Thirty league rounds are now behind us and finally we know everything about season 2011/2012. Few great stories, both happy and sad, many fantastic goals, heroes and villains, skillful players and those lacking any qualities, stadiums full of fans and games played behind closed doors… That was really entertaining season of football in Poland but before we start looking at different players, stories, let’s share few lines about every club. From bottom to the top.
Polonia Bytom may regard relegation as tragedy but that one was coming in last two years. Despite having fairly good squad and several interesting players (Barcik, Tymiński, Telichowski, Żytko, Radzewicz), they had absolutely awful campaign with the last decisive games being extremely poor. This may be tragedy as money were always tight in Bytom and city’s interest in the club got smaller with latest elections. Four managers led the team in this season and especially that change two games before the end was humorous and stupid. If they counted that Fornalak will give them anything more than Góralczyk, they got it wrong. Too many times this year, it seems. Deserved relegation.
Relegation got into Arka Gdynia but fairly few will argue that they did everything to stay up – when their only problem after autumn’s league round was in attack, they had to look for new keeper and whole defensive play got worse – even though it was the best line in the league for a long time. Players bought to attack were of a poor standard and they had to rely on Tadas Labukas – not a goalscoring type… Then, they changed manager but Frantsisek Straka, as he says, had to take over a squad that was in a mess. Couldn’t steady the storm in Gdynia and their new stadium will now be a place that likes of Nieciecza or Flota visit, not Lechia, Wisła or Legia. They did everything to waste great chance of staying up.
How on earth they managed to stay up? Cracovia had only eight points after first fifteen games but fantastic comeback gave them a place in Ekstraklasa for next season. Nobody expected that they will face such battle for it last summer – young and ambitious manager, Rafał Ulatowski took over, had help from Tomasz Rząsa, club signed Arkadiusz Radomski and Saidi Ntibazonkiza from Holland and many thought that they will end in the top eight, few even fancied their chances for European cups. The problem is that this team lacked character at the start, it was not a team, without spirit and only in the second round, new manager, Jurij Szatałow, made an atmosphere that helped them in that battle. They stay up even though they have lost three games out of last four matches! There is potential in this team…
The problem with two different halves of the season also could be found in Kielce, at Korona’s stadium. Fourth when the winter came, they hoped for European football next season but absolutely dire campaign in last three months saw them ending just above those fighting to stay up. Korona Kielce had interesting squad, good striker, proven goalkeeper and ambitious coach but all of these seemed not to click and they looked extremely poor in the end. Very disappointing from them but there is a change needed in the squad. New manager will face that challenge, name to be announced soonish.
Meanwhile Ruch Chorzów, finishing twelfth, is on the right place. Of course, there is quality in their squad, Jankowski, Piech and Janoszka are interesting attacking players, while defence also is not that bad. Interestingly, that lot is coached by Waldemar Fornalik, one of the hottest names in Polish football. Very intelligent, humble man he is but his team failed to get the results last season brought to Cicha. Not his fault though, as this club is one of poorest in Ekstraklasa and needs cash injection if they want to achieve more.
Zagłębie Lubin started awfully and that cost Marek Bajor job and Jan Urban took over in the second half of the season. There are good players, transfers seemed to be done wisely but this team lacks leadership on the pitch. Will Urban inject more of it during this summer? This team needs now quality at the back as contracts of two players were terminated due to his involvement in corruption scandal few years back.
If anybody asks me about team that may fall in the few seasons I will point them at GKS Bełchatów. Sadly, there seems to be no atmosphere for football in that city and last games were played in front of small crowds – this season supposed to be their comeback to the top six but instead that was mediocre campaign and, if the rumours about financial problems are true, they may face now problems in making stay several important members of the squad. Because there is quality in Bełchatów…
Widzew Łódź had very tough summer when they had to look for new coach when Paweł Janas refused to continue work with them and went to Polonia Warszawa. They thought that giving a chance to the fairly anonymous coach will be good idea but it proved to be short term as Czesław Michniewicz had to take over. Also, losing Maciej Robak during winter transfer session hurt them, as much as Darvydas Sernas’ problem with scoring goals. But they bought two young and interesting players, Nika Dżalamidze and Riku Riiski and both helped them to stay up. They have probably the best left-back our league has seen in last few seasons, Dudu Pariba… Should end up higher but too often their tactics were too attacking when they should take notice of their rivals. That cost them few points but they finished just six points of third place – not bad at all for team build for as small money as theirs.
Part two, tomorrow…