What follows are some questions and answers I wrote for a friendly site to preview the Poland Ireland game. It didn’t make it onto that site and there are certain important things I’ve been thinking about recently in the post so I thought I’d put it up here. Stephen Pollard thought of and posed the questions.
1) Tuesday’s game in Poznan will be the second in charge for new Poland head coach Adam Nawalka, what are your opinions on him at this early stage?
I’m unconvinced by the appointment to be perfectly honest. Many people in Poland wanted a foreign coach in the wake of Waldemar Fornalik’s failure to get them to the World Cup finals. Nawałka is more of a hard man than the previous coach but he’s also an old mate of the Polish FA president Zbigniew Boniek so there’s a worry that he will not be his own man. I am prepared to give him time to succeed but there’s a lot of anger and disappointment about here and so he’s got a very difficult job on his hands.
2) Ludovic Obraniak has been in flying form for Bordeaux in Ligue 1 this season, but Nawalka has not selected him for the squad, why do you believe he missed out?
Obraniak is a very controversial figure. Many people in Poland don’t want him to play for the national side as they don’t feel he is a ‘true Pole’ as he was born in France and can hardly speak Polish. He’s also not well liked by the Polish footballing hierarchy including Zbigniew Boniek and Jan ‘The clown’ Tomaszewski who’ve both publicly criticised him. In addition he’s made powerful enemies within the squad including captain Jakub Błaszczykowski. It remains to be seen whether Nawałka wlll call ‘Ludo’ up again. He’s definitely good enough to represent the country. I hope he will be back.
3) On Friday against Slovakia, the first 30 minutes went well for Poland before falling behind, heads seemed to drop then. Was this down to the amount of new comers in the side letting nerves get the best of them?
I actually didn’t catch Friday’s game but there is a massive lack of confidence in the squad. This is not helped by the lack of results and the pressure that the fans put on the team. Nawałka’s job is to instil confidence in the side and get them believing in themselves. One way of doing this is by getting them to have fun together; two days ago the whole squad went to a shooting range to unwind a bit. Let’s see if it works.
4)Robert Lewandowski and Jakub Blaszczykowski are the obvious big names in the side but they are under performing massively of late. If not from them, where do you see Poland’s biggest threat coming from?
Both players play excellently for their clubs but play considerably worse for the national side, especially Lewandowski who was actually booed off the pitch in a friendly with Denmark in August. The problem is that the Polish national side is far less fluid than Borussia so the two players cannot play at the same level as at their club sides. Still they’re the main danger-men. I’d also watch out for attacking midfielder Waldemar Sobota who was excellent for Śląsk Wrocław before earning a move to Belgium’s Club Brugge in the summer.
5) A policy of Nawalka’s which he underlined from the start, was to pick more domestic based players. At one stage on Friday there was three Gornik Zabrze player on the pitch, is there any sense of a bias towards the Gornik players, who Nawalka coached until taking up the post with Poland?
Well I think it’s a bit of a silly policy to be honest. If there are better players abroad then he should be using them instead. Nawałka however has publicly announced that he’s experimenting at the moment so playing domestic-based players is evidently a part of that. It’s no surprise that Nawałka has gone back to Górnik to look for players, not only does he know them but he was the undisputed boss at Górnik and I think he’s trying to create the same type of familial atmosphere he had at the club. Whether these players will remain in the squad is another question altogether.
6) In Ireland, there is a sense of complete resentment towards the governing body, the FAI. I get the sense there is a similar feeling toward the PZPN in Poland?
There is a long history of corruption and nepotism within the Polish FA. Their work has in the past lacked transparency (to put it mildly) and this has brought them untold criticism. Boniek was elected as president last year as someone who has lived abroad and believes in openness and new ideas. To an extent he has lived up to his promises, the PZPN is certainly more media friendly than it used to be and Warsaw will host the 2015 Europa League final but there are signs he is not really any different after all. Firstly in March he said that players who don’t speak Polish will not be allowed to play for the national team and he decided to go for Nawałka instead of an internationally successful coach to replace Fornalik. Let’s see what the future holds.
7) The domestic league, the Ekstraklasa is treated with fanaticism by most of the Polish footballing public. In Ireland, the domestic league is almost frowned upon, what is the standard of the league like currently and what can Ireland learn from the Ekstraklasa to improve the Airtricity League here?
Well it’s an interesting question! Polish ultras love the league but there is a very negative appreciation of the league here apart from members of those groups. Many people think it’s of a terrible standard and prefer to watch foreign leagues. I personally think it’s improving but Polish teams are still failing year after year in Europe so maybe it isn’t at all really. I don’t know that much about the Irish league to be honest but one thing it might want to import is the noise at Polish stadiums. I don’t like it all that much but many visitors love the constant boisterous singing of Polish fans.
8) Finally, who will come out on top in Bulgarska on Tuesday and why?
I think it’ll be a 2-2 draw. Lewandowski and Blaszczykowski for Poland, Long and Keane for you guys.