In the first part in series of four previews of Ekstraklasa teams before they head to the last thirteen games of remaining season, PFS concentrates on those that might be involved in a battle meaning more than simply staying up… Based on own opinions, not current league position.
If anybody wants to discuss the possible candidates for relegations in Polish top-flight, then there is one certainty, a non-ending story and a club that simply writes headline itself. Łódzki Klub Sportowy somehow managed to survive, fighting on the financial line, threatening to go out of business and counting on fans’ donations and TV deal to survive. It is not a happy story, though the one that keeps on giving.
So… where to start with ŁKS? They’ve barely survived the first round, though failing to pay wages to their squad and without any plans for a training camp as funds were… no, there was no funds at all. Ryszard Tarasiewicz, then-manager, ambitiously convinced players that money doesn’t matter and they should play despite problems they have. He left the club due to lack of it just few weeks later.
He went in some style though – firstly relegated several players to the reserves, then made every call possible to get as many loan deals as possible, but when it turned out there is no space in budget for his players, he resigned. Meanwhile, ŁKS tried to survive and did just that by claiming that new committee of fans, local authorities, people of good will, players will raise enough money to help them out. When they decided that the plan is on, the fastest construction of a proper football team have started.
Piotr Świerczewski, despite the lack of coaching license, was named the manager and as free spirit he decided to give everyone a try in his team. Dozens of names came out while ex-Olympique Marseille midfielder decided to make ŁKS a “second chance” club – that’s why he brought the likes of Wojciech Łobodziński (released by Wisła for match fixing accusations), Grzegorz Bonin (unwanted and overpaid at Polonia) or those currently on trials – Maciej Iwański (unwanted at Legia, failed in Turkey), Seweryn Gancarczyk (released by Lech), Bartłomiej Grzelak (failed after coming back from Russia). This will not be a team of great force, much talent or resources – but if they will go out of the league they will do it surely in some style, with a smile. Though on critics’ faces, not their own fans…
In Krakow, at Kałuży, where Cracovia plays, it was decided that things will go in a much steadier way for Dariusz Pasieka and his men this winter. Only two signings were made, one to replace hugely missed and underperforming at Wolfsburg Mateusz Klich, and the other to have both wings strong. Marcin Budziński is a talent that already has some experience but failed to reach his potential yet – though knowing how hard and how sad relegation battle can be. Sebastian Szałachowski is probably just happy that he escaped ŁKS and finds his wages on time at Cracovia.
But still, this is a squad that should be fairly safe and even if needing transfers, then the strengthening should be made to their defence and at strikers position surely. Instead, they released Andrzej Niedzielan and may be too short of other options up front when simply hoofing up the ball to Koen van der Biezen will end up in nothing – as it did for the large chunk of the first part of the season.
Pavel Hapal did not enjoy his first few games at Zagłębie Lubin and when his team was sinking goals heavily, claims were made that sacking of Jan Urban was one ill advised move from the board. But it seems now that their current manager feels pretty confident in his place as he brought players more known to him than anybody else in Lubin – good that he felt that it was the off the ball display that was extremely poor from his team. Signing of Banaś seems like a good move, but how will others perform is one big mystery – could it be costly answer at the end of the season for Zagłębie?
This club have certainly one of the best academies in the whole country that actually works based on some plan and already few names were good addition to the first squad but Hapal’s decision not to give impressing winger Adrian Błąd a chance is a bold one – after all, he was named the best player of I. Liga last term and clearly good enough to play for a better team in Ekstraklasa, than the position Zagłębie occupies now. This is a club of a very controversial and powerful changing rooms – the players proved on several occasions that there is no manager that couldn’t be sacked because of what they make of him. Will Hapal be the next one to prove this theory right?
GKS Bełchatów finally looks reconciled with the new future and reputation made for them – a one of a feeder club. With interesting moves for several young and promising players (Mak twins, Giel, Kisiel, and even Wacławczyk and Wilusz), manager Kamil Kiereś will look at his mix of the youth and experience as the perfect one to remain in Ekstraklasa for another year. Their case after all is similar to the one of Zagłębie – smaller city, huge sponsor, great base and not enough fans. At Lubin, they failed to reassess their position and are still punching for the higher weight, but GKS seems to be on the right track with their new position. It is now up to them to make the youth play well, give them the status they need and then move for the right place. After all, it is a business that keeps on giving, especially in such naïve environment as Polish football is.