really. Adam and Piotr Rajpert Stability is the key word, allows the competition to grow within the team. Without stars we have made it quite far. We can still hear that Piast is playing in an unelegant way though. Our strong side is the size of the squad, and even when we lose some players there is always someone to cover up. Wojciech Kędziora was ruled out when he was the team's
5th: Górnik Zabrze
A season of two halves. One with form which made a title challenge seem realistic, and another which, if it hadn’t been for the first half, would have seen us battling for Ekstraklasa survival.
champions Sląsk Wrocław to the sword with a 4-1 victory, that fans of the Trójkolorowi believed that this Górnik side could be the real deal.
Górnik’s autumn round was played with the same optimism which beamed from the fans, after the usual summer exodus in order to pay the bills was avoided. Whilst Adam Marciniak had already decided to go to Cracovia before their relegation, and Michał Pazdan was enticed to Jagiellonia by his former team-mate Tomasz Hajto, Prejuce Nakoulma stayed, as did Łukasz Skorupski and Aleksander Kwiek. And with the young talents of Arkadiusz Milik and Paweł Olkowski, coach Adam Nawałka had once again built a team from the ashes, ready to surprise everyone once more.
Just one week later, Arkadiusz Milik’s brace against relegation-battlers Podbeskidzie also co-incided with the start of an international break. With three players called into the Poland squad for the game against England, it clearly showed that people were noticing the sterling job that, not only the players, but Nawałka was doing too.
The opening day, local derby win against Piast Gliwice quickly put a smile on the faces of the fans, and draws against the title favourites Lech and Legia, brightstarters Widzew and perennial bogey side Jagiellonia, kept them there well into September. But it wasn’t until Kwiek, Milik and Nakoulma put reigning
However it wasn’t long before Górnik’s great start began to catch up with them. A drab goalless draw in the Wielkie Derby Sląska was soon followed by their first defeat - a 2-0 home reverse to Zagłębie Lubin. Two more draws (one positive against fellow title-chasers Polonia, and one negative against a poor Pogoń) passed before Nawałka’s men finally saw off their 2013 in style, with wins away at Wisła Kraków, and at home to Lechia Gdańsk.
Whilst 18 year-old Milik’s departure in Winter wasn’t really much of a surprise, Górnik’s second half collapse was. The Spring opener against Piast quickly raised hopes, but before we knew it, three successive defeats had made a title challenge a distant dream. Without Milik, and with both Kwiek and Nakoulma off-form, more defeats quickly came against Sląsk, Podbeskidzie and Korona. It was only the poor form of other rivals that still kept us with a chance of reaching Europe. The home edition of the Wielkie Derby Sląska may have appeased the fans to a certain extent, but with rumours rife that Górnik couldn’t afford to qualify for Europe, defeats against Polonia, Pogoń and Wisła made supporters more suspicious as well as angry. On paper, fifth position looks like a good season for Górnik. But the truth is, it could have been so much more. With Aleksandar Kwiek off to Zagłębie, and Skourpski, Nakoulma and Olkowski possibly leaving the Ernesta Pohla, only the competion of the new stadium is grounds for optimism in Zabrze ahead of the new season.
Ryan Hubbard @Ryan_Hubbard EKSTRAKLASAreview.co.uk
out from the Ekstraklasa with dignity and class. So what next for the second Warsaw club? Ireneusz Król continues to hang on to power but it is to be hoped that a new Polonia will arise, most likely in the 4th or 5th tier. The club certainly has the fanbase to propel itself up the leagues but it remains to be seen whether a trustworthy sponsor can also be found.
6th: Polonia Warszawa It's been an incredible season for Polonia Warsaw, with as many twists and turns as a Holywood whodunnit. Ultimately however it will be the club's last in the top flight for at least a couple of years. On 28 May 2013, as a result of huge debts due to financial mismanagement from their owner Ireneusz Król, Polonia were demoted from the Ekstraklasa, a sad say for everyone associated with the club. Last summer had seen Król's takeover at the famous old Warsaw club and the departure of a whole host of well-paid stars. This did not initially faze the first team. Led by their dedicated and charismatic coach Piotr Stokowiec and driven onwards by the attacking quartet of Paweł Wszołek, Vladimir Dvalishvili, Tomasz Brzyski and Łukasz Teodorczyk, Polonia finished the autumn round in 3rd place. Polonia's attacking style attracted many plaudits and they were hailed by many as the revelation of the first half of the season. However the winter break brought hopes of a title challenge crashing down to earth with the sales of Dvalishvili, Brzyski and Teodorczyk as Król was shown to lack the money required to run the club. Stokowiec did his best to replenish the squad with the little funds he had, bringing in players
such as midfielder Jakub Tosik and defenders Martin Baran and Igor Morozov. He also put his faith in youngsters such as Miłosz Przybecki and those who remained from the winter cull. The spring was much less successful on the pitch for Polonia and from early March to the middle of May the team went eight games without a victory. Despite the drop in form the side continued to play with heart, and the performances of players such as the mercurial Jacek Kiełb and the lightening quick Przybecki delighted the fans. Indeed towards the end of the season the Czarne Koszule went on a five match unbeaten run, including a 4-0 win at Górnik Zabrze where they played some wonderful, expansive football. Unfortunately events on the field quickly paled into insignificance in March and April as it became increasingly clear that the club were in danger of not receiving a top flight licence. Król had not paid the players in months, and the club's debts to its employees spiralled. The Ekstraklasa's final decision to deny Polonia a licence provoked an outpouring of grief from the club's fans. The last home game of the season was an especially emotional occasion as Polonia and their fans bowed
However what most Polonia fans will take from this season is the desire and application of Piotr Stokowiec and his coaching staff despite off-thepitch problems and the commitment of the players, some of them having not received any pay for over six months. That will always be remembered. Polonia will be back, watch this space.
Christopher Lash @rightbankwarsaw Rightbankwarsaw.wordpress.com
7th: Wisła Kraków
Somehow we reached the end of the season, full of disappointment, embarrassment by the poor play of Wisła. It is not the season we expected. Yes we knew that it could be an uphill struggle, but we never thought that it would be Mount Everest. This was due to a number of factors that led to the poor position in the table.
positive opinion, blocking the way for Piotr Brożek's transfer. However, acquiring Daniel Sikorski, from the beginning was treated as a joke - a funny little joke. In particular, the laughter at Daniel should have been in the match with Śląsk Wrocław. But it was not, it was only a dud. Arkadiusz Głowacki started with a decent return, but in the end failed to complete a rapid exit, at the end of the season led wiślacką youth. On the plus side we should also include the acquisition of Michael Miśkiewicz, and that his attitude on the pitch won a contract extension. Kind of like Emmanuel Sarki who, after Melikson's caused great harm with Tomasz Kulawik. departure, is probably the only one left When the team was completely broken, at Wisła who can run faster with the ball she needed a coach with charisma, with than without it. a vision. Someone who knows where he's going. Kulawik could provide only And if better players than last season are improvisation, and so it seemed with the not acquired, it should not be surprising players on the pitch. They looked like a if Wisła's games cause toothache. Good bunch of lads who just met, three hours performances can be counted on the before the game, to have a kick-about. fingers of one hand - and I do not have Zero any idea and - like Konrad from a thumb or index finger. It's enough to Adam Mickiewicz's "Forefathers" - one say that from ten home games Wisła played with teams that finished above big improvisation. them, they have won only three, losing So it seemed with the transfer policy of seven. Fortress at Reymonta 22 has the club. It was to be bold in putting been long everything but and Arkadiusz young players, ending up with cameo Glowacki's words - "we are happy to stay appearances for Dawid Kamiński, Alan up" - tell all the rest of this season. Uryga and Michał Chrapek, then built on by Uryga and Paweł Stolarski, but it's It has to be better. Coming in is definitely not enough. Certainly, it was Franciszek Smuda, and possibly Tomasz expected that Damian Buras, who came Frankowski will also return to Waweł. to Wisła as of one of the most talented Maybe Mirosław Szymkowiak will come players in the Małopolska region, would too - players who celebrated triumphs on get a chance. Michał Chrapek the pitch with Wisła. They might even disappointed us. Maybe our expectations return to the bench!? were built too high, but it was a weak season for him. He had to be Wisła's Piotr Truchlewski creator, and often created many ForumWisla.pl wayward forward balls. And with @forumwisla_pl Chrapek's playmaking surpassed, it was too much to be able to count on the part of Łukasz Garguła or Cezary Wilk.
Chemistry in this group was no nonexistent in pre-season, so it was decided that with the majority of players Wisła would say goodbye. Contrary to expectations, with Michał Probierz the situation did not improve. It was even worse. The players did not perform in training and attitudes of some were appalling. Therefore Probierz reacted. In May, when four players were suspended, he also withdrew Maor Melikson from the team, but ultimately decided to change his decision. Even then, the Israeli lost the desire to play in the colours of Wisła. But if someone could surprise him? The club was getting more and more nervous, yet, Probierz announced that Wisła would fight - as always - for the championship. These plans were quickly disproved in the league. Rumours began to emerge that the players were playing against the coach. Results and style, or rather its absence, could only confirm it. In this position, Probierz hung out the Wisła's summer signings also didn't raise the playing field. Rommell Quioto and white flag as early as Matchday six. Jan Frederiksen arrived in Krakow, yet If anyone expected that in his place left in the winter. Daniel Sikorski also said would be a coach that could quickly goodbye to the club. What led Probierz change the face of Wisła were to select these players, we do not know. disappointed. Unfortunately, Wisła The first two were tested and issued a
But is there a chance that PGE Arena, Lechia Gdańsk will play a next season is going to be friendly match against Barcelona. Adam Duda will face with Carles Puyol, Rafał different? We will see. Janicki with Lionel Messi. FCB A lot of strange things have supporters around Poland are looking happened recently at Lechia. for the tickets. I’m pretty sure that every The coach was fired, Lechia seat in the stadium will be occupied. didn’t renew the contract with What will be the result? Every Lechia Lechia Gdańsk have finished the season their captain Łukasz Surma, and also supporter knows that even Barcelona in 8th place. Not too good, not too bad. with Grzegorz Rasiak, who played pretty will never win against the mighty Lechia well recently - even though he said that Gdańsk! Eight is the number which Lechia he was really interested in signing new obsessed with in 2012/2013 season. Not contract with Lechia. only was it Lechia’s final place in the Maciej Głombiowski T-Mobile Ekstraklasa, but it was also We now have to wait and look what Lechia.net their highest scoring game (Lechia 4–4 Lechia’s new coach Michał Probierz will Ruch), their average position throughout do. He is a very experienced coach, so @Lechianet the, (10 times), the position most we should be optimistic. However, he didn’t achieve anything special with any occupied, and Lechia also drew 8 times. So, is that ok? I don’t think so. No-one team recently. We have to wait for in Gdańsk wants Lechia to be an transfers. We have to give him a chance. average Polish team. None of the Lechia supporters want to lose so many games The sad thing is that for the last few years Lechia have failed to develop in the final minutes. much. We have a beautiful, very big We also had an extremely difficult time stadium, but unfortunately at the when we lost our best player, Abdou matches come less and less fans. Is it Razack Traore, and failed to find anyone going to change? to take his place. His absence was very I hope so. A few days ago the media in noticeable in the second round. Poland announced to the world some incredible information – on 20th July at
8th: Lechia Gdańsk
It’s quite easy to describe this Ekstraklasa season by Zagłębie Lubin. If I were to choose just one word to do so, I’d pick either disappointing or… typical. Unfortunately the scenario repeats itself year in, year out. Many people in Lubin thought that by retaining Pavel Hapal after successful spring in 2012, Zagłębie will finally have some sort of stability. We had a coach with Champions League experience, we made a few nice signings. In came Robert Jeż, Michal Papadopulos, Aleksandar Tunchev and Michal Gliwa. Along with Szymon Pawłowski, Costa Nhamoinesu, Jiri Bilek and Adam Banaś, Zagłębie was tipped for European qualification, and supporters like me thought that we could really do it this time. We believed in our club inspite of the points deduction, which wasn't understandable by many. Well, as Steven Fry said, we couldn't be 'wrongerer'. The start of 2012/13 campaign was absolutely abysmal. Zagłębie lost 6 of its first ten Ekstraklasa meetings, drew 2 and won only twice. We only had Podbeskidzie and GKS Bełchatów to thank for being as hopeless as we were back then. Unsurprisingly, Zagłębie finally turned the corner. Lubin based club won 4 of their remaining 5 games and drew one, which meant we climbed out of the relegation zone and had a healthy 12 point advantage over Podbeskidzie and GKS. It was a typical winter for Miedziowi, as two guys named Paweł – coach Hapal and sporting director Wojtala had to make some squad changes. We got rid of last winter's transfers – useless players such as Ivan Hodur and Roman Sloboda and out of form players like Darvydas Sernas, Patryk Rachwał and Janusz Gancarczyk. Once again, Zagłębie board showed great patience in Hapal, and decided he's staying after miserable autumn round. Spring round started and we continued to play decent football. Miedziowi defeated Pogoń, salvaged a draw at Piast and grabbed 3 points very late in the game against Jagiellonia. Some people even started to speak of Hapal time. The rest of the league wasn't playing brilliantly, so gullible Zagłębie supporters thought that despite the sloppy first round, we still have a legitimate shot at European qualification. And, to everyone's surprise (not!), Zagłębie started to underachieve again. Losses at Legia, Lech and Ruch pushed us into a dead zone – we couldn't be relegated, as GKS and Podbeskidzie decided to make a run for it much later
and we couldn't reach the third place. Our cup campaign came to an abrupt end after falling victim to Ruch Chorzów.
