Jagiellonia Białystok is topping Ekstraklasa table with Korona Kielce, GKS Bełchatów and Lechia Gdańsk just behind their back. Nobody expected them to be there at this stage of the season and it will be even bigger surprise if even one of those teams will end in top three. What was the reason of such low expectations regarding those four clubs? Maybe because four managers of those teams have average age of just 36 and a half...
Meet Marcin Sasal (Korona, 40-years old), Michał Probierz (Jagiellonia, 38-years old), Maciej Bartoszek (GKS Bełchatów, 33-years old) and Tomasz Kafarski (Lechia, 35-years old) - the new group of talented and ambitious people in Polish football management. Alright, maybe the second was expected to do greater things with his club as even last season he showed how promising his tactics and selections are. But the rest of them are as new and as unknown to our league and people following Ekstraklasa as You will ever get. Worth to learn few things about them before they will beat You in European cup. Or Your team.
Michał Probierz is the man that learned few tougher lessons before he managed to win Polish Cup with Jagiellonia Białystok last season. Former uninspiring but very ambitious and solid midfielder became manager in Polonia Bytom just after finishing his career due to serious knee injury. His team survived in the second division but not in most fashionable matter and he was dismissed after 05/06 season. He got another chance in Widzew Łódź and this story lasted only for a season and few more games in Ekstraklasa as the results didn't met ambitions of the board, and probably of Probierz. Then he came back to Polonia Bytom, just to help them survive in the league, eying bigger project at Jagiellonia Białystok. His program there started before season 08/09 and gained them place in top half of the league. But this was struck by deduction of ten points just before the next season, although great start quickly saw them coming up from last place and finishing eleventh but wining Polish Cup.
That was the moment when people started talking less about Probierz as a player, but more as a manager. He says that he would never like being a national team coach as it's not a job fitting his ambitions and work theory. He needs his team every day at training ground to make them better, to play as he wants. He is brave, he is not soft - when he saw one of his players arriving clearly drunk, he wanted to kick him out of the club as soon as possible. Long he had to behave the right way to be back in Jagiellonia squad - Kamil Grosicki, the one that Aston Villa wanted so badly this summer.
Marcin Sasal is the oldest one from the quartet of Polish managers presented. After managing lower league teams he got his chance at Dolcan Ząbki - really small club with no ambition playing in second division. He did good there, nothing special but clearly something had to attract Korona's board and signed for Kielce team when they struggled in the end of the first round of 09/10 season. He signed seven players, said that he is there to improve football standard of not only the first team but also reserves and youth squad. Ended sixth in last season and now is enjoying even better results with his team playing solid football, maybe not impressing but very efficient.
He is tough guy, ambitious and always saying what's on his mind, not saving the bad words for himself. Sasal never gives up and he proved this when he needed to make several tough decisions regarding the background to first team. When he enters the press room at his stadium in Kielce you can see the respect he has among journalists there and confidence in his eyes. He made himself comfortable there, no doubt about that.
Tomasz Kafarski (Lechia, 35-years old) become manager being only twenty-six in Kaszubia where he had good spell and learned a lot, about respect, managing and other things normal for someone much younger than most of his players. He was regarded as a talented coach and signed by Lechia as second coach in 2006. He even managed this team for three times as caretaker in 2007 before stepping to be the manager of the club in 2009 after some abysmal football presented by Lechia under Jacek Zieliński.
His first season was not easy but he ended it at high place with what he had there and applying short passing, quick football that was eye-catching but not so points gaining. Not until now, when after problems with fans and transfers he made some great deals in last days of the window and quickly the quality of the team rose to the expectations of everyone involved. He is realistic and knows the limits of his team and his skills. Learning quickly he is very respected in Gdańsk for what he already did with this team.
And the last one, the youngest, Maciej Bartoszek. Also the least expected at the top of the table this season. Why? Well, GKS Bełchatów by many was regarded as one of the weakest teams in Ekstraklasa, with many problems on and off the pitch. Many left the team with manager Rafał Ulatowski, and their situation was really poor when Bartoszek was announced manager only after being for a season there working with youngsters. They signed some players, one international Marcin Żewłakow - who is older than his current coach. Now they won with Lech, Legia and drew with Wisła making impressive start to the season and being currently third.
They all have many things in common, apart from being ambitious, young and leading in the league table, obviously. They know their worth, disagreeing with common stereotype that Polish manager is poor one, closed for any foreign and fresh tactical, football view, whatever this means. We had too many examples of young people in last few years, being involved in match fixing and then lost when all of this dirty business was crushed. You must know that we have more than those four of talented young managers but the example they give to the other ones is simply priceless. Sometimes I wish that more owners would give a chance to the new generation of coaching staff in Poland - it not always pays off but most certainly it is welcomed by fans and our average football environment.