22 wrz 2011

Jurij, it's complicated

Jurij Szatałow could not be a happier man entering this summer. Still in Ekstraklasa job, his club strengthening squad as he only wished, people regarding him as a solid and promising manager, while Cracovia’s owner hoped for the best season in years with him at the helm. Seven league rounds into the season and he is without a job as he left Krakow’s second biggest club exactly where he found it less than twelve months ago – bottom of the table with no win and just two points.

It is crucial for this story to know what happened last season – Jurij Szatałow, already highly regarded for his work at Polonia Bytom, arguably the least professional football club in last decade in Polish football, where money were so tight, they sometimes had no transportation guaranteed for the away games. Even though he managed to build unique atmosphere in the half-decent team he had and the results came the right way under his rule. This couldn’t be overseen by other, better run and more ambitious clubs and half way through last season, struggling Cracovia offered Polonia the deal for their manager they couldn’t afford to turn down. He moved, leaving them to fall in further despair and mess from which they fail to come clean up to this day.

As it was said, Cracovia was bottom of the table, unexpected place in which another young manager, Rafał Ulatowski (former Leo Beenhakker assistant) left them. First rounds weren’t as promising but after hard-working winter, Cracovia started slowly moving in the right direction, winning points that, following dramatic finish, gave them much welcomed Ekstraklasa place. New hero was born, fans thought they have a manager that can last for years, glory years.

But he failed. He had everything, all the time and resources to make this squad his as the owner, Janusz Filipiak, very intelligent man but, despite years in the business, maybe too naïve, trusted in every word Szatałow said. Despite selling their best player from last season, young playmaker Mateusz Klich went to Wolfsburg, Cracovia made decent replacements, especially in signing strikers, Andrzej Niedzielan and Koen van der Bieze, they added necessary quality to the team, not to fight just above relegation zone in this campaign. They were wrong.

Van der Bieze and Niedzielan have not even a single goal to their names so far but not only the problem up front occurred, Cracovia was as bad in defending as they were when they hit the bottom of the table last year. No wonder that thought to leave crossed Szatałow’s mind. He said about it openly after latest defeat at home, against Śląsk, also refusing that Zagłębie Lubin, another team that performed desperately in first games of the season, made any offer to him to replace Jan Urban. The same man who took over as a caretaker at Polonia Bytom when Szatałow left for Cracovia…

Despite winning in the Polish Cup against Piast Gliwice, and the team dedicating this single victory to the manager, he made his move today, resigning and leaving Cracovia in dismay and a mess that needs to be resolved quickly if they don’t want to lose any further distance. Where will he be going? There is no secret that the offer from Zagłębie was and still is on the table, especially when Lubin’s club failed to progress to the next round. But should they trust Szatałow?

This move would define everything what is bad in running football clubs in Poland. There is a lot of pressure but no confidence. A lot of work but no time for it. The managerial rollercoaster started in Ekstraklasa before even ball was kicked for the first time, but Zagłębie and Cracovia were the clubs that changed their managers last season as well, when things weren’t going the way they should after expectations were high in the summer. Once again it proves us that when there is something wrong with the scores, coaches pay with their head and players are innocent, despite that they are really failing to reach the goals set them up by boards and owners.

Of course, Szatałow is not without fault, especially that negotiating with any other club when you are under a contract with other is very risky. But somehow I think that him and Zagłębie can be a good match – both are failing under normality and in need of special pressure, without comfort zone, of fresh start every six months to succeed. I doubt that this romance will last for long but shortsighted strategy of Zagłębie and Szatałow’s inability to build on his own will eventually cost both.

And as for Cracovia – Janusz Filipiak is indeed riding his luck with managers appointment, failing way too many times, but there must be a man that he finally appoints and he will bring more stability to the club. Either way, it’s better that his romance with Szatałow ended in a way only the latter can and should be ashamed of.

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