9 lip 2012

Meet The New One

Regardless of who was questioned for the vacant job in recent weeks, the decision could be only one. The favorite from the moment Franciszek Smuda announced that his contract will not be renewed after Euro 2012 disaster, PZPN's (Polish FA) board never looked seriously at foreign options, leaving younger coaches on the sidelines as well - tomorrow, they will announce that Waldemar Fornalik, working for Ruch Chorzow since April 2009, will be the one who will lead Poland in upcoming World Cup 2014 qualifications.

Waldemar Fornalik, the man who openly admits that the biggest achievement of his coaching career is being named the best manager of Polish Ekstraklasa after finishing second.

Everything has its point of reference, though. The 49-year-old ex-defender of Ruch Chorzow, never was given a chance to raise the bar, to be able to reach for unknown heights for his continuously cash-strapped club, even though each year there was an interest - Wisla Krakow, Slask Wroclaw, Legia Warsaw and Lech Poznan were obviously interested but it never got any further than from the initial contact. His attachment to Ruch - conscious or not - should be highly regarded, yet unwillingness to be given even a try is strange, especially having in mind how unstable ground for Polish managers is in Ekstraklasa.

Calm, assured, rarely raises his word but his image in media is one of the reasons making him a different man. Among many different, often ridiculous legends, Fornalik is silent in the changing room, never shouting, with little character even - though his success with a club like Ruch Chorzow should really prove otherwise. If you compare the budgets or the squads of those who finished behind Fornalik's team - even with minimum knowledge of the Ekstraklasa - you will see the difference of expectations, chances and gap that was impressively reduced by Ruch on the pitch.

His team was well build on his decisions, completed piece by piece from players of the second sort in Polish football, or at least regarded as the ones from that group. With great discipline, always well prepared tactically, capable of changing the game or shape with his substitutions - consider it enough to make an average manager but also enough to make such an impressive impact in the Ekstraklasa.

Fornalik already had to face questions over his experience and qualifications for the spot - but it's hardly his fault that he was never given the chance to step up. It rather shows the very strange specificity of the domestic market again - the decision of PZPN to give him the role may not have been preceded by decent debate full of arguments (as candidature of Jacek Zieliński, Smuda's assistant proves!) but at least it had the bravery that most of the domestic club chairmen lack. 

The debate, obviously, could go on and on whether Fornalik is the right man for the job - or was he the top person from the whole group of candidates - but what he can give to the national team. The one that supposed to give so much to the nation just few weeks ago and is all in wounds, with reputation at stake after tickets and bonuses claims from the players, with difficult qualification campaign ahead.

To say the least, Waldemar Fornalik steps into the familiar area - a mess. When he came to Ruch Chorzow, there was supposed to be only one way for much deserved club and it was the one down, not up. He has beaten the odds, turned problems into advantages and constantly redeveloped the squad without negative impact on it.

Most importantly, he make a strength out of his weak midfield - worst duo of central midfielders in the top five of Ekstraklasa perhaps? - always had a plan and made the team click, react, think. Made title-contenders out of bunch of at best average footballers - something at which clearly Smuda has failed.

He is not the man of ambitious tactics, desperately attacking approach that has killed Poles energy and eventually cost them chances at Euro 2012 - in more safer environment the players of certain quality like Lewandowski or Błaszczykowski, may feel more confident in the team, not making all of the effort on their own.

Waldemar Fornalik is not an extreme contrast to Franciszek Smuda, though they are different characters, but certainly in the terms at which the latter failed before and during the tournament, the one who will take is place is an improvement. 

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