24 lut 2012

Manager Freak

He slapped Zinedine Zidane once and was almost sentenced for prison for scuff with policemen. Played in Ligue 1, made Premier League debut and in the Polish Ekstraklasa threatened that he will body-check referee that failed to see that his try from half-line crossed the goal-line after hitting crossbar. With Piotr Świerczewski, new ŁKS manager, there is no time for boredom.

“I’m a practician. I have never took any notes, never stood for two hours watching someone trains. I have enough own experience of playing for top clubs under top managers to run a football team. I don’t need any paper to say that.” Certainly, Świerczewski is not a common man. Forty years old this April, he only left football pitch two years ago but is back in Ekstraklasa with a bang, taking charge of most hapless and problematic club in the whole league.

When his team entered first game of 2012, they were only after three training sessions on natural grass, still completing the team – for example, Maciej Iwański’s paperwork was done only an hour before the kick-off. He lost against Polonia and drew with Lechia but in truth, nobody expected his team to perform any better. Nobody that have heard what Świerczewski thinks of his players.

“They are deadwood, but I expect them to be in shape of professional players in two weeks’ time” – he said before tonight’s match but this is nothing strange to be honest. ŁKS is cash-strapped, mismanaged more off than on the pitch and struggling to make ends meet. With no resources and limited time, he tried to contract whatever moves. When giving an interview to one of newspapers before his last test match with Legia, he received couple of calls from agents and managers who wanted to push their clients to ŁKS.

“If he has both legs, he will get the chance. If he has at least one, still, bring him tomorrow.” Clearly it didn’t take much to get a tryout at ŁKS. “Piiii… Pick one if you have a good player. If you have one without a leg, pick two,” he said jokingly answering the phone. But he collected a bunch of players that have one in common – they want to prove their critics wrong. Just like he had to do during his long, fairly successful and surely eventful career.

“I’ve played for Bastia back then and I went to take a throw-in. We played against Zidane’s club. He headbutted me, referee missed it. So in the next move, I took my revenge on him – I don’t remember if I punched or slapped him. We were suspended and given fines after that” – he recalls the famous incident in Ligue 1, happily reckoning that despite many clashes on the pitch, he is the one that famous Frenchman remembers after his career ending scuffle with Materazzi.

Nicknamed “Freak” (from Polish “Świr”), he played seventy times for Polish national team. When he was host of first spring league program on the Ekstraklasa’s broadcasting station, he couldn’t stop explaining how good he is for the job. “You know that I can pick up the phone and just call to Avram Grant, Laurent Blanc and few others,” while adding that he don’t need that challenge, he is simply having fun coaching.

And he liked to have some fun off the pitch as a player. Once, partying at the Polish sea with his mate and former Wisła keeper Radoslaw Majdan, he had a scuffle with two policemen and was sentenced for six months in suspension for two years. He later fought back, had more evidences while it turned out that there was more aggression and unnecessary use of force from the authorities and his name was cleared.

Świerczewski is a laid-back character, though saying he will be strict manager, he takes being a pro somewhat different to how more experienced people in the business may. “For me, professionalism is not fining someone for being two minutes late of having two kilos overweight after Christmas break” and he may know something about that. When ŁKS called him to be their player back in 2009, he famously stated that he is as good prepared as the rest of the team, simply because he attended local gym for pilates sessions.

In his career, he was a cup specialists – won four Polish Cups, two League Cups and two Supercups but everything in his home country, not abroad, despite enjoying few years at Olympique Marseille. Well known from his time in France as tough central midfielder, always going in for the tackle, tactically aware and capable of putting fine pass. Świerczewski, his failure at Birmingham apart, always fitted well into the team, wherever it was. A joker, friendly man, though not for those who criticize him – although he dismisses the story, it was said that in an outrage at a journalist, he threatened that if both will take the stairs, one may not finish it.

Currently, he remains a big critic of coaching license system in Poland, disagreeing with his duty to take course with young students at Polish FA headquarters. “I have more experience than most of managers that ever coached me”, Świerczewski said, adding that he may take the course in France where they already expressed more desire to have him.

Piotr Świerczewski is ambitious but must take his role far more serious if he wants to succeed as much as he says. His previous role was at third league Znicz Pruszkow, where he indeed became famous for inviting well known faces from Polish football to show his young players few things about the game. Showing himself as an open-minded person, he also likes to make a statement on his future career. In one of recent interviews, he said: “I will succeed Franciszek Smuda but I’m not sure it will happen even before Euro 2012.”

Judging by the current form of his ŁKS, it may take a longer while.

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