9th: Zagłębie Lubin
The brightest moment of this otherwise disappointing season was a double over Śląsk. The 40 at our home turf against biggest rivals tasted beautifully. Supporters said that Zagłębie could lose every single game from there. And they pretty much did just that. We ended the season at 9th place, same as a year ago. Can Zagłębie finally prove that they're capable of breaking the bad habit and reach the championship group after 30 games of 2013/14 season? I believe it's high time for that, Miedziowi just got rid of 10 players, with Szymon Pawłowski and Costa Nhamoinesu leading the group. Zagłębie will surely undergo a revolution and I hope we'll come out of this stronger. Michał Rygiel @zaryglowane Michalrygiel.wordpress.com
10th: Jagiellonia Białystok
filled with more red and yellow than adorns the club shirt. Having drawn 13 times and lost 9, another season of inconsistency has proved disappointing. With the new season already just around the corner, and Hajto’s departure already confirmed, there are major issues for the incoming coach - whoever it turns out to be - to address. Firstly, and most importantly, a replacement for Tomasz Frankowski is needed. Without his goal threat, we could struggle to hit the net. And without goals, you cannot win football games. Secondly, the aggressive nature of the squad must be changed. If we are to try to win games, we must keep eleven players on the pitch. Then, and only then, can we think about moving up the table. Michał Szewc
Summing up Jagiellonia’s 2012/13 Smolarek to fill the gap - and eventually season could be done in just a handful become a replacement for the retiring of short phrases: striker. “Red Card, Yellow Card, Draw. Red Card, But Ebi didn’t have the instant impact Yellow Card, Draw”. Repeat ad that Jaga fans were hoping. In just his infinitum… second appearance he was dismissed in injury time for a flailing elbow to the Summer started in quite positive fashion face of a Piast Gliwice defender. for Jaga, The signings of Michał Pazdan, Jakub Słowik, and Ugo Ukah were In the end, the Autumn round can only brought in by Tomasz Hajto with the be described as frustrating. Draws intention of shoring up the previous everywhere kept Jagiellonia out of the season’s second worst back-line. relegation battle, but after going behind Something which may have worked had in the majority of games, it could have they not adopted Hajto’s “Go in hard or been far, far worse. go home” philosophy. With three red cards and over 25 yellow between them As Spring rolled around, transfer activity (not to mention the rest of the team), was much less to get excited about. they were forever treading on egg-shells However in Dani Quintana, Tomasz - eventually regaining their status as the Hajto did discover a gem. If it wasn’t for Ekstraklasa’s second worst defence him (and his ability to stay on the pitch for 90 minutes without receiving a red behind Ruch Chorzów. card), Jaga could have quite easily been Another area Hajto aimed to improve dragged into a relegation battle. with his summer transfers was the attack. With no-one able to match the record of Despite having beaten both of the top Tomasz Frankowski, the boss looked two, the season has been yet another towards ADO Den Haag striker Ebi write-off for Jagiellonia. Rather ironically, the team’s results for the season are
This is the team to love. We meet the players in the city, they recognize us, they smile at us, they wave to us, we smile and wave back, shake hands and speak for a little while. It almost feels like they are one of us.
11th: Korona Kielce
This season should show where we are after impressing the nation in the previous campaign. But in the end we have struggled to beat any team on the road, scoring eight away goals which is the worst result in the league. We were simply awful, even in the fight we have constantly gave to our hosts. They hammered us each and every time and I'm not even sure how we managed to get five points - five draws - on the road. Miracle perhaps? We needed it to stay in the league then...
And this is visible on the pitch, to be honest. Korona is fighting for 200%, always giving their best, leaving the pitch with dirt and mud covering players' shirts. They hear our road after each tackle, they are occasionally applauded for receiving yellow or red card, they never take the foot out of the challenge. Sometimes it will hurt them, like it must have hurt Maciej Korzym when his leg ...which shows how Korona have fell this was broken at the end of the season, season. From promising side that when he collided with Jagiellonia's perhaps was needing some more quality goalkeeper. He will miss few months, and youth to come to the team that that is very bad news for the team, but turned its reputation to typical foulers, also that reflects Korona's true quality. kickers and abusers. We don't mind They fight for the club, for the team, they being hated by rest of the league, we never allow their opponents to have embrace it, but we would love to see something more from Leszek Ojrzyński some space to breathe. and his men. We like the coach, he is Sadly, football is not only about fighting stubborn but intelligent guy, but and will to win. There must be some sometimes he behaves like one of the quality. Obviously there is Maciej Korzym players and fails to spot the most obvious who has scored nine goals and choices - Pavol Stano is not the striker, sometimes proved why he was regarded Artur Lenartowski will not be better and as one of Polish top talents not so long Vlastimir Jovanović will not match the ago. Michał Janota likes to flick the ball, best creators in the league. Kamil Kuzera, dribble past his opponent but he is losing another one, noted such regress of his the ball too often and perhaps not feeling form that I don't think he should be with the support from his manager. Mostly us next season - despite being perfect fit because he failed to make the challenge in every other term. at some point of the game.
But still we have some brilliant games behind us. Fantastic win against Legia (3-2) at the start of the spring round was probably our best match this year - they were the perfect target. Favourites, biggest spenders, new players in the side, showing some good football... But we wanted it more, we were sharper, faster and simply more hungry throughout the 90 minutes. We kicked them off their perch for at least that one game, becoming the last side to beat Legia in the league, probably for some considerable time too. Our 4-0 win over Piast Gliwice and trashing of so poor Jagiellonia (5-0) were beautiful days as well, if only not for the problems and conflicts between fans and police. So rarely there are problems caused by the other side, not supporters, and Kielce are the strangest example of it. Perhaps it took our and players' focus off the pitch too much? We definitely have to do better next season and make the squad stronger - but when we hear about lack of money and investments made at the club, there is only hope that Leszek Ojrzyński will once again make his miracles and his short squad work. Arek S. "Koroniarz"
12th: Pogoń Szczecin Somewhere deep inside I know that we should have been relegated from Ekstraklasa. Obviously I'm over the moon that we are still in the league as going down might have meant further financial problems and even the end of club's existence, but... my word, Pogoń SzczecIn was very poor this season. When I hear people talking that we and Ruch Chorzów should go down in place of GKS Bełchatów and Polonia Warszawa, I'm not even angry. Because I know how they have been playing, I have seen them and, sadly, I have seen too much of Pogoń this season. The start was good. We lost some, won some and been in the middle of the table, safe from any danger of relegation scrap or battle for top spots. Everything you would like to have from newcomers, with players also enjoying their football and manager Artur Skowronek giving his best despite constant questions regarding his lack of experience and young age. Edi Andradina might have added few kilos to his weight but surely he was fit enough to play couple of decent passes each game, where others did as good as they could and we were definitely on the course of staying up safely. Then it all started. Results dropped for a while, confidence was gone, nervous decisions were made, players lost their form, Artur Skowronek was gone and Dariusz Wdowczyk came in. I don't have anything against him, despite his controversial past and the sentence for match-fixing. I know he tries to do his best with very short squad, also one short of quality, but he will not do it by constantly moaning about what was left to him. I mean, Artur Skowronek made few mistakes but each time he looked like taking a lesson out of them, while Wdowczyk looks like repeating them over and over again. His solutions to our lack of quality up front was often laughable and we looked clueless whenever we moved forward. Edi looked even less fit and less willing to help out, while Akahosi's awful hairstyle was the best thing describing Pogoń's style. He is another example of how we regressed over the course of the season - our midfielder from Japan was
scoring a third from an easy situation I was fairly sure of our win. Such a shame that it was Adam Frączczak who scored the own goal to bring back the nervous moments, but he was our best player this season. What is more, he - playing as a full back or wing back - was our top scorer Dariusz Wdowczyk tried to teach his with five goals. Five goals! That's so poor players to play with three at the back. At and it shows exactly how uncreative we times it worked - for sixty minutes it were for most of the season. worked in Warsaw against Legia but there was always the moment coming up I don't know what these people in the when we knew who will make mistake, board are waiting for. They can't hope who will screw up and the points will be that Edi will get younger or even a bit gone. If not six points won in last three slimmer, they have to find someone who games, we would really go down! And we will replace him or at least few new were lucky against Górnik and thankfully players who will make him sit on the we were already safe when Polonia came bench. Bartosz Ława is similar story he to the city - they played with their third could run all day long but in his age, he team against us and we still struggled for is not that fast anymore. We need fresh most of the game! blood and only then we can fairly judge on Wdowczyk's comeback. For now, he I still can't get my head around the fact is still yet to convince anyone that he was that two arguably the worst teams in the the right man to suceed Artur Skowronek. season, Pogoń and Ruch, have produced one of the best games too. In Chorzów Andrzej Peterek we were great in the first half, we played like never before and after this season, but of course it must have gone wrong after the break. I don't know what Wdowczyk told them, but he did it wrong. Thankfully, there are more screw-ups at Ruch than at Pogoń and with Chałas full of energy, impressing with his passing range and running the show (or at least running for Edi), while suddenly all the quality was gone. He was so low on confidence, so easy to beat in the challenge, so easy to dispossess...
13th: Widzew Łódź Another season came to the end. Few teams can admit it as a reason to pride, the others can’t. Needless to say that times of Widzew’s greatness are gone. Nowadays it’s team whose aim is rather mid table position. That’s why many of us were speechless when at the start of the season Widzew became a leader and stayed for few rounds. In first few matches Mroczkowski’s Kids were at their best while ravaging opponent after opponent. However they were not persistant enough and in the end, started losing. Especially after winter break, their game was not so fascinating, except few matches (for example vs Legia Warsaw, 1:1 after thrilling match). After good run they had mixed form. It was hard to predict how their game will look like. But during the season results were not the most important thing. All of this was staying next to fuss about the new stadium. At the end, table was so flattened, that there was possibility they can drop down to lower division. However they ensured themselves 13th position and both club staff and fans breathed a sigh of relief. It’s hard to claim that this season was more than “average” for Widzew.
14th: Podbeskidzie BielskoBiała Phew… After the first fifteen games, fourteenth place seemed like a pipedream. To actually achieve it shows the effort put in by Czesław Michniewicz and his team after winter (eventually) released its grip on Poland. Whilst you may be hoping for some in-depth report of Podbeskidzie’s autumn round, detailing the shortfalls and problems which led to finishing the round on just 6 points, there simply is no explanation other than “they were awful”.
Even so, his replacement Czesław Michniewicz came in with a plan to fight to the death. And that is exactly what we did.
With a couple of shrewd signings (notably Telichowski and Wodecki from Górnik), and the better utilised talents of Damian Chmiel and Fabian Pawela, and the ever impressive Robert Demjan, the spring showed a completely different Podbeskidzie.
With loss after loss, after loss, it looked as though a new low point-scoring (and goal-scoring) record could be achieved before winter. Eventually the players did manage to score two in a game on four occasions, but even then two of the With victories at Ruch Chorzów, Górnik Zabrze, Lech Poznań, Lechia Gdańsk games resulted in 3-2 defeats. and Widzew Łódź, much of the hard work With Robert Kasperczyk finally running was done away from home. But that said, out of ideas, his dismissal left a mix of there were also important victories in emotions. Yes, we were struggling for our BielskoBiała when Jagiellonia and league survival, and a fresh approach Pogoń Szczecin came to visit. was needed. But this was a man who had led us, a small club from a small city, to Spearheaded by the always-dangerous Demjan, and later the goals of Chmiel the promised land. and Pawela, it did for a while seem as though it would only be Polonia Warszawa’s demotion which saved us. However when Demjan’s penalty in the final game was tucked away, and news filtered through of Ruch’s loss to Jagiellonia, to know that safety would have been assured regardless of the decisions made by a licensing committee was an overwhelming feeling. Now attention turns to 2013/14. Our biggest hope of survival lies in keeping hold of Demjan and Chmiel. Relegation would have confirmed their departures, but now we have a chance of holding onto our stars - although a number of big clubs will understandably be hoping to pounce. With the miracles that Michniewicz performed in spring, I won’t write anything off just yet. Borys Jansyn
It all looked so good and reasonable. For as great season as we had in 2011/2012, Waldemar Fornalik earned himself a chance to move to work with the national team. We all knew he had enough quality and intelligence to get the best job in the country. It sounded quite logical when PZPN came and took Waldek away, to appoint his brother and former assistant Tomasz in place as manager of Ruch Chorzów. After all, only few clubs in Poland have anything to do with logic and we thought we had it. Some kind of advantage. Now we still quite don't believe how poor we were and how we have managed to stay up. Second from the top last season, second from the bottom now - not sure there is a team that could match the regression we noted in space of just twelve months. Jacek Zieliński, man who eventually ended the disastrous time of Tomasz Fornalik, was as clueless. Our season was quite simple - lose four, draw one, occasionally get three points, lose four, repeat. It's not like we were playing some boring football, but we were simply not good enough. The defence we had last season with Rafał Grodzicki at the heart of it looked lost without him - and even when he was gone to Sląsk, he looked quite bad every time he played for them! Organization, individual mistakes, goalkeeper's clangers, help from those up front... there were games when you felt that the players have given up before they even came on the pitch. We have lost 04 to Lech Poznań twice. The game against Lechia Gdańsk, which we drew 4-4 despite leading with two goals when the match got into added time, the woeful experience of watching us suffer against Pogoń Szczecin, the way we lost to Górnik Zabrze... There is no moment of pure joy, nothing special about this season, not even the fact we have made it to the semifinal of the Polish Cup. To be fair, this season was like a nightmare in which you observe all those bad things happening over and over again, while you can't move and you are just forced to watch. Of course only when you have your season ticket at Ruch. The quality of performances dropped, the commitment was nowhere near the level it used to be, while players and their form regressed tragically. Marcin Kikut should never be allowed to play football again, Zeljko Dojkić was one of the worst, Marek Szyndrowski gave the ball away so cheaply, Igor Lewczyk was only hunting for opponents, while giving Grzegorz Kuświk 25 chances this season sounds like another reason to consider this was
indeed nightmare. He scored three times actually - this was a nightmare!
15th. Ruch Chorzów
Rare sights of sun came from Janoszka and Jankowski but you would expect them to be more mature and grew into the league. So in turn, that is only another negative thing about our season believing in what he saw. Maybe he thinks - they were matured but not as often as it was a nightmare too? they should be. Filip Starzyński did alright and should be one of our best players next Krzysiek Wesołowski term, while Jacek Zieliński's faith in experienced players like Zieńczuk, Malinowski, Baszczyński and Stawarczyk often proved pointless. Don't we really have few younger, sharper and faster players in the reserves that we have to put ourselves through the struggle with that bunch? I hope some changes are considered and few first days proved to be judgemental for at least ten players - will it be the same for the manager? I think Jacek Zieliński should feel himself that this is not something for him, and look for new challenge. Everything about Ruch this season was tiring and even the look of our manager could say it all - after last whistle of last game, which we obviously have lost, there was huge grim on his face, not quite
16th. GKS Bełchatów People can say that promotions and relegations cannot be decided in the first half of a season. In our case, we are living proof that those people are not always correct. When Kamil Kiereś was forced out of the GKS Bełchatów door after five losses in the opening five games, it seemed a necessity. Devoid of hope, ideas, and most importantly points, a change was desperately needed. Jan Złomańczuk wasn’t… Whilst Złomańczuk oversaw our first points of the season (a draw with Korona and a win at home to Podbeskidzie), there wasn’t a lot different in the performances. Whilst Kiereś had lost his games against Wisła, Legia, Lech, Sląsk and a topofthe league Widzew, the new boss was losing to relegation rivals in Ruch and Pogoń.
exact same opponents) left GKS as the only unbeaten team in the Ekstraklasa’s Spring round - despite only scoring one goal!
