15 wrz 2012

Right man for the job, but what about timing?

There is no man angrier at Wisła Krakow tonight than "White Star" boss, Michał Probierz. He, above all, was relishing the chance he was given by the club last march but after six months in charge first questions of his work have been stated and apparently even certain option is prepared as his replacement.

In easily the craziest season of his career - during which he managed four clubs: Jagiellonia, ŁKS, Aris in Greece and then Wisła - Probierz took important decisions (leaving Jaga, going for cash-strapped ŁKS and then moving for risky challenge in Thessaloniki) but all in all his gamble paid off. Despite winning the Polish Cup with Białystok, only one of two of cups won during his seven-year-long coaching career, he was never given a job at the highest point of Polish football. Not that he wasn't (isn't?) highly regarded by fans, media and critics, though negotiations with Legia, Lech remained only small-talks while others took the job.

Some would say that going to Greece was maybe just topping the list of the gambles Probierz took over last twelve months, just edging over going to Łódź where he never had the chance to work in normal conditions. But it was his signing for Wisła Krakow that now is moving closer to the top, as two defeats in a row have put him in the hot-seat, as ex-national team manager Franciszek Smuda is waiting for his slip up. 

Why Wisła then? First of all, Wisła is not the same club they were at the start of last season - still fighting in the Champions League final stages of qualifications, with Robert Maaskant attracting players of impressive CVs and high demands. Budget was significantly higher than it is now, and a few minutes that Wisła were short of making it to the gates of UEFA heaven have settled their course for next few years. Investments stopped, players had to leave, high-earners proved to be low on ambition levels and the background to the senior squad was nowhere near the standards of Polish champions.

Offer for Wisła was the one Probierz could not turn down. Without a doubt, the other one would come sooner or later but it was about time he would reach for the highest level of pressure known in Polish football. Not that he didn't know the taste of it previously, but at Jagiellonia, Polonia Bytom or Widzew Łódź he was not expected to win titles. This summer, even as Wisła had no money to spend on new players, fans expected to be back at the top as soon as possible after one of the worst seasons since Bogusław Cupiał took the club at the end of the nineties. 

Probierz, working closely with Jacek Bednarz, Wisła's vice-president who was signed only eleven days after current manager, had to wave goodbye to ten players that were in or very close to the starting eleven over last year, while the replacements were far from perfect. Daniel Sikorski had only one good season in his career so far at Górnik Zabrze, while last year he played only at reserves level for Polonia Warszawa. Jan Frederiksen spent only short period of time outside Denmark throughout his career. Romel Quioto was expected to be instant hit at Wisła yet his reckless stamp in previous league match has put him out of next five games. Comeback of long-standing captain Arkadiusz Głowacki was always on cards but his health got only worse and latest set back was his late withdrawal from starting eleven in Szczecin, where Wisła lost 0-2 tonight.

The match itself was a disaster for Wisła. Only Maor Melikson tried to carry whole team on his shoulders but doubled and tripled at times, he had no space and chances to make up for others mistakes. And there was quite a few of them. Sergei Pareiko made bad and nervous decisions but even compared to his defenders he looked composed. They were all over the place and only Gordan Bunoza could be understood or taken with benefit of a doubt after facing family tragedy recently. 

The last stages were the worst. Pogoń, 2-0 up at that moment, had all the space to create attacks, counter fruitless visitors and... waste their chances, over and over again, while denying everything Probierz's men tried to achieve. Nothing had worked for his team - introducing Boguski and Szewczyk was an act of true desperation. The former is past his short-lived prime, while the latter only two weeks ago gave his first, positive impressions, though in defeat. Lack of options on the bench was another reason why Wisła could not get back into the tie.

Michał Probierz was livid at referee following strange first half penalty decision and allowing second goal to stand, despite clear, few-yards offside, was even worse from today's officials but the manager tried not to blame him for defeat. "I wish he'd be brave enough to come to our dressing room and say that he is sorry" - said the manager. "We have to man up, even with such decisions, there is nothing we can do now, he will be out there refereeing next week."

The manager is hardly at fault over recent results. Of course, it was his time of preparations, it was his decisions over starting eleven and how he used subs, but then again - Wisła is only a paper tiger of the league, legend from recent past that now struggles to keep their identity as chaotic years inside the club have accumulated in what happens now. Failure at work with youngsters caused lack quality of those coming through - a thing hardly crowd-delighting, even if fans chanted that they wanted more Polish squad. Transfers were poor and should be only regarded as widening options for manager, not really strengthening Wisła's championship chances.

The results against Polonia and Pogoń are not effects of only poor summer at the club - or Probierz's lack of qualifications for that matter - but this is something that accumulated over the years and now has hit the team that was the closest to breaking Poland's duck in the Champions League. The answer, however, to recent problems is not another change of direction, not jumping from one tornado to the second one. Franciszek Smuda is not the man to provide stability with his denial of own mistakes, something that was so easily exposed at Euro 2012, while Michał Probierz is the man of hard work, of not running away from the chance he was waiting all his coaching career. For once, Wisła have the right man for the job, though believe that the times are right for him to work and succeed is shrinking desperately. Referees' mistakes or not, there were trivial reasons behind sackings of his predecessors and asking for time at Wisła is the last thing any manager should do. That not only shows desperation but lack of knowing the reality at which one is working.

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