Robert Warzycha is odds-on to be appointed as the next Górnik Zabrze manager after they sacked the previous incumbent Ryszard Wieczorek. For Brits Warzycha’s name, though challenging to pronounce, is certainly not unfamiliar, after the midfielder spent several years at Everton at the beginning of the 1990s. Rightbankwarsaw welcomes Everton fan Mark Godfrey of the wonderful The Football Pink website and magazine to recall Warzycha’s time with the Toffeemen.
In March 1991, my club Everton, signed a man whose name still confounds the Scouse tongue to this day. It took until the end of that dreary 1990-91 season for most Toffees fans to have a reasonable stab at calling him anything other than ‘that Polish fella’. He was, of course, Robert Warzycha who we signed from Gornik Zab…Zrare…Zabzer…Poland.
Half a million notes wasn’t a ground-breaking transfer by any means even in those days, but for a player that few, if any, in England had ever heard of (remember, this was a simpler, less-informed era before the internet) it was something of a risk for Howard Kendall to take as he tried to recapture the glory days of his first reign at Goodison Park.
Evertonians were, and still are, a skeptical bunch and we’d seen numerous big money signings come in and fail to arrest the steady decline of the early 90’s.
Luckily for Warzycha, his impact on Merseyside was instant scoring five goals in his first half a dozen appearances in the Royal blue jersey, including a brace in a First Division game against Aston Villa and goals in the Zenith Data Systems Cup (blimey, there’s a blast from the past) semi-final and final matches. We all thought we’d happened upon a bandy-legged superstar with a ‘tache like every other adult male Scouser!
The following season, the last under the old Football League structure, brought more praise for the right-sided midfielder as his searing pace and poise in possession catapulted him to the status of key man in the Everton side – no mean feat considering his team mates included the genius of Peter Beardsley, goal-poachers Tony Cottee and Mo Johnston and the gifted but erratic Peter Beagrie.
As Everton limped to an underwhelming twelfth place in the league table, optimism, along with Warzycha’s reputation grew. The 1992-93 campaign was the first of the brand new Premier League and we all thought that anything was possible – a bit like the day after Tony Blair won the 1997 General Election, but better.
Sadly for Everton, the dawning of a new football age passed us by and we were left wallowing in continued mediocrity, finishing mid-table once again. Warzycha’s own fortunes mirrored those of the club very closely; his performances steadily tailed off as the year progressed and his starting appearances became more infrequent. However, his contribution to one particular game of the 92-93 season remained, until very recently, a memorial to Everton’s two decades of capitulation and failure at Old Trafford.
Until Bryan Oviedo drilled home his late winner last December, Warzycha and Co were the last Everton side to leave the self-styled ‘Theatre of Dreams’ with all three points – on August 19th 1992.
The Pole’s own contribution to the game was immeasurable as Everton comprehensively ruined Manchester United’s first home fixture of the Premier League. His superbly drilled 50-yard cross field pass found Beardsley running through on Peter Schmeichel’s goal; the tricky Geordie giving the visitors a half time lead with a smart finish.
Warzycha doubled Everton’s lead in the second half when he latched onto a terrific through ball before twisting Gary Pallister into a quivering mess before leaving United’s giant Danish keeper on his backside and the ball in the net.
A third by Mo Johnston rounded off a mauling that was inspired by Warzycha in tandem with Beardsley. But, however thrilling that night was, it proved a false dawn for both player and club – Everton again finishing in mid-table, 31 points behind the side they had just crushed on their home turf.
1993-94 was a disappointment for the Polish international as Everton struggled. Howard Kendall, the man who had brought him to England, resigned before Christmas and his replacement, Mike Walker, continually ignored Warzycha as the season spiralled into a relegation dogfight. He made just three starts as the Toffees narrowly avoided the drop with their miraculous last day escape against Wimbledon.
As a new chairman brought a new era and new investment, the squad was revamped and the 31-year-old Warzycha’s three years at Everton were over. Ultimately, he will be regarded by Evertonians as a skilful and nippy wide man who played in an Everton side that consistently under-performed; potentially because they had so many players of a similar ilk to Warzycha and had little variability or variety in their squad. And after bursting onto the scene, his career at Everton never really hit the heights it promised during his initial introduction to English football.
But, Robert Warzycha will always be fondly remembered by the Goodison Park faithful for being a ‘good little player’ and will forever be associated with that balmy night in Manchester when he was instrumental in taking the future champions to the cleaners.