Although we quickly lost that record with defeats against Korona and Ruch Chorzów (the team who eventually managed to survive ahead of us on head-to-head results), we were soon back on track with victories against Pogoń Szczecin, Polonia Warszawa, Górnik Zabrze and Zagłębie Lubin. Draws against Lechia and (the heartbreaking last minute draw to) Jagiellonia left everything out of our hands for our final game. And although we managed to defeat Piast in Gliwice, our closest rivals in Łódź couldn’t help us out against Podbeskidzie. Whilst our Spring was worse than Legia, the only other team which bettered us was the one that mattered - Podbeskidzie. Put in that position again, in any other season we would have done enough in spring to survive.
However it was not meant to be, We must now start next season in the Pierwsza The dismissal of Złomańczuk in November Liga for the first time since 2005. was hardly a surprise. He was only ever supposed to be a temporary solution, and With many players already leaving the club, when results hadn’t picked up as much as we must ensure that we keep hold of the board hoped, he was on his way out Kiereś. If there is anyone able to guide us after just six games. But his replacement, through the hard times once more, it is him. Michał Probierz proved even worse. Patryk Ostry After a promising early career, Probierz’s career has sloped off in recent years. His four games in charge may but have added two points to the tally, entering winter level with Podbeskidzie on six, but the task ahead was too much. Something even more drastic had to change. And when the board, unable to afford much more, turned back to Kamil Kiereś in the new year, well, lets just say that hope had completely disappeared in Bełchatów. But how wrong we were… They say that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, and Kiereś’ return proved that to be true. Whilst his first five games of the season had been a total washout, his second five (against the
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It's not that Polish football is boring, no. The level is not as poor as, for example, what the match between Ruch Chorzów and Pogoń Szczecin may look like, with many great goals mixed with moments of total comedy. Ekstraklasa is praised for its tactical and physical approach, even if that is unlikely praise for the league that - up until now - lasted for only thirty weeks. Without a doubt, most of the league is average with only a narrow selection of clubs and players deserving a mention as something more. There is one certain thing that keeps being mentioned by those who who work in football and observe Polish league for players or to analyze the clubs. Ekstraklasa lacks energy, lacks dynamic players who can suddenly change the score or look of the match. Mostly wingers - those who can also dribble, create advantages, link with through passes, play the final ball. Those who can successfully fight with the impression that Polish league is boring. Looking at the way Borussia Dortmund pressed Bayern Munich in the Champions League final at Wembley, one would scratch their heads seeing three former Ekstraklasa players keeping up with the pace of the game. But it is exactly why they are not playing in Poland anymore - they had the energy to stand out from hundreds of slowly running and thinking footballers that are still in our Lechs, Legias and Sląsks.
Dynamic Wingers By Michał Zachodny Some say that wingers are a dying breed. But not in Poland. In Poland they are something which should be admired. Poland, slowly, is becoming a football culture in which wingers are something truly special.
Look at Legia Warszawa, the champions. Jakub Kosecki is one of the best players in the league, followed closely by such firms as Atletico Madrid or Valencia. He is not only some cheeky guy that speaks too loud and too much for his age and experience - football craves for that certain type of player. Brave, confident, From the period when such players were in small numbers in technically brilliant and... well, fast. And Jakub Kosecki is very the Ekstraklasa, now fans can be happy that more of them ply fast. their trade in the league. Some are younger, some are better, some have other weaknesses, some may never leave the This season, his first full one in Legia's first squad, he has country - but at least they are quick, they make the difference. scored 15% of their league goals (9), adding four assists. One
himself a red card - and this is only one of dominates in final balls. Cwielong and the examples when Jakub Kosecki simply Sobota combined have provided almost a third of Sląsk's goals this season. made the difference. The Hungarian winger from Lech Poznań, Gergo Lovrencsics, is another example. Aleksandar Tonev, who will leave the club for a new adventure in Scotland (Celtic), England (Aston Villa) or Germany (Werder Bremen) is a different type of winger stronger, rather a runner than a sprinter. Lovrencsics, on the other hand, proved in his first season in Poland what an addition he may be - he gets into one-on-ones very often, cuts into the box when possible and is able of producing a fine, long-distance shot. With seven goals to his name (15% of Lech's goals) and four assists, he is one of that kind of players - precious for his team.
of them was made when he was taken down in the box as Legia took on Lech in the final stages of the campaign, needing a win to go five points clear at the top. Mateusz Możdżeń, then Lech's defender, could not cope with his rival's pace. He handed Legia a penalty and earned
Sląsk ended the season third in the table, and that despite having two proper wingers. Piotr Cwielong had probably the best time of his career with eight goals most of which were vital for his club. He pops up in the right places, co-operates well with the team's captain, Sebastian Mila. No wonder several (although arguably low-key) German clubs are interested in him. Waldemar Sobota, on the other hand, is a typical dribbler with pace. His passes are often mis-timed but he still was able to get four assists in a team where Sebastian Mila, Sląsk's brain,
One of relatively new league sensations is Tomasz Podgórski. Recently he struggled in the level below, but when coach Marcin Brosz showed him the way, his performances welcomed Piast back into the league and helped the club to the best finish in its history (fourth place). He is not a spectacular player, rarely getting into a dribble, but he takes advantage of his pace and co-operates with team-mates well enough to create danger inside the final third. By scoring seven and assisting four goals, he attracted wealthier clubs in Poland as well. Zagłębie may have had better season before, but surely they know something about wing play. Szymon Pawłowski for long has been their best player, and it is something of a pity that his last year in Lubin ended only in ninth place. He is a very intelligent player. Maybe not so fast, but the number of key passes he has provided has earned him a deal in Germany or perhaps at Lech. Adrian Błąd was shining while on loan at 1. Liga side Zawisza Bydgoszcz, but he also more often than not proved his quality in Ekstraklasa. He likes to run with the ball from deep positions, attack his marker and recently made great progress at the
defensive part of his game. He is Zagłębie's one for the future. Perhaps the most significant example of the way that kind of players are needed and appreciated in Poland is the one of Dani Quintana. Before he came to Poland - spotted and signed by Jagiellonia only on video evidence - he switched clubs each year at second and third level in Spain. But when he came here, he made the difference straight away - his vision, technique and pace was one of the rare shining lights in Jagiellonia's troubling season. Dawid Plizga was similarly important for them, which is quite normal given his experience - he scored five and assisted six from the wing, proving there are two sides to his game: a creator and a finisher. Despite quite a good season in terms of results, it has been a very problematic year for Polonia - almost definitely the final one in the Ekstraklasa for some considerable period of time. While they will be relegated into the lower leagues for their debts, most of the players will stay at the top. Paweł Wszołek, despite having a nightmare of a round, played some great football last autumn. He earned himself a start against England in 2014 World Cup qualifications and almost signed for Bundesliga club Hannover. His pace and energy with which he burst forward and beat opponents allowed him to score seven and assist five of Polonia goals this prospect never went missing on those who still want to sign him up. In Piotr Stokowiec's disappearing team was also Miłosz Przybecki, also a good example of exciting prospect and pacy winger. He is one of the fastest - if not the fastest - players in the league. He constantly puts pressure on his opponents and although he has still a lot to learn in terms of tactics and technique, his pace is making him one of the hottest transfer targets this summer. One of the best dribblers in the league is, unexpectedly, Bartłomiej Pawłowski from Widzew Łódź. Someone who has seen him play this spring would not believe that Jagiellonia once said that he was not wanted anymore. His dribbling skills and confidence is something that made the difference for Widzew and saved them from a scrappy relegation battle. When he sees the space, he shoots instantly, always being dangerous for the opponents' keeper. Mariusz Rybicki from the same club is younger, but also a great threat when in form and one to look at in the future. Those players are different and definitely there are more of them in the league -
Fot. AgencjaGazeta some had quiet season, others simply did not perform up to the standards, others are ones for the future. The leader of the wingers' band is Jakub Kosecki, whose abilities and character made him fans' favorite in Polish capital, and probably will put him on the wing of national team very soon. It may be taking it too far, but for all of them Jakub Błaszczykowski of Borussia is someone to follow. Work hard, always look to take advantage of their own talents, believe in it - and you will make the top. If not Wembley, then one of those Legia-Lech games, one that Jakub Kosecki has recently decided almost on his own.
Pierwsza Liga Review By Ryan Hubbard Whilst the Ekstraklasa season proved to be dramatic both on and off of the pitch, the drama provided by Poland’s second tier, the Pierwsza Liga, proved to be more than a match…
being the biggest victory of the season, the chasing pack were battling it out themselves. A 3-1 win for Cracovia against Zawisza put them temporarily in the driving seat, and when they finally broke Flota down, the small club from the Baltic coast began to sink. Zawisza then stuck three past Flota, with Nieciecza putting four in the net a week later. By the time winter came around, Flota still had a lead, but the five point gap between themselves and Nieciecza could have been significantly more. With Cracovia in third, and Zawisza in fourth, both sides promoted from the II Liga: Grupa Zachodnia, Miedź Legnica and GKS Tychy, sat behind, still with a distant chance of a second promotion in two years. A little further back, A late autumn run from Olimpia Grudziądz surprised everyone, with only a poor start keeping them from challenging. With the return from the break interrupted by poor weather conditions all over the country, it was another club, Dolcan Ząbki, who began the strongest. As the sides above them all dropped points on a number of occasions, a run of seven wins pulled the club from the outskirts of Warsaw right into the promotion challenge. Eventually ended by Nieciecza much too early for a push to the top-flight, Dolcan eventually tailed off.
The race for Promotion As the season began, it seemed as though it would be a battle between the two favourites for promotion; recently relegated Cracovia, and a free-spending Zawisza Bydgoszcz. Although the Pasy were to be without some of their “star” players, most notably Burundian Saidi Ntibazonkiza, the sheer size of the club compared to some of their rivals seemed enough to put them in line for a quick return to the Ekstraklasa,
However, rather surprisingly it was Flota Swinoujście who stormed to the top of the table, not dropping a single point after eight games. Led by veteran striker Sebastian Olszar, signed on a free transfer in the summer, GKS Tychy, Miedź Legnica, Arka Gdynia and Olimpia Grudziądz were all defeated before they finally dropped points against Stomil Olsztyn in matchday 9.
Although they didn’t start with the same tenacity as their rivals, Termalica BrukBet Nieciecza were still keeping pace after their late season collapse in 2011/12. Now under the guideship of former Wisła Kraków boss Kazimierz Zawisza had strengthened well in the Moskal, there was real hope that the summer, picking up Paweł Abbott from village side could go one better this Ruch Chorzów, former Górnik and Legia season. striker Tomasz Chałas from Elbląg, Bytom’s Daniel Mąka, and keeper Whilst Flota continued to battle away, a 71 win against ŁKS n matchday 11 Wojciech Kaczmarek from Cracovia.
At the top however, it was the same challengers who had been there for the duration. Although now going through a poor spell, surrendering their lead, Flota were still amongst the challengers. Nieciecza lead the way for most of spring, with Zawisza and Cracovia battling for the advantage in secondplace. Eventually as Nieciecza were clawed in by the chasing pack, it seemed as though every time one of the sides gained an advantage it was quickly spurned. Cracovia lost to Zawisza, Nieciecza lost to Cracovia. With the season entering its final stages, the challenging four still couldn’t be separated. With a 1-0 defeat at home to Zawisza in matchday 32, Nieciecza eventually found themselves tied at the top with their victors, meaning that Cracovia and Flota were all still in with a chance of claiming one of the two promotion spots. However as Cracovia dropped to a 1-0 defeat at home to GKS Tychy, Zawisza
Whilst the winter break was bookended by wins at ŁKS and Warta Poznań, there were more losses - against Bogdanka Łęczna, and again Nieciecza and Flota before things got better. And they did get better. 25 points from a possible 30, dropping points against only Miedź Legnica and Stomil Olsytzn, left Arka seven points off the promotion spots - no doubt cursing their early season form. After their promotions from the Druga Liga’s Grupa Zachodnia, both GKS Tychy and Miedź Legnica were quickly aiming for a top-half finish. But with both facing Nieciecza, Zawisza and Flota in their first five games, they were effectively thrown into the second-tier at the very deep end.
and Nieciecza had their chances to seal promotion with a game to spare. Despite going 1-0 down to Flota, a late rally from Zawisza put them 2-1 in frontas the game headed towards stoppage time. In Małopolska, a goal from Jakub Biskup had also put Nieciecza on the brink of promotion with seconds to play against Olimpia Grudziądz. However, firstly an 89th minute goal from Flota striker Arkadiusz Aleksander in Bydgoszcz, and then a 90th minute equaliser from Grudziądz goalkeeper Michał Wróbel in Nieciecza, sent the promotion spots down to the wire.
Whilst both of them went on very strong it was Nieciecza who eventually rund in October and November, finishing 2012 in fifth (Miedź) and 6th (Tychy), they capitulated. never really looked like challenging for the Going two-one down through Sebastian top spots. Olszar, the onus was on Nieciecza to attack. But no matter how much they tried, Both sides saw a dip in form after the they struggled to escape their own half. winter break, with the Upper Silesian side Eventually pushing men forward to gain Tychy the better of the two. Holding their an important equaliser, Nieciecza left too fifth position until the final day, it was many holes at the back, allowing Flota to Arka’s 30 walkover against bankrupt ŁKS nab two late goals, ensuring Cracovia’s which finally dropped Tychy into sixth. return to the Ekstraklasa after one season, and Zawisza’s return as champions after Miedź’s struggle was much more apparent when they were hammered 5-1 19 years. by Zawisza in March. Whilst wins against Tychy, Nieciecza and Bytom came, they were mere moments of distraction from an otherwise disappointing Spring. Defeats to Grudziądz, Sandecja, Olsztyn and Katowice only confirmed the fact that they weren’t yet ready to challenge for top Whilst the battle for promotion was fairly honours. consistent all season, a number of sides towards the middle of the Pierwsza Liga Tucked in between the two promoted occasionally found themselves riding high sides, Dolcan Ząbki, normally battling at one point, and then struggling at another. against relegation, surprised a few in
With the head-to-head results and possibility of three teams tying at the end of the season, there were a number of extremely confusing permutations affecting who would emerge victorious. But with a two point advantage over Cracovia, both Zawisza and Nieciecza knew that just a draw against Polonia Bytom and Flota respectively would be enough to see them promoted. After failing to return to the Ekstraklasa at the first attempt, Arka Gdynia’s second With two penalties in Legnica ensuring try once again resulted in failure with a that Cracovia were doing all that they fifth-placed finish. possibly could, Andrzej Rybski and Paweł Abbott scored goals which made the With striker Charles Nwaogu dismissed Kraków club’s game meaningless. after missing a late penalty against 9-man However just on the stroke of half-time, a Zawisza, boss Petr Nemec soon followed. Christian Nnamani equaliser for Flota Unable to string a run of decent results gave Cracovia hope. together until it was much too late, frustration seemed to be the theme of With Miedź missing a penalty against Arka’s season. Cracovia, the visitors must have felt like it was their day. And although the home To be fair to them, the early season losses side did finally score (another penalty), against Flota, Nieciecza. Zawisza and Bartłomiej Dudzic scored with 20 minutes Cracovia were to be expected. But it was left to ensure victory - although they their inability to pick up important points needed more goals from Flota. against Grudziądz, Dolcan and Katowice which sent them into winter in ninth Whilst Zawisza quickly went on to claim position. the title with goals from Paweł Abbott, Tomasz Ostalczyk and Sebastian Ziajka,
The Mid-table Mediocrity
Spring. With just three wins until the end of October, the eleventh month proved to be a lucky one in Ząbki, as Dolcan stormed to eleven wins from their next twelve games - a run stretching until late April. But just as quickly as it had arrived, form disappeared into the abyss. Losses against Nieciecza, Flota and Bytom halted Dolcan’s promotion push at the worst time. Wins in Tychy and Brzesko may have brought important points, but the damage had already been done. Arka and Katowice hammered the final nails into Dolcan’s promotion coffin, and seventh position was as good as they could achieve.
Like Dolcan, Olimpia Grudziądz were another team who had swapped a relegation battle for a failed shot at promotion to the Ekstraklasa. But while they were unable to reach the big time, they had already had a chance to compete, beating Lech Poznań and Pogoń Szczecin in the early rounds of the Polish Cup.
Bogdanka Łęczna were yet another side that they can forget about this season, whose inconsistency cost them dearly. the better. Although they managed to avoid being dragged into the relegation battle, they were unable to forge a single winning run - every one of their 11 victories being followed by dropped points.
The battle to beat the drop
Łęczna’s season had got off to the worst possible start with successive defeats to Miedź, Brzesko and Arka, and with more points dropped to ŁKS and Stomil Olsztyn, there wasn’t much for the Bogdanka fans to sing about. And although their season ended on a six-game undefeated run, five of those were in fact draws - an average season for a particularly average team.
With one of the four Pierwsza Liga relegation spots decided in April due to ŁKS’s withdrawal, just four clubs battled it out for the important 14th position, knowing that only one would survive.
Whilst Olimpia did pick up points here or there, back-to-back wins were extremely difficult to come by. They did manage it in August against Bytom and ŁKS, and again in October with victories against After their late reinstatement to the league Kolejarz Stróże, Arka Gdynia and before the season kicked off, Polonia Zawisza Bydgoszcz, but as spring arrived Bytom were always going to be one of the and ultimately passed, Grudziądz’s contenders. With four points to their name inconsistency worsened. Unable to string Although they managed to stay after their opening seventeen fixtures, it’s two of any kind of result together, ninth completely clear of the relegation battle, no surprise they were written off. In fact, position looks a lot more disappointing than it did at the start of the season. With their pre-season interrupted by the activities of former shareholder Ireneusz Król, not much was expected of GKS Katowice. After settling from regular bottomhalf finishes in recent years, a similar result was expected for 2012/13. Whilst their eventual tenth place finish was nothing to shout home about, it does mark a slight improvement on last year’s 13th spot. It could have been much better for GieKSa though. Losses to a poor ŁKS Łódź and Brzesko, whilst drawing with Warta and Bytom - the ten points dropped with relegated sides represent the difference between mid-table obscurity and a promotion challenge.
Fot. PZPN/CyfraSport Sandecja Nowy Sącz’s final league position sat them just one position about the drop zone in 14th. Autumn wins against Nieciecza, Bytom and Grudziądz were as good as it got though, as big defeats to Zawisza (5-0), Arka (3-0) and Olsztyn (4-0) left them closer to the bottom of the Pierwsza Liga than the top.
Back in eleventh position, you’d find it difficult to believe that the league’s top scorer, Maciej Kowalczyk, plied his trade at Kolejarz Stróże. But the fact that his 22 goals accounted for almost half of his team’s entire tally just goes to show the problems which faced Przemysław Cecherz’s men. Although a six-game run without defeat kicked off spring, normal service was Whilst victories against both Flota and soon resumed as after April’s win against Zawisza may have been cause for Miedź, they failed to pick up another point optimism amongst the Stróże faithful, it at home. was misplaced. Losses to Warta, Bytom and Bogdanka soon put the players back In their last ten fixtures, Sandecja in their places, and lower-half finish was managed to pick up three points on just always on the cards. a single occasion, and they didn’t even have to kick a ball to do it. Disappointingly their 30 walkover against ŁKS was the highlight of their run-in, and the sooner
Bytom took until 17th April 2013 to register their first win of the campaign - a narrow 2-1 victory at home to Flota Swinoujście. After another five defeats, points finally began to flow from the Silesians. But whilst three draws and two wins were a vast improvement, they were relegated with five games to spare - that despite a 20 victory over Warta Poznań. Whilst promoted Miedź Legnica and GKS Tychy had managed top-half finishes, their eastern conterparts didn’t have quite as much fun in the second tier. Both Okocimski Brzesko and Stomil Olsztyn found the Pierwsza Liga much more of a hardship after romping to promotion the previous season, and with just a win each after ten rounds, they were pretty much nailed on for a quick return to the Druga
Victories against three of the top four gave the Olsztyn side a huge morale boost as But whilst Brzesko and Olsztyn were they clawed back the deficit between struggling, Poznań’s second club Warta themselves and safety. were much better off. With a decent young side, they were able to pick up victories Whilst a Matchday 31 victory over rivals against the likes of Stomil, ŁKS and Brzesko could have assured their safety Kolejarz Stróże before September was with three games remaining, a 4-0 defeat put the celebrations on ice for a further over. four days. But with a one-nil away victory With Warta picking up more and more in Gdynia, Stomil Olsztyn ensured their points, on the way to finishing 2012 in Pierwsza Liga status for another twelve tenth-place, Brzesko and Olsztyn were months, condemning Warta and getting desperate. Whilst they managed Okocimski to the final two relegation to pick up wins against GKS Katowice and places. Sandecja respectively, they went into the winter break occupying two of the four drop-zone positions. Liga.
However returning to action in a particularly cold March, momentum changed completely. Well, for two of the sides anyway. Whilst Brzesko picked up a few more victories as the season progressed, they were still interspersed with numerous losses defeats in Gdynia and Stróże almost confirming their relegation. Stomil and Warta though, had a complete role reversal. Suffering from huge financial problems, Warta’s squad was stripped bare. With just six points in the whole Spring Round (three coming against bankrupted ŁKS), a long slide down the table resulted in a relegation dogfight rather than a late push up the table. In compete contrast, Stomil’s spring consisted of a fantastic run of form which only saw four defeats from their 17 games.
Legia fans during their 3-0 win over G贸rnik Zabrze in March (image: Ryan Hubbard)
“An attacker who plays well with his back to the goal” is one of the most popular descriptions of forward players in the Polish Ekstraklasa. Even the newlysigned Śląsk Wrocław attacker described himself as a “not-specific goal-poacher”. 14 goals were enough to secure the crown of best scorer in Ekstraklasa. So when nearly all strikers have problems with scoring goals, how can you differentiate the artist from a piece of wood? Does a good attacker who doesn’t score goals exist?
Robert Demjan In the last edition of #Ekstraklasa Magazine, I described Demjan’s movement as one of the things worth seeing in the Ekstraklasa. His off-the-ball abilities and work rate during the game are exceptional, not only for Polish League. However, it was totally unnoticed, as he hadn’t scored too many goals so far. But this round of Ekstraklasa was his breakthrough. This time, not only thanks to his abilities further from the goal, Podbeskidzie were able to avoid relegation this season. It’s possible that he’ll spend next season in a bigger and better club. However, (nearly) no-one would have said this a few months ago, when despite some impressive displays he wasn’t a frequent guest on scoresheet.
Goals are Overrated! By Andrzej Gomołysek With more and more goals coming from midfield, is the Ekstraklasa the perfect place for strikers who don’t score? the championship much longer. What he lacks in technique and creativity can’t be compensated only by physical abilities and high work rate.
Cristian Omar Diaz After a bright start at Śląsk, he quickly became one of many unexceptional Ekstraklasa players. He seemed to be a real goal-poacher, able to score at least 15 goals per season. He played well off-the-ball, and having good finishing he could be fed by crucial passes provided by the creative Śląsk midfield. However, he was forced to play much deeper in Orest Lenczyk’s tactics, so he was always unable to show his best. He was often in the shadows during duels in the middle, and had a low amount of goalscoring chances. In recent months he also lost his pace completely, being unable to escape the challenges of defenders. It seemed unimaginable to lose competition for a place in team with Gikiewicz, but he managed to do it. We already know that he won’t play in Wrocław next season, but it won’t be a loss for Śląsk.
Let’s say he’s a player with a similar style to Demjan. He’s able to receive long balls far from the goal, maybe even find himself in the area or focus opponents’ attention and give teammates space to create actions. It’s all true, except the level of quality. With his vision and technique, Demjan was able to secure points for a mediocre team. With a far better squad, having Gikiewicz upfront, Śląsk had huge problems with scoring goals. Nearly all of his goals came from shots from distance lower than 5 meters, however even in such situations he completed some spectacular misses. His wooden technique caused him a number of problems even with easiest ball, so the chance to create anything of his own is tiny. However, always after (another poor) game when he scores, he’s first to underline, how good he was, as his shot found it’s way into the net. In fact, with so Michał Wróbel, Olimpia Grudziądz’s many possibilities in the middle, with a goalkeeper , scored more goals in this I better finisher, Śląsk could compete for Liga season than Wisła’s striker netted in
the Ekstraklasa. On the other hand, Sikorski didn’t conceded any. With some time spent in Bayern and in Austria, he seemed to be a valuable addition to Ekstraklasa. However, most of his games showed a lack of even elemental quality. Mediocre pace, poor technique, no vision at all (has anyone seen him with ball with head up to see partners’ positioning?) makes him the object of parody songs sang even by his own club’s supporters. He slightly improved during the season, but it was still to a level far behind Ekstraklasa standards (and believe me, they aren’t high). Too many crazy actions without a chance of succession were made, as well as too many off-the-ball runs into positions where a ball was impossible to play. He has to have good agent though, as despite of all of that, he’ll spend next year in Austria again.
attention, he made it possible for players like Kosecki or Radović to make inside runs and score important goals. In many situations only his movement was enough to cause havoc in opponents’ defensive line, which led to defenders not only losing him, but also other players.
Bartosz Ślusarski Another player with “wooden” description in the media. Always considered as the one who creates chances for himself easily and equally wastes them with ease. Surprisingly in last round he started to score, becoming the best Polish goalscorer in the league. As with other cases here, his abilities or even form haven’t improved in recent months. Better conversion ratio of his actions gave him however better press reviews. On the other hand – he’s a striker, By his goals, he will be known.
Daniel Ljuboja Considered by many as the best Ekstraklasa player in recent years. Even if it isn’t true, it is not far from it. He never won games for Legia thanks to good 90-minute displays. He made it only thanks to good single passes or movements. His bright past was clearly visible in his play, so even playing worse than his French standards, he was still an exceptional player who deserved his place in the squad. Ironically, playing often in the strikers’ role (the main reason why Maciej Skorża is now the former Legia manager), he wasn’t scoring too many goals. However, often his passes or off-the ball runs created opportunities for other players. In this season, he co-operated extremely well with Marek Saganowski in the opening games of the season. Focusing opponents’
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Marc. “The fixture we were going to was against rivals Wisła, and I wasn't prepared at all...
“In March 2012, four of us were there for the meeting against Śląsk, this time wearing our kilts and wearing Lech shirts. The regulars were having a chuckle at this”. Bringing their own style to one small section of Poznań, Marc remembers that some of the locals weren't quite prepared. “One of the stand-out memories was one of our gang, Davie, went through the turnstile with his kilt on. The look on the female steward's face that had to body search him was hilarious - he was eventually told just to head into the stadium!”
“Walking to the stadium the atmosphere was electric, and we could hear the firecrackers going off in the brand spanking new stadium. I looked at Matt and said “Watching my mates' faces once the boiler “what's going on broke into full voice was priceless - they didn't know what they had just walked into. here?!. Firecrackers going off everywhere, a sea “Once inside, the of jumping fans. Lech won 2-0, and our Ultras in the boiler next trip was practically planned before (Lech's Ultras we had even returned to Stary Rynek”. section) started up the drums, and the With Marc's trips slowly gathering a choreo began, following amongst his friends, it was then which was out of that the group decided to set up the this world. I had Supporters Club, hoping to attract more never ever seen fans. anything like that in a ground before, “Following this trip, a Facebook page was and I have been to set up, titled 'Kolejorz Fans Scotland'. It lots of big games in surprised me that people had seen our Scotland. That was flag at the game and quickly started to join me hooked. The the page. New friendships were being “So much in the media gets brought up noise from 24,000 fans got the hairs on formed”. And for Marc, the obsession was about the bad things that happen in the back of my neck standing. Lech taking a hold. “Lech was becoming a bit football, but nobody hears about the good romped home for a 4-1 win, and I was of a drug now, I was checking my holidays at work to see when I could fit in my next stuff” says Marc Boal, president of the already planning my next trip.” game. I couldn't get enough of Lech Scottish branch of Lech Poznań fans. “brand new friendships, meeting other His next trip didn't take long to come to Poznań now”. brilliant fans in Poznań – all through fruition either. The very next season, Marc was back in Wielkopolska, cheering on Whilst Marc openly admits that the football.” standard of football may not always match his new found love. that of leagues around the continent, Since establishing the fan group in 2012, Marc has been a regular (well, “I came over again for a game in 2011 there are other factors which also make considering he's not from Poland) at against Jagiellonia. Lech won again, this Poznań his nowfavourite 'holiday' Lech's Stadion Miejski. But how did the time 2-0, and the atmosphere was bedlam destination. unlikely allegiance actually come about? once more. The standard of football “I didn't really know much about Polish wasn't the greatest football. I saw Rangers play Górnik in the world, but by Zabrze and GKS Katowice at Ibrox in the then I was telling my late 80's” exclaims Boal. “Other than that mates in Scotland I had heard of Lech Poznań, Legia about these games”. Warszawa, Wisła Kraków and Widzew Łódź as they always seemed to be in Back in his native Scotland, word Europe most seasons. amongst his friends spread. “My friend Matthew Pye had met his quickly Girlfriend Ania in Scotland when she was Before he knew it, working there and they decided to move another trip was to Poznań. He was always telling me how planned. And this crazy these games were in Poznań, and time Marc wasn't he invited me over for a weekend in alone. November 2010 to try some of the local beer and to catch a Lech game” says
with Marc Boal
How do you know when you’ve made it as a “big club”? Well, when you have a fan club in Scotland
“The worst part of the trips is the travelling” Boal proclaims with certainty. “I live in the Orkney Islands (at the most northern tip of Scotland), and it takes an eight-hour boat journey just to reach Aberdeen. From there it's a three-hour coach trip to Edinburgh, and then a threehour flight to Poznań. It's It was also around this time when another very tiring, but worth every second once new friendship was established, this time you get inside the Stadion Miejski. I have now travelled over 14,000 miles just with another 'branch' of Lech fans. coming to see this great club”. “A now good friend of mine, Robert Dziemidzik got in touch around this time “After our spring win against Lechia Gdańsk, also. Robert runs the Lech Poznań London we met up once more with Robert. And now Supporters club, and our group and the even more guys from our club are making guys from London now regularly go to the trip to Wielkopolska for the games. On games together.” this trip we even took a tour around the Stadion Miejski. The calmness is such a But making the journey to watch his strange feeling, especially after seeing it beloved Lech hasn't always proved as easy so lively on a matchday”. as booking a low-cost direct flight. Marc showed the extreme lengths he would go With so many trips to Poland, it is a wonder to when Lech's biggest rivals Legia came how it affects Marc's family life. But as he explains, he manages to fit it in very well. to visit the Stadion Miejski. “I managed to get to the Lech v Górnik game in September for a drab goalless draw. But even that doesn't matter when you have some of the best fans in the world to watch when there is not much happening on the pitch”.
“Flights from Scotland to Poznań had “For the Legia game I brought along my stopped, and I was panicking” remembers fianceé Karen, and even she was blown Marc. “I didn't want to miss this game... I away with the fans and the flags. It may be was checking every possible way to make a very costly hobby, but I will continue the journey to Poznań from the UK, and making the journey. Although maybe not eventually managed it – with three flights as much now that my fianceé is due our to get to Poznań and 2 to get back home first baby in October. The baby already has to Scotland. We travelled back home with its own Kolejorz romper suit, and I look the London Kolejorz via Stansted, with the forward to eventually taking my kid to friendships going strong. We even had Poznań”. Kolejorz Scotland polo shirts made, with the boys from London also taking one each”. Clearly already recruiting members for its 'junior' section, the Kolejorz Scotland fan
club appears to be going from strength to strength. And with Boal's enthusiasm, there will be plenty more visits ahead for him, his friends, and also his new family.
31.08.12: Wisła Kraków 13 Polonia Warszawa Saved from administration earlier that year and somehow glued into a proper football team by Piotr Stokowiec. Beating poor Wisła was one thing, but the style of Polonia's victory of it absolutely caught an eye of the country.
Defining a Season By Michał Zachodny A short look back at the Fifteen games which defined the 2012/13 Ekstraklasa season.
21.10.12: Lechia Gdańsk 13 Sląsk Wrocław Special game for visitors' captain, Sebastian Mila, who kicked off his career at Lechia, but this time, with the Polish champions two-nil down at half time, he scored twice to mark a remarkable comeback at tough time for Sląsk. Legia.com
18.11.12: Lech Poznań 13 Legia Warszawa Coming back to the changing room at half time, they didn't know what have hit them. Legia was cruising at three-nil at their biggest enemies' home and laughing in their faces. Great game from Kosecki and Radović.
28.10.12: Legia Warszawa 3-2 Piast Gliwice Early sign that Marcin Brosz's team will be no pushovers in the league and they raced Legia up to the end of the game. A lot of effort was made by hosting side but eventually Danijel Ljuboja's class was too much for them to handle.
30.11.12: Lech Poznań 03 Sląsk Wrocław Another sign that something was clearly not working for Lech at their home as visitors have turned the corner of some bad form. Mariusz Rumak was devastated at the way Cwielong and Sobota destroyed his defence. Legia.com
07.12.12: Sląsk Wrocław 10 Legia Warszawa If you can't beat them... buy them? Stanislav Levy's arguably biggest win in Wrocław, a hope that they still might be in the title race despite a slow start. But when the scorer of the only goal in the game, Tomasz Jodłowiec, joined Legia in winter break, it was all over.
20.04.13: Podbeskidzie 11 GKS Bełchatów "We haven't really arrived on time," said Podbeskidzie's manager, Czesław Michniewicz. "If so, then we haven't left the changing room at halftime" replied to him GKS winger, Łukasz Madej. In a relegation six-pointer, both teams could earn only a point each.
23.02.13: Korona Kielce 3-2 Legia Warszawa Ended previous round with a defeat and kicked off new year in same manner - surely that wasn't the championship form? After their spending spree, much was expected from Legia, but they were stopped by ambitious and fighting Korona.
30.03.13: Polonia Warszawa 1-2 Legia Warszawa Probably the last capital derby for some time, depending on where Polonia lands after relegation. Young Dominik Furman's goal at the end of the match proved decisive but there were still doubts over Legia's quality.
29.04.13: Jagiellonia Białystok 01 Lech Poznań Mariusz Rumak was furious at the fixtures, claiming Legia had always advantage over his Lech playing the day before, but his team performed well even under pressure. Gergo Lovrencsics provided a vital winner to keep the distance close at the top of the table.
25.05.13: Lech Poznań 02 Podbeskidzie Huge win for the away side as Fabian Pawela's brace meant they can still dream of their league status. Lech, on the other hand, by losing this game crowned Legia without them getting up from the couch. Shocking performance.
12.05.13: Piast Gliwice 32 Sląsk Wrocław As the title was down only to Legia and Lech, Sląsk and Piast faced a tie that could decide the third place in the league. Second half was mental Sląsk took advantage but soon was chasing the score and when Piast was reduced to ten men and levelled the score, visitors allowed them to score the winner in the dying seconds.
30.05.13: GKS Bełchatów 11 Jagiellonia Białystok How important goals can be? Jagiellonia made almost six games without having scored even one and when they did, it sent GKS down. Emilijus Zubas was named league's best keeper but also his mistake in the added time gave GKS only the draw when they needed all three of them. GKSBelchatow.com
18.05.13: Legia Warszawa 10 Lech Poznań In a game of only few chances Lech was looking to stop Legia but not necessairly by winning. Home side was the better one, but they needed eighty-six minutes to break their opponents. Kosecki went on a run, was hacked in the box, Vrdoljak converted it to handle the trophy to his Legia. Legia.com
02.06.13: Widzew Łódź 12 Podbeskidzie Podbeskidzie knew they must win to stay up and quick goal from Chmiel made them more comfortable. Demjan scored his 14th of the season in the second half but as Rybicki replied for Widzew, the ending was devastatingly nervous for the visitors. They have survived.
The Cursed Promise of Success By Dawid Kosmalski At the halfway point, they looked like title contenders, but by April Europe looked a distant dream. There are problems on the pitch as well as off it at Górnik Zabrze… When Prejuce Nakoulma kicked the ground instead of the ball and missed penalty in the dying minutes against Lech Poznań, no-one knew that it was only a beginning of a series of tragic and embarrassing events. Well, that could have happened to anyone, right? Even if he is currently the best and the most valuable player in the team, it's still possible. But there is no reason to not believe in Górnik Zabrze, right? Answers to all these questions came quickly and painfully. Yes, Górnik were relegated four years ago, but 2013 was in many aspects far worse than in the Pierwsza Liga. It seems crazy, I know, in #Ekstraklasa Magazine Issue One I myself wrote about my expectations - mid-table safety was all I wanted. If anybody would have offered me before the start of the season sixth place and a two-million euro net transfer profit, I'd have taken it without hesitation. But after being in third place after 15 games, it is a massive disappointment. At the end of 2012, despite growing optimism, everybody in Zabrze had in mind that Górnik couldn’t compete with Legia or Lech in organisational and financial terms. So Arkadiusz Milik, seven goals in 14 appearances, was rightly sold in
December to Bayer Leverkusen. A great deal for the club, an 18 year old striker and a big Adam Nawałka success the man who put faith in Milik and gave him time to settle in senior football. Not only Milik reached his peak at this time, but the whole team too. Nobody was surprised when National Team coach Waldemar Fornalik called Milik, Łukasz Skorupski and Adam Danch up for friendly against South Africa and the World Cup 2014 qualification game against England. Górnik’s defense ended 2012 as the best in the league with just eleven goals conceded. KSG played some thrilling games, including trashing the now former champions Śląsk Wrocław 4-1, and a 2-2 draw against Legia Warszawa, where Górnik showed spirit that has not been seen at Roosevelta in years. To sum up what Górnik was all about at that time – good crossing, intelligent movement without the ball, clever and patient passing - watch the second goal from Górnik’s game with Korona Kielce. Bang! A great finish by Nakoulma, another victory too. So why not challenge for the top of the league? In fact, it was their first chance in almost 20 years to fight for their 15th title. And they squandered it in a very bad manner. Don't get me wrong, there were moments of brilliant and entertaining football, but in some ways they are regrets - what happened in 2013 is a sad example of why Górnik isn't ready to be a challenging force in Poland. Firstly, acquisitions in the winter transfer window where just plain bad. When Grzegorz Bonin and Tomasz Zahorski (both ex-Górnik players) were heading down to Zabrze, we knew that Nawałka's “miraclemaker” reputation (reviving the careers of Bartosz Iwan and Seweryn Gancarczyk are good examples) would be challenged. Bonin’s awful crossing skills and poor finishing (despite two goals) could not help Górnik, and Zahorski… Well, I still don't understand why he was ever considered to be a good target man. For that reason he limited Górnik’s style of play to many unsuccessful long balls. Only Ireneusz Jeleń put in some effort to justify his signing. Sergei Mošnikov was barely involved, Mateusz Słodowy and Marciń Kuś played only in the Młoda Ekstraklasa team.
Secondly, injures hunted Górnik down. In 2012, the quartet of Nakoulma, Kwiek, Olkowski and Milik were excellent, not only in attack, but also in defensive duties, mainly pressing the opposition with great effect.
suitable, they should give youth more playing time. With the current boss on board, Górnik's still a fine and attractive place to develop before going abroad. The likes of Wojciech Król, Daniel Barbus or Konrad Nowak are in the perfect place to get more chances to impress scouts from various clubs. The key to a good next season lies in Nawałka's hands, especially in the late summer-autumn period. In 2014, with three new stands finished, motivation at Stadion im. Ernesta Pohla could also come from 22 thousand supporters. In fact, I can't wait to see that, to feel a much better atmosphere. For now, a different approach from everybody at the club is much needed. But we are Górnik Zabrze and we can do far better than this Fot. PZPN abysmal year so far. In 2013, Prejuce Nakoulma wasn't ready because of injury and Africa Nations Cup duty, Milik was sold and experienced right back Michael Bemben, was injured moving Olkowski down from the right wing. Ultimately, the formation which served so well in Autumn did not work properly. The left side of defence was also damaged. Mariusz Magiera unfortunately picked up another long injury, while Seweryn Gancarczyk missed a few games through suspension, leaving centre-back Oleksandr Shevelyukhin to step in. Ironically, he quickly became one of the slowest left backs that Polish football has ever seen. The whole team and its game organisation became messy, which caused many defensive errors (20 goals conceded in spring), and just twelve goals scored, compared to 23 in Autumn. Incredibly, Milik still remained Górnik's top scorer as the season finished. Thirdly, there was a concerning rumour floating around, that the club didn't want to participate in the early Europa League qualification rounds for financial reasons. You couldn't make that up – it's clearly Polish football folklore. After a three-nil loss to Legia Warszawa the title hopes were gone, but Górnik still had chance to end at least in fourth place - and they did almost nothing to claim it. Suddenly the promise of success made the supporters very serious about every game, however the team failed to turn up, causing massive anger. The atmosphere between fans and players became very tense after the 1-0 defeat to Podbeskidzie. There was no usual 'high fives' and 'thanks for the effort' chants. Only insults with corruption allegations.
Suspiciously, Górnik lost all games against relegation-threatened sides, Podbeskidzie, GKS Bełchatów and Pogoń Szczecin. For some fans it was enough. They gave up. If the players don't want to win, The fans are not going to support them. Even wins against Piast, and their greatest rivals Ruch Chorzów didn't improve the fans attitudes as they normally would. The only answers that Górnik’s players could muster were “They [rivals] wanted it more”, “We need to learn from that”, and “We have to win our next game”. From March many prayed for the season to end immediately. It is understandable why Górnik lacked quality in the second half of the season, but absolutely no desire on the pitch is unacceptable. Watching Piast Gliwice, Górnik’s supposed “little Upper Silesian brother” gaining a Europa League spot only makes the whole situation more painful. Now the season is over the club needs to double their efforts to prevent the disintegration of the team. To do this, Górnik have to stick with Nawałka, no matter the cost. Despite a poor 2013, Nawałka is still the best manager around, capable to rally his troops even after major losses in squad. He did it after Jeż and Sikorski (his reputation may be low now, but at Roosevelta he had very good spell) were sold and I'm sure he will do it again after the loss of Aleksander Kwiek, and the possible departures of Nakoulma, Mączyński, Skorupski and Olkowski. But, do not give him total control in transfer market. His record in that matter is, well, questionable to say at least. With a transfer ban and contract limitations, Nawałka and his staff need to be very careful and try to sign players only with potential and the desire to be better. If no free agent will be
One received a guard of honour as he left the pitch in Białystok, the other received one as he entered it in Warsaw. For their contributions to Polish football, it was the least they deserved. It has been two contrasting seasons for Jagiellonia striker Tomasz Frankowski and Legia defender Michał Żewłakow. The former saw his side limp into a mid-table finish whilst the latter picked up a first Ekstraklasa title and Polish Cup to put alongside the eight championship and cup medals won in Greece and Belgium. But despite their various ups and downs this term, they should rightly sit alongside those such as Boniek, Deyna and Lato, as players who have given their all for Polish football. Living legends in their own right. Their final day congratulations rightly mark...
The end of two era By Ryan Hubbard
With Jagiellonia suffering massive financial problems, relegation was inevitable. Just nine points - two wins and five draws - from their 34 games saw them rooted to the bottom of the table. But despite the his first strike being his only goal of the season, Frankowski was attracting interest from abroad. French club RC Strasbourg had took notice of the nineteen year-old, and in return for some training equipment and the cost of a pre-season training camp, Franek was soon packing his bags for eastern France.
Tomasz Frankowski Born just one month after Kazimierz Deyna, Andrzej Szarmach and Grzegorz Lato helped fire Poland to a World Cup bronze medal, Tomasz Frankowski was always destined to be a footballer. After his primary school team won a junior tournament, he was snapped up by his local team Jagiellonia at the age of just ten. One of the most promising youngsters at the club, "Franek" eventually signed a contract with the club after his sixteenth birthday. It was here that, alongside future Polish representatives Mariusz Piekarski and Marek Citko, he helped Jaga's youth team to the 1992 Polish Championship.
Whilst he struggled on his arrival, Frankowski began to impress in Strasbourg's reserve side, netting 22 times. However his spell at the club was injuryplagued, and he only managed to net twice in 21 appearances for the first team. By the time 1996 came around, Tomasz had With his talent easily recognisable, it wasn't attracted the attention of another long after that Tomasz made his first team Frenchman - boss of Japanese club debut. With Jagiellonia making a return to Nagoya Grampus Eight, Arsene Wenger. the top flight after a two-year absence, new coach Witold Mroziewski included Despite Wenger's ability to spot talent, Franek in his team to face Ruch Chorzów. Franek's time in Japan was short lived. Though he was unable to help his side The striker played just seven times before avoid a 3-0 defeat, he finally did net his he returned to France with third-tier first goal in the Jagiellonia yellow-and-red Poitiers, where he finally found his goalin early October - a penalty in a 3-2 loss scoring boots. After 22 goals in 32 games, a move to Martigues for a season turned to Szombierki Bytom. out slightly less successful. In the summer
of 1998 Frankowski found his way back to Poland, with Franciszek Smuda securing his signature for Wisła Kraków. Poland's second city proved to be the making of now-24 year-old Franek. In his first term at Reymonta 22, Tomasz's 21 goals helped Wisła to their first league title in 21 years, as well as making him the league's top scorer. His impressive showings in the Wisła red and white also earned a debut call-up to Janusz Wojcik's Polish national squad for a game against Czech Republic. Whilst both Frankowski and Wisła failed to match their previous season's achievements in the 1999/2000 season, the disappointment was merely temporary. In 2001 both the championship and the golden boot were regained, whilst a League Cup victory against Zagłębie Lubin was added to the haul. But despite his performances for the Kraków club, he was repeatedly left out of the national team with coaches continually citing that he "didn't fit the teams system". Before he moved on from Kraków, Franek added a further three league titles, two Polish Cups, and one more golden boot. In the autumn of 2005, the striker headed once more abroad - this time to Spanish Segunda División club Elche CF.
As well as a successful three-month spell on the Iberian peninsula, Frankowski had found his way back into the international setup - and was proving to be an important part of it too. With seven qualifying goals including strikes against both England and Wales, he helped Poland to qualify for the 2006 World Cup. Tomasz's goal at Old Trafford also attracted Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Glenn Hoddle, who snapped him up in the January transfer window for £1.4million, however his time at Molineux was to be the most disappointing of his career. Unable to hit the back of the net for the remainder of the season, national coach Paweł Janas even took the drastic decision to not include Frankowski in the squad for the the 2006 World Cup. Nicknamed "the Pole without a goal" in the West Midlands, Frankowski agreed to a loan spell on the Spanish island of Tenerife at the start of the 2006/07 season. But whilst he did finally hit the net in Spain, his time there was far from successful. After just three goals in 19 showings, Tenerife decided not to buy Tomek, and he was soon on his way back to England. With Wolves now under the management of Mick McCarthy, Franek soon found himself on the transfer list. But before he could find a new club, a knee injury ruled him out of action. A mutual termination of Frankowski's contract was inevitable, and when he did finally resurface in 2008, it was on the other side of the Atlantic.
league finish was largely due to a ten-point deduction handed down after corruption charges. Starting the 2010/11 season with a Europa League qualifying defeat to Aris Thessaloniki, a 1-0 victory over Lech Poznań in the Supercup followed; and without a points deduction, Jaga attempted to improve on their league position. With fourteen goals in his 29 games, a fourth Golden Boot was earned as the club again found their way into Europe by virtue of a fourthplaced finish. Whilst their Euro adventure again failed at the first hurdle, fifteen goals not only game Franek his best season in seven years, it also moved him above Włodzimierz Lubański and Teodor Peterek, making him the fourth all-time top scorer in the Polish league. After joining his former boss Franciszek Smuda's Euro 2012 squad as an attacking coach, signs were beginning to show that Frankowski's playing career was coming to an end. Starting the season on 162 goals, one last push saw him net on six occasions. The last – a fourth minute penalty against Pogoń took him above Ruch Chorzów legend Gerard Cieślik, into third position, ensuring his place in Polish football history.
The striker finally confirmed his retirement With contract negotiations dragging on, the on May 29th, saying his goodbyes to the striker swung things in his favour with a Jagiellonia faithful in a 1-0 win against friendly brace against Columbus Crew. A nd further two goals on his home debut, Ruch Chorzów on June 2 . against New England Revolution, quickly made him a crowd favourite, but a fall-out with coach Denis Hamlett kept him out of the starting eleven. By the time November rolled around Franek's contract was up, and just before Christmas, he put pen to paper on a two-year contract back at his hometown club Jagiellonia – turning down offers from Górnik Zabrze and Polonia Warszawa among others. Sitting on 116 Polish league goals, the 34 year-old quickly set about ascending the list of the league's all-time top scorers, and with six goals in Spring, he was already crept into the top ten. 2009/10 finally saw Frankowski return to the form he was regarded for at Wisła. Eleven goals saw him surpass Friedrich Scherfke into ninth place, whilst Jagiellonia picked up their first ever major trophy – the Polish Cup – beating Pogoń Szczecin 10 in Bydgoszcz, although an 11th placed
Fot.PZPN occasions, he managed to hit the back of the net twice the following season – a pair of penalties against Petrochemia Płock and Zagłębie Lubin tying him in the scoring charts with his sibling. Establishing himself as one of the country's top talents, Żewłakow's sterling displays in defence helped Polonia to their highest league finish since their 1946 Championship victory. Although they were unable to prevent highspending ŁKS Łódź from lifting the championship, they managed an excellent 2nd-placed finish – qualifying for the UEFA Cup in the process.
swooping in for the pair; and in the summer of 1999 they switched Flanders for Hainaut. Michał's performances even caught the attention of Janusz Wójcik, who called him into the national team for a friendly tournament in Thailand. Having become an important part of the national team since his first appearance against New Zealand, the two brothers were included in Jerzy Engel's squad for the World Cup in Japan and South Korea. Michał went on to pick up his 26th and 27th caps for
When a fifteen yearold Michał Żewłakow started his youth career in his home-city of Warsaw, no-one would have imagined the role he would play in Polish football. Alongside his striker twin brother Marcin, a season in the youth team at Drukarz Warszawa was followed by a term at Poland, starting in the defeats against both another local side Marymont – before both South Korea and Portugal. got their big break in 1993, at newly- Though Polonia's first foray into a major European competition – a First Qualifying Whilst Marcin went on to spend a total of promoted Polonia Warszawa. Round clash against Estonian side Sadam seven years at Mouscron, Michał moved With his first two seasons (one in the Tallinn – was successful, it didn't last long. on after just three. Both impressed the fans top-flight, and another in the second) An aggregate defeat to Dynamo Moscow of the club massively, but it was Michał failing to make a real impact, Michał was in the next round put them out of Europe who earned the big move away. After 94 sent to yet another Warsaw club, this time before the domestic season had even league appearances (out of a possible Hutnik, for the 1995/96 season. Gaining begun. But even so, the Żewłakow 102), Michał signed a deal at the country's some valuable first-team experience, he brothers had made quite an impression on most famous club Anderlecht. And returned to Konwiktorska 6as Polonia a number of clubs, and before Autumn had following his last appearance – a Cup Final celebrated a promotion back to the even begun, both Michał and Marcin were defeat to Club Brugge – Michał separated on their way to Belgian club KSK Beveren from his brother, with the transfer earning country's elite. – themselves managed by a Pole, his former club close to €1million. Now commanding a starting position, the Stanisław Gzil. Finding themselves in a centre-back played in all-but-one of Belgian relegation battle, Marcin and In his first season in Brussels, Michał Polonia's league games, helping them to Michał performed impressively. Eventually found himself playing a huge role in the finish the 1996/97 season in eighth managing to avoid the drop, another “Paars-wit” defence. With 25 league position. And despite playing on four fewer Belgian team, Excelsior Mouscron, came appearances and run-outs in the UEFA
Cup against sides including Stabaek, Midtjylland, Bordeaux and Panathiaikos, Żewłakow once again was prevented from picking up his first league championship medal – this time Club Brugge finishing as Champions, leaving Anderlecht to settle for second place. However, second place was enough for the club to qualify for the Champions League preliminary rounds, and wins against Rapid Bucuresti and Wisła Kraków gave Żewłakow his first taste of Europe's biggest club competition. Whilst eventually finishing bottom of a group containing Olympique Lyon, Bayern Munich and Celtic, the Purple-and-whites were storming in their domestic competition. Whilst their huge lead over Brugge slowly shrunk, Anderlecht still managed to pick up their 27th league championship – Zewlakow's first major trophy. Another failed Champions League campaign followed in 2004/05; once again finishing bottom, in a group containing Valencia, Internazionale and Werder Bremen. And with a resurgent Club Brugge fighting their way back in the league, Żewłakow once more missed out on a winners medal – Anderlecht finishing 3 points back in second. 2005/06 proved to be Michał's final season in Belgium. Making 31 appearances, he did help Anderlecht to steal back their crown from Club Brugge, but drawn in a Champions League group with Chelsea and Liverpool, they were once again unable to progress further. Now out of contract, a number of clubs showed their interest in Żewłakow, although he decided to wait until after the summer's World Cup in Germany. And after missing just seven
minutes of Poland's ultimately unsuccessful tournament (losses to Ecuador and Germany eliminated Poland before they defeated Costa Rica 2-1), Żewłakow signed a contract with Greek champions Olympiakos Piraeus – making his début in a 2-1 victory against Skoda Xanthi. Whilst Norwegian boss Trond Solleid (who had previously managed Club Brugge, and had known Michał from his time in Belgium) left the club days after Christmas, Żewłakow prospered in Piraeus. In four seasons in Greece, he helped the Erythrolefki to not only three league titles, but also 2 Greek Cups and one Supercup. In the 2008 Greek Cup Final, Michał scored Olympiakos' second goal as they defeated Aris Thessaloniki 2-0. He was also finally able to progress past the group stage of the Champions League, doing so on two occasions. In 2007/08, the Greek champions finished second behind Real Madrid before being knocked out in the last sixteen to eventual finalists Chelsea, whilst in 2009-10 they progressed in a group featuring Arsenal, Standard Liege and AZ Alkmaar, before again bowing out in the next round, losing 3-1 on aggregate to Bordeaux.
former home stadium in Piraeus, provided the perfect opportunity to say his goodbyes. Substitutes after 62 minutes of the goalless draw, the centre-back received a standing ovation as he left the pitch. Whilst his international career was over, one trophy still evaded Żewłakow – the Polish league title. Having only managed a silver medal at Polonia Warszawa in 1998, he returned to his hometown in the summer of 2011 after a 13-year exile, signing a one-year deal at Legia. But whilst Legia managed their second successive Polish Cup win, a Spring round collapse saw them miss out on the Ekstraklasa title, eventually finishing third behind Śląsk Wrocław and Ruch Chorzów. With the disappointment of missing out once more, a further one-year deal was signed – one last chance for the elusive league title.
Whilst appearances under Jan Urban proved to be harder to come by, Żewłak still played a part for the Woskowi. An own-goal in the final wasn't enough to stop Legia lifting the trophy in front of the Żyleta, whilst sixteen appearances were made in the league. And when Podbeskidzie BielskoBiała defeated Legia's closest rivals Lech in Poznań, Żewłakow finally achieved the holy grail – the missing During his time on the Aegean coast, he Ekstraklasa gold medal to add to his also helped his country to qualify for the extensive collection. 2008 European Championships – Poland's first appearance at the tournament. But it Rather than the usual guard of honour as would prove to be his last major the player leaves the pitch, Żewłakow's international tournament. The BiałeOrły final appearance in the 5-0 victory against were eliminated in the group stage, whilst Śląsk came from off of the bench. Still their 2010 World Cup Qualifying campaign receiving the traditional ovation, he resulted in a disappointing fifth-place finish entered the pitch replacing Dickson Choto – with only San Marino keeping them off of – taking the captain's armband on the way. the bottom. But whilst they may not have been winning, Żewłakow's influence For a man so ingrained on Polish football was growing even more. At the end of history, it is only fitting that his final the qualifying round, he sat level with moments as, not just a Legia player, but a Władysław Żmuda on 91 caps. Still with football player, were lifting the league a few years of his career remaining, the championship in his hometown. Not many 34 year-old clearly had Grzegorz Lato's get the chance to say goodbye in such a record 100 international appearances style. There are not many who deserve it as much as Michał Żewłakow did. well in his sights. Whilst a move to Turkish club Ankaragücü in the summer of 2010 didn't live up his to experiences at previous clubs, Michał continued to pick up international caps at a fast rate. Jacek Bąk and Jacek's Krżynowek's 96 caps were passed in a friendly against Cameroon, whilst Kazimierz Deyna's 97 was beaten in Łódź against Ukraine. And when Franciszek Smuda called the defender into his squad for a North American tour in December 2010, passing Lato's record was a formality.
Whilst Żewłakow's 101st cap in the 22 draw against Ecuador looked to be his Fot. PZPN last, a friendly against Greece, in his
With five minutes remaining of the crucial league meeting between Legia Warszawa and Lech Poznań, the home side earn a penalty. Ivica Vrdoljak steps up to effectively win Legia the title… "This team has no leaders," said Jan Urban in one of countless interviews he had this spring. Rising popularity of Legia among Polish media was obviously hurting the quality of his opinion with certain tones repeating itself, but surely that one had to stand out. Surely, in a squad of such experience and quality, there should be one person able to lead the line? Michał Żewłakow played over hundred of matches for Poland, been at the top of European game. Danijel Ljuboja is one of the most famous player that ever graced domestic league, even if most of it comes from controversies he caused. Miroslav Radović's performances over last two years have made him also an important figure. Marek Saganowski is another obvious choice, given his experience and status among Legia fans. Dickson Choto and Inaki Astiz, despite suffering from injuries throughout the campaign, have offered a stability at the back and advice to many younger team+mates. And then there is another one, Ivica Vrdoljak. Triple champion in Croatia with Dinamo Zagreb, adding two domestic cups as well, he still is the biggest transfer any Polish club has ever made. But when Legia Warsaw announced the deal back in the summer of 2010, with big pomp and proud of his pricetag of around €1.5m, many scratched their heads. Why pay so much for a defensive midfielder instead of goalscoring striker, especially at the age of 27, without any international experience? Given the armband straight away by manager Maciej Skorża even though he could barely speak Polish, Vrdoljak rarely produced anything that would make Polish press justify his price and transfer. Legia dropped even as low as to eleventh place in his early months, forcing him even to face questions of whether he regrets the move. "This
Legia’s True Leader By Michał Zachodny
situation is new to me but I'm strong enough to handle it," he said. There was a problem not only with results but his adaptation to the league. After he received seven yellow cards in his first eleven games in Poland, he had to face accusations of being brutal tackler. Arguably, that is part of Vrdoljak's nature of which Legia was aware at the time of pushing the deal through. Croatian midfielder who was transferred to Dinamo Zagreb alongside his team+mate, Mario Mandzukic, was always known for his toughness on the pitch. "I deserved each card," Vrdoljak said. First season in Poland ended with a trophy - the Polish Cup - but failure in the league put even more pressure on Legia manager, Maciej Skorża. He was on his way out of the club but only because famous Czech coach, Vladimir Weiss, pull out of the deal at the last moment, Skorża remained in his seat. Although scoring eight in just thirty-two games that season, Vrdoljak's most important record to the fans and media was the disciplinary one - fourteen yellow cards and a single red one. His aggression on the pitch was somewhat explainable by the way he wanted to prove his worth, but Legia desperately lacked class and togetherness to get anywhere close Robert Maaskant's Wisła Krakow. An away 4-0 defeat to eventual champions was the lowest point of Vrdoljak's opening year in Legia.com
Legia.com Polish football. The second one was even harder to take for as ambitious player as Ivica Vrdoljak is. Legia could not reach the high level of performances in the league again, while playing really well in Europe and reaching the 1/16 stage of Europa League, where a minimal defeat to Sporting Lisbon stopped their march. Vrdoljak's season was hit with micro injuries and win in Polish Cup was again only a distraction to the decision to sack Maciej Skorża and welcome Jan Urban again. With even more money pumped in the squad, the pressure at Legia got only bigger and bigger as two successive third-place finishes were not enough. But in the 2012/13 season he played even less. Only seven appearances were put down to muscle injuries and only few noticed that he is missing - Legia was playing well, always close to the top and Jan Urban introduced youngsters who played well enough to gain international experience. Especially Daniel Łukasik, who proved as strong in the tackle, but perhaps showing more attacking intent with his passes. Certainly, with Vrdoljak back from the injury only for the winter break and his place in the starting line up was far from guaranteed.
With Lech Poznań putting pressure on Legia it eventually all came down to the match between these two sides at a packed Pepsi Arena in Warsaw. Hosts were far better team but failed to convert their advantage as visitors looked satisfied with the draw. In a game of few chances it was Ivica Vrdoljak - a changed man given his huge beard was gone after shave who sent a delightful through pass to incoming Jakub Kosecki who sneaked in front of Mateusz Możdżeń and was hacked down in the box. All of that happened in the 85th minute of the game - with Legia waiting long seven years for the title, the pressure could not be higher. A chance to go five points clear at the top with two games to go was at their hand. Just who should take the decisive penalty? Vladimir Dvalishhvili and Miroslav Radović were arguing but none of them looked certain about taking the responsibility. Ivica Vrdoljak, with an armband again, reconciled them taking the ball, putting it on the spot and taking few steps for a run. His penalty was not perfect, small hesitation in his run up to the ball could be noticed, but his shot was too powerful for Krzysztof Kotorowski to save. Legia were the champions again. It was the perfect moment for Ivica Vrdoljak. Not a spectacular player but
definitely vital in the final run to the title, good tackler (only four yellow cards in his last season) and better passer than he was when he joined the club. He needed that goal not only to justify his price tag, though. When Legia's spring started with only four points from opening three games, his contract extension was put on hold and Jan Urban claims on lacking leadership in the side were also pointed at him. Now not only the title itself but the way he played and behaved in that crucial, defining moment of the season proved that Legia have a leader in Vrdoljak. For the feeling of being champions again, no-one from Legia will care about the €1.5m spent on him in the summer of 2010 any more.
Poland’s Forgotten Stadium Once the pride and glory of Polish football, Chorzów's Stadion Slaski now sits abandoned in the centre of Poland's industrial heartland. Under renovation now for almost four years, work has slowly ground to a halt after serious construction malfunctions threatened to put lives at risk. Now with the local authorities deciding on the future of the stadium, deadlines are constantly being pushed further and further away. The once proud home of the national team now looks on as work on other new stadia in the country commences, and inevitably finishes. Waiting for its own turn to be in the spotlight, hoping to regain its status as the home of Polish football - a title which has transferred 300 With the region's coal mines creating a kilometres north to the capital, Warsaw. deathly haze across the stadium, the early evening sun providing an orange A role which may never return. glow, and the screams of over 80,000 Built out of the rubble of World War Two, supporters bursting eardrums, it is of no that English journalists the Śląski opened its doors to a "friendly" wonder nicknamed the stadium "The Witches against East Germany in 1956. Despite a 2-0 defeat, the stadium quickly found Cauldron" - right before Robert Godocha favour amongst both the fans and and Włodzimierz Lubański fired the Białe authorities. Despite its distance from the Orły to a famous 20 win. capital, the massive The stadium's tunnel famously population of Upper Silesia combined suppressed the noise from the crowd with the popularity of the sport in the until the last moment, with many visiting region resulted in the national team players commenting on the intimidating making it their "home" in all but its official atmosphere inside. During the 53 year history of the ground, Italy, USSR and title. Netherlands (twice) all came away from Chorzów with nothing but a ringing in their ears.
By Ryan Hubbard
After missing out on hosting games at Euro 2012, Chorzów’s Silesian Stadium has suffered more than its fair share of problems. With no end in sight to its construction, what lies ahead for the former home of Polish football? The Stadion Śląski was just as, and maybe even more intimidating, when club sides came to play. Over its history, Ruch Chorzów, GKS Katowice, Polonia Bytom, and even GKS Tychy used the stadium on their European adventures, to various successes. However the most successful club side to use the ground was Górnik Zabrze. During the sixties and early seventies Górnik were a dominating force in Polish football, lifting eight league titles and six Polish cups in a twelve year period. Qualifying for European competition, Górnik decided to play their continental ties in neighbouring Chorzów rather than their own smaller stadium in Zabrze. The decision proved to be a good one, with the Trójkolorowi only losing three of their seventeen European games there. With their continental tenure at the Stadion Śląski spanning over 20 years, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United, Manchester City, Dinamo Kyiv and Glasgow Rangers were all defeated. Only Sparta Prague, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich managed to beat Górnik in Poland, and during their 1963 meeting with Austria Vienna, the stadium's biggest ever crowd was recorded as 120,000 Silesians crammed in to see the home side record a 1-0 victory. The "Kocioł Czarownic" wasn't just used for continental clashes either. Over the years a numer of Wielkie Derby Śląska (Great Silesian Derbies) between Ruch and Górnik utilised the stadium instead of Ruch's tiny ground. It was also used for the Polish Cup final, with the 2009 edition being the last. There, soon-to-be Polish national boss Franciszek Smuda @Ryan_Hubbard and his Lech Poznań side defeated Ruch,
successor no-one was injured, the malfunction did cause both the construction workers and the guests of the stadium's hotel to be And with the stadium spending its final evacuated. years as a 47,000 all-seater, it's final game was in front of an even further Whilst the construction has suffered reduced crowd as just 4000 witnessed immensely, the accident actually turned Poland's 1-0 World Cup Qualifying loss to out to be a blessing in disguise. Numerous experts went on to claim that neighbours Slovakia. the roof's design was unsafe, with one even going on record to say that if work continued with the current design, thousands of lives could be lost should With Poland bidding to co-host the 2012 the roof collapse. European Championships, the local authorities decided that it would be the With work grinding to a halt, the Upper perfect time to renovate the stadium, Silesian authorities now had three options. which after years of mistreatment was Either the roof would have to be beginning to look worse for wear. Plans completely redesigned, scrapped, or all focused on adding an extra tier to three renovations would be suspended, barely sides of the ground - increasing the making the stadium operable once more. capacity to 55,000, whilst also giving the With the stadium already close to four stadium a polycarbonate roof (at times its original 102 million złoty 43,000m2, one of the biggest in the world) (£27million) budget, it is unsurprising that and modernising the exterior. And straight the voivodeship chose the most after the final game, the bulldozers moved inexpensive option. And almost two years after the original problem, it was decided in to begin the renovation. that the roof was to still be included. Given an estimated completion date of 2011, the Śląski was included on the shortlist for Euro 2012, although a laxidasical campaign from Silesian authorities quickly saw the region miss out on hosting even a single game. In hindsight, the call was a good one. With The construction of Warsaw's 55,000 delays mounting and deadlines constantly capacity Stadion Narodowy has left changing, it was quickly apparent that the serious doubts as to what the Śląski will Śląski would not have been ready for the be used for upom completion. With the PZPN declaring that the capital's new big kick-off anyway. arena will now become the home of the The biggest problem at the stadium national team, the uses for Chorzów's occurred in July 2011 during a part of the redeveloped stadium may be extremely project called "The Big Lift". As a section limited. Upon receiving the news the of the giant cover was due to be lifted into Silesian authorities even went as far as place, attachment mechanisms which changing the ground's planned colour hold the steel cables supporting the roof scheme, from the Polish red-and-white to snapped under extreme tension. Whilst managed by his Waldemar Fornalik.
the blue-and-yellow of the Silesian flag giving it a more"local feel". Although the stadium will likely gain most of its income from hosting athletics, speedway and music concerts, that doesn't mean that Silesia's centrepiece would be completely devoid of the sport which made it so famous. The Śląski has been touted as a possible home for Ekstraklasa side Ruch Chorzów, although they currently struggle to fill their 10,000 capacity stadium now. And with security problems prohibiting the Stadion Narodowy from hosting club games, it could be an ideal venue for the finals of both the Polish Cup and the Supercup. PZPN president Zbigniew Boniek also has decided that the stadium could bid to host games at the 2020 European Championships - scheduled to be played in a number of European countries. With Boniek's friend and former Juventus teammate Michel Platini in charge at UEFA, it just may have a chance. However the construction problems mean that we're still a long way off of seeing any sporting action return to the Stadion Śląski. With work still trundling along at a snail's pace and the estimated completion date of July 2015 seemingly nothing more than a stab in the dark, there is still a few more years before the country can be proud of its forgotten stadium once more. But even then it might be much too late.
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The view from the gantry By Mike McKenna Whilst many Poles wonder why foreigners enjoy watching the Ekstraklasa, when you watch it as your day job, it’s hard not to fall in love… Well, that was fun, wasn’t it? A highly enjoyable Polish league season, with plenty of twists and turns at the top and bottom of the table, a few crazy decisions by club owners, referees, the PZPN and some wonderful action on the pitch. It’s been a privilege for me to cover, and I know my colleague and fellow commentator Oscar Chamberlain would say exactly the same. There’s a lot for us to look back on over the course of the season, but before I do I’d like to take a little time out for personal reflection. You see, I still consider myself
relatively “new” to Polish football and its frequent surprise factor. I mean sure, I remember watching Robert Lewandowski score every week for Lech Poznań, I even remember when Wisła were a good side (I’m kidding Wisła fans!) However, I was still totally naïve when it came to the relegation battle (who’d expect the bottom two sides to play like champions for the entire spring round?) and also the so-called form sides dropping like flies in the second half of the season. This is the first year when I’ve been able to watch the league from the first kick of the ball to the last and not dipped in and out like I do with most leagues I cover, and it goes without saying that I’m now totally hooked on Polish football. This can be summed up by me going in to one of the other companies that I work for on the penultimate day of the English Premier League season where I could watch pretty much any game being played in the world at that time. Instead of choosing to watch a big English, German, Spanish or Italian game, I instead found myself a free booth and settled down to watch Jagiellonia v Wisła in the hours prior to my (nonPolish) kick off. Or that the last time I started a new career on a certain football management computer game I chose to start at OKS Stomil Olsztyn. Or my desperate hunting around for internet feeds so that I could watch the Polish U21s against Lithuania, of all
sides. It’s a league I’ve immersed myself in, and I’ve loved doing so. Anyway, enough gushing about my new love affair and onto the football itself.
Even the most ardent of Lech Poznań fans would struggle to convince me that Legia weren’t worthy champions this year. Not only were they top of the table from October, but at times they played the type of football that would have me out of my seat in excitement, and with several young players at the fore. We saw some players at other clubs have wonderful Autumn or Spring rounds, but over the course of the season it’s difficult to look beyond Jakub Kosecki as my player of the year. Without him, Legia were simply not the same side. He adds creativity and vision, and his ability to glide past players makes me believe he could step up to regular football for both the national team and in Europe very comfortably indeed. The goal he scored against Widzew in November was truly indicative of his talent, and had it been scored in England we’d never have heard the end of it! Lech’s form in the Spring was remarkable as they pushed the champions all the way to the finish line. Any side who can take 37 out of a possible 45 points away from home deserves great credit, and there’s no reason to suggest that they can’t come again next year. The signing of Kasper Hämäläinen was an inspired piece of business from coach Mariusz Rumak, and the Finnish international certainly lit up the Ekstraklasa for me. His vision was key to ensuring Lech broke down many stubborn defences in their plethora of 1-0 wins, and I would be surprised if he’s not already on the lips of the many scouts who make the trip to the banks of the Warta. It’s imperative for Lech that they lose that fear they have of playing at home sometimes if they are to go one better next year, and even more so if they are to progress in European competition, but that ability to grind out away wins will hold them in good stead. I found Piast Gliwice’s story to perhaps be the most interesting of the last Ekstraklasa year. For a newly promoted club to settle so confidently in the top flight and then have the audacity to finish in a European spot is truly remarkable, and they did so by playing good football. There is a theory that perhaps some of the romance has disappeared from world football, but Marcin Brosz’s men perhaps proved otherwise, and he may well be a
13th. That midweek all 4 Polish sides are due to start their qualifying campaigns, and so hopefully all will be in pristine condition ahead of kick off. Legia in particular were caught cold by Rosenborg of Norway, who were of course well into their domestic season last year by the time the tie came around, and so the new starting date will hopefully go some way to countering that.
wanted man this summer. It will be interesting to see if they suffer from the dreaded ‘second season syndrome’ next year, and also to see how such a small squad adapts to the rigours of European football. Of course, there’s no doubt that Piast were helped by Górnik’s implosion in the spring, where they lost 10 of their 15 games, but Piast picked up big wins over the campaign including a double over Śląsk Wrocław, not to mention the fright they gave Legia back in the Autumn. If I was to give out a prize for overachievers of the year, Piast would take it by a mile. Of course, not every story can have a happy ending, and the misery of Polonia’s season is ultimately Piast’s antithesis, despite the two sides finishing just 4 points apart. You can read about Polonia in more detail elsewhere in the magazine so I won’t say too much, but to see a club of such history who thought they had won the battle of their lives last summer be stripped of their very existence is tragic for any true football fan. Considering Polonia were the great entertainers in the Autumn, they were chiselled down into a shell of their former selves by the time the clocks went forward, but we can only hope that their supporters and investors can save the club no matter the level they are to be involved at next year.
In theory Legia should also benefit from UEFA’s change of regulations to seeding for the competition, and so while a couple of years ago they could have met the likes of Arsenal, Schalke or AC Milan, they’ll now meet the likes of Celtic or Basel if they make the play off round, which should give Jan Urban’s men genuine hope of qualifying. Indeed, if they can keep adding to their squad in the manner Like every fan of Polish football, I’m they are while keeping their best players hoping to see genuine improvement at a around, they have a marvellous chance. European level next year, especially after the many disappointments from last July In the Europa League, both Śląsk and August. If we cast our minds back, Wrocław and Lech Poznań will feel they clubs were perhaps caught out by the can improve on last year’s European euphoria of the European Championships showing, while it’s perhaps reasonable to and so were a little light in their expect Piast Gliwice to take the preparation, but for whatever reason competition a little less seriously and just there’s no doubt Polish clubs were caught look enjoy themselves and see where it unawares in qualifying. takes them. I was pleased to see Sebastian Mila had agreed a new deal in Of course, there can be no excuse of the Wrocław as he is one of the shining lights Euros this time around, and perhaps of the Ekstraklasa for me, and if Śląsk can clubs will be in better physical condition find a goal scorer this summer, they will thanks to the new start date of the season, feel European football won’t be beyond which gets underway the weekend of July them either.
It has been a season I’ll never forget, with highs like Abdou Razak Traore’s over-head kick for Lechia against Lech or Przemysław Kaźmierczak’s 30 yard rocket at Ruch, and the low points such as the events at Polonia (or if you’re a Wisla fan, the early season performances of Sergei Pareiko!) and I’m already counting down the days to the start of the next one. In my job at this time of year I traditionally suffer from the post season blues, but with the new season already on my horizon I’m beginning my research for the new campaign. It’s a shame to lose both Polonia and GKS Bełchatów, but this year has taught me never to write off any side who looks dead and buried at Christmas time, and in Piast’s case, old fashioned Roy-of-the-Rovers type football still happens. And that, my friends, is wonderfully energising after years of being jaded by the pomp and ceremony of the introverted Premier League. Now I just need to work out how to pronounce Zawisza Bydgoszcz…
“I stayed so that Śląsk could join the legends.” By Michał Dzida “Ekstraklasa Magazine”: You were chosen by Ekstraklasa players as the best midfield player, but who did you give your vote to? Sebastian Mila: It was a while ago, but as far as I remember, my vote was given to Dominik Furman from Legia Warsaw. I also give a lot of credit to Jakub Kosecki, Szymon Pawłowski for this season as well.
- Do you give more credit to current new talents like Furman, than to those of previous generations?
At the Ekstraklasa Gala, Sebastian Mila was awarded as the best midfielder of the league. Śląsk Wrocław’s captain talks to “Sportowy Obiektyw” editor-in-chief Michał Dzida about past season, future plans and much more! I see that this guys are better prepared and trained than the previous generations. They are also more professional and have stronger attitude towards their targets. Clubs these days take much more care of younger players. Training facilities are also much better these days.
- To summarise the season in further aspects. Who was the best goalkeeper of the season then? Zubas from Belchatów has made some fantastic saves, especially in the second part of the season. We also have to remember about goalkeepers like Trela, Skorupski, Kuciak, Kelemen and Gikiewicz.
- Talking Zubas, everyone is over the moon abut him. But do you see him in a bigger club, with more pressure every match performing at the same level as in Bełchatów? Well, that’s a good point. In football sometimes you have a great season but the next one may be a whole of a different story. Especially, if you are in a team, which is expected to win every game and perform on a high level. For some players it a big problem and many of us not only in Poland can’t cope with big expectations. It’s a mentality problem, we are only humans. - Who was the toughest defender his season?
It was a difficult season for me as an offensive midfielder, because the defenders have become strong competitors. If I was to choose someone I would say Jarek Bieniuk from Lechia Gdańsk was in great shape
Śląsk is a club with some tradition. Wrocław has got a massive football - All right, but what about hunger. We are a strong force in some wrong syndromes Ekstraklasa after last three seasons. happening to some young The club has made huge steps forward. players. Maybe sometimes There is a certain direction taken by the we “make” them big stars club owners. They want Śląsk to join the too early. And some of group of the most titled clubs in Poland them get to big contracts like Legia, Górnik or Ruch and become pretty soon and they start a powerhouse of the league. That’s way to perform only outside I decided to stay. I requires years and the pitch… the owners realize it.
in the match against Śląsk. Tomek Jodłowiec, Adam Danch, or Dąbrowski from Pogoń Szczecin have also been tough opponents. We can’t forget about Legia’s Bereszyński!
- What about him? I remember when we played at Lech this season and he came on in the second half, as a striker. After the game I came to Paweł Barylski from our coaching staff and I told him that Bereszyński will grow to be one of the best strikers of young generations in Poland! I started watching Bereszyński and a quickly realized that he is a son of my former team mate, who I played alongside in Grodzisk. I am really happy for Bartek to play so well and develop his career.
- His example is a great case study about the transfer market in Poland. Why don’t more Ekstraklasa clubs go on to search such “bargains”?
It’s very difficult to define. It’s a problem not only with young players, but with all players. There are a lot of factors, which we have to consider. Sometimes the weaker form is not only an effect of an injury, but also some off the pitch problems, with family, or at school etc. Sometimes it’s due a form of the whole team, or a stronger competition that comes in the team at the certain position. But in my opinion it’s not a big issue this days. The sort of step-back which happens to some of young players is still smaller than in used to be. They are simply more professional.
- Which striker impressed you the most is the 2012/2013 season? Foremost, Robert Demjan from Podbeskidzie has done great job his season. Michal Papadopulos from Zagłębie has got a great timing on the pitch. Marek Saganowski, Wladimir Dwalishvili and Bartek Ślusarski are also worth mentioning.
Ślask manager, Stanislav Levy is a target of hundreds of mems and jokes on the internet. What is he like as a person, compared to his public image?
He is a pure professional. We don’t have much time to see him through his so called „internet image”. He has got a lot of distance towards himself and I’ll tell you why! In my opinion clubs don’t everyone around him. He is a frequent joker as well. So he hasn’t got any hire formers players as scouts. I have problem with the “internet image”. been in some talks with Śląsk about becoming a scout after I finish my football career. I would love to travel around the country and watch some Śląsk had some turbulent times. lower league games in order to look for What can we expect from your team in some starlets. What’s the way for the the next season? clubs to use the potential of Polish players.
- You have signed a new three year contract. Is Śląsk going to be the last club in your career? I will see how this three years will go on. If I stay in good shape and will avoid serious injuries then I think that I will be available to sign next contract. That’s all I know for now.
Michał Dzida @michaldzida Editor, Sportowy Obiektyw
Piotr Cwielong (Sląsk Wrocław)
The Good XI
If you look at the goals he scored, he was one of Sląsk's most decisive players. He raised his game despite being almost out of club last summer.
By Ryan Hubbard and Michał Zachodny Sebastian Mila (Sląsk Wrocław) The best eleven of the season; voted by the editors of #Ekstraklasa Magazine.
Emilijus Zubas Bełchatów)
Apparently he is too slow for the national team but his decision making is still at the highest level in Poland. Great vision and left foot. Worth every penny Sląsk paid him.
Tomasz Podgórski (Piast Gliwice)
He may not be spectacular midfielder, but definitely was one of league top performers this year. Provided goals and assists while driving Piast forward, all the way to Europe.
Jakub Kosecki (Legia Warszawa)
Was he the best secret ever kept Cheeky little winger, brave dribbler with great pace, shining light by Lithuania? Six months in Poland in an otherwise often boring league. One for the future, definitely. was enough to gain him a reputation, almost save the club and move to Legia, perhaps?
Robert Demjan (Podbeskidzie BielskoBiała)
Bartosz Bereszyński (Legia Warszawa)
Huge sensation of the season and probably the best reason why Podbeskidzie is still in the league. Great confidence, strength when he was on the goalscoring run.
Maciej Korzym (Korona Kielce)
How on earth Mariusz Rumak could not see what a right back he has in his team? Jan Urban clearly knew better and settled What? Two Korona players in The Good XI? Yes - Korzym had "Beresz" in title winning squad. his best season and it's a crying shame he got injured at the very end. We hope he will bounce back soon!
Marcin Kamiński (Lech) Poznań)
MANAGER: Jan Urban (Legia Warszawa)
One of the reasons for which Lech survived without Manuel Arboleda. Solid as rock at the heart of their defence, reading the Great goal record and the historic double, should fans ask for game very well. more? Yes, but although the style was rarely seen in the later stages of the season, his team simply kept winning. Moved from right back to the central role, he was one of Legia's silent heroes this season. Developed steadily and earned his move abroad.
Artur Jędrzejczyk (Legia Warszawa)
Paweł Golański (Korona Kielce) He used his experience well in an otherwise average season for Korona. A true character, even if problematic at times for referees.
Mariusz Pawelec (Sląsk Wrocław)
The Bad XI
Stanislav Levy almost devastated few substitutes benches because of his mistakes. Once was strong in challenge, now only reckless. Awful when going forward too.
By Ryan Hubbard and Michał Zachodny Ivica Iliev (Wisła Krakow) The eleven players who haven’t performed as well as we’d hoped - voted for by the editors of #Ekstraklasa Magazine.
A player as experienced as him should at least care. He was offered a chance at Wisła, changed positions but played only worse and worse. Failed in Poland, now on his way out.
Dalibor Stevanović (Sląsk Wrocław) Despite his passing being slick and accurate, he was quite awful and unproductive in destruction. No, there is better expression than that - he was simply lazy!
Michał Gliwa Grzegorz Bonin (Górnik Zabrze) Why, oh why he was offered yet another chance at Górnik? was so bad that once when he faced an open goal, he (Zagłębie Lubin) He could only score from the rebound after hitting the bar first! The Butterhands of the league - in each game he played, Lower Silesia derby aside, he was the Awful, awful hairstyle - whichever you choose from his season. biggest threat for his At first he played quite well but soon he showed his true nature. own team. That Almost every decision was... wrong. says it all.
Takafumi Akahosi (Pogoń Szczecin)
Daniel Sikorski (Wisła Kraków)
It may not be his fault after all, someone took the decision to sign him. But he never will be a Controversial choice? Definitely. But his behavior wasn't prolific striker. Or never always up to the standards and the way he was destroyed by should be a pro footballer Kosecki proved Lech really could do better than him. in the first place?
Oleksandr Szeweluchin (Górnik Zabrze) Too slow to catch a turtle and big ships are making turns faster than him. Awful season of many dreadful performances. Hard to think why Nawałka picked him so often?
Daniel Gołębiewski (Polonia Warszawa)
So bad that his coach moved him to play as a left wing-back. Whenever he tried to score, he Yet another season hit by injuries but that will not cover up for tripped - at least he actually succeeded few times! some lack of focus. Mistimed challenges combined with poor decisions - must be better than that!
Arkadiusz Głowacki (Wisła Kraków)
MANAGER: Tomasz Hajto (Jagiellonia Białystok) He always claimed to know better than anyone else, just because he played in the Bundesliga once. Former defender who failed to put pieces together in his Jaga's defence.
The Ugly XI
Kamil Kuzera (Korona Kielce) He reached the highest levels of aggression but was nowhere near with his football - matched Korona's characteristics perhaps too well.
By Ryan Hubbard and Michał Zachodny Robert Jeż (Zagłębie Lubin) The eleven players who have made us cringe in one way or another, voted for by the editors of #Ekstraklasa Magazine.
Sergei Pareiko (Wisła Kraków) The craziest goalkeeper this league had in recent years? Probably. But he also allowed too many easy goals this season, showing also more aggression towards... everyone else.
Patrik Mraz (Sląsk Wrocław) He showed up at training after night of drinking and was kicked out of the club. One of the worst left-backs this season. Why Sląsk have signed him in the first place?
Ugo Ukah (Jagiellonia Białystok) Actually, his best performance this season came when he shot a TV ad. On the pitch he committed too many blunders, always blaming others too. And his disciplinary record speaks for itself.
Often described as Pavel Hapal's favourite, he must have been doing something right at practice to play that much. But in the league? Lazy, bored, frustrated. Never liked by the crowds.
Robert Szczot (Olimpia Grudziądz) Not as much as the player himself but for his hair. Even worse each time he decides to change it.
Marcin Borski (PZPN) Alright, so maybe he hasn't kicked the ball as much, but surely no other personality in the league has affected (negatively) as many games as this certain referee, right?
Tomasz Kulawik (Wisła Kraków) If only Polish fans had equivalent of "You don't know what you're doing" chant, Tomasz Kulawik would hear it at every game.
Cristian Diaz (Sląsk Wrocław) At one point he was so fat that he was made to jogg round the pitch after each training session. Not as profilic in front of goal as he was at the dinner table, sadly.
Danijel Ljuboja (Legia Warszawa) Truly brilliant player and one of our favourites... If he simply hadn't been simulating heart problems just to get quicker to the bar. Should behave better.
Piotr Stawarczyk (Ruch Chorzów)
SPECIAL MENTION: Ireneusz Król (Polonia Warszawa)
That bunch of league's most ugliest players should be We had to add someone from Ruch and he was one of their (mis)managed by the biggest failure of them all. He promised worst players this year. He showed his true nature this year, so much, delivered so little - put Polonia into the grave. We as his decisions cost them precious points. don't want people like him in the game.
Keep your eyes peeled for our Season Preview edition ahead of the new season, and Issue 5 due for release in late August/early September Facebook.com/EKSTRAKLASAreview - Facebook.com/EkstraklasaMagazine EKSTRAKLASAreview.co.uk/Ekstraklasa-Magazine
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