Our debut in professional football contained an early red card for our goalie and (consequently) a massive defeat: 1-4... In the end it didn't matter, because we gained all of the next possible six points and moved up to sixth in the ranking as well! A promising start of the season, to say the least. Now we had to keep up the good work and stay away from the drop zone as far as we can. In my opinion not the easiest assignment, however...
The only remaining cup tournament for us was the Polish FA Cup. In the Second Round we visited Stal. St. Wola, a team with the same league history as Grunwald. Within the first twenty minutes of the game, Wania (FLC) - our man behind the attacking force - scored a hat-trick. That was all we needed: 0-3! The Third Round meant a home game against Slask, playing in the division above us. In the second 45 minutes both Zarzeczny (AM/FLC), replacing Wania as most attacking midfielder, and Wania himself, playing up front this time, provided some goals: 2-0! Next to that we had to play two legs against Stomil, another team from the First Division. After about half an hour at our own Klodnicka it took our backup left back Dabrowski (D/DML) only one minute to collect two yellow cards. Thanks to excellent goalkeeping from Wosicki we survived sixty minutes of repeated attempts on our goal: 0-0. Away from home Logvinov (SC) opened the score before the ten-minute mark. Less than ten minutes later Stomil's goalkeeper was sent off and the same Logvinov couldn't keep his nerves from the spot. Wania, again playing as an attacker, did score our second goal before half-time. With ten men Stomil could only get one back in the second half: 1-2!
So much for our luck this season. The opposition in the quarterfinals of the FA Cup consisted of the mighty Wisla. In Krakow out-of-control Dabrowski again saw a red card: 4-0... In front of our crowd nothing seemed possible either: 0-2...
Quite frankly, the second half of the season as a whole turned out to be rather embarrassing for Grunwald. I'm just trying to forget those kind of things and focus on my future. After deservedly getting the sack, I'm obviously planning to move away from Poland.
Apparently there is no need to be any good at managing a football team. One of the countries that failed to qualify for the World Cup will give me - of all people - a chance to try and reach the 2012 Euros. Definitely a big challenge, but I'm excitingly looking forward to it!
Don't be afraid, I'm also appointed to take charge of a team at club level. Participating in Group 4 of the Spanish Second Divison B, Castillo (C.F.) - with no history in professional football - is my new squad. When I arrived there were only three players present, but fortunately I had some money to purchase a couple more. I spent € 250,000 on bringing in fifteen new players and also confirmed fourteen loan deals, with one of those already ended because the player was transferred. Let's see what I can make out of this...
Get Victory in that starting lineup now!
Class this! Keep it up Verküh Vèrkûh!
A total of four Groups, containing twenty teams each, are making the Spanish Second Division B (one of) the largest competition(s) in the world. Finishing in the top four of your Group means you enter a playoff group with three other teams, all representing one of the other Groups. Again this means there are four (playoff) groups and every winner of it gets promoted to the Second Division. At the other end of the table, a total of sixteen(!) teams are relegated at once. Three out of four other teams can stay up through winning one or two - depending on the results - two-legged playoff ties.
Based on the recent past of my managerial career so far, it was very likely that Castillo had a realistic option of going down written all over them. That's why I was fairly happy to see the performances of my team in the first half of the season. Surely, we weren't rocking all the time, but a positive achievement after 38 games still wasn't unthinkable!
That average of one point per match kept us on track for avoiding relegation, no matter in what fashion. Unfortunately it soon became clear there were more than 38 points needed to reach the safety status. This kind of pressure was literally killing us. Quite frankly we didn't deserve to be part of this division, considering our record in the remaining twenty fixtures played in the league: 3 wins, 3 draws and 14 losses... Only twelve points out of a possible sixty, what a disaster!
The (former) Magical Magyars are playing their part in the Euro qualifications and have even managed to win some of their games:
Hungary - Czech Republic: 0-1 (0-0)
Georgia - Hungary: 1-1 (0-0)
Hungary - Cyprus: 4-1 (1-0)
Faroe Islands - Hungary: 0-2 (0-1)
Hungary - Sweden: 1-1 (1-0)
Czech Republic - Hungary: 4-0 (2-0)
Hungary - Georgia: 1-0 (0-0)
It's hard to compete with Czech Republic an Sweden, so the summer of 2012 will probably be a quiet one in the Budapest area...
The Castillo directors had every right to send me away and I thus searched for another club to find my luck. I didn't have to travel much, as I'm in the Second Division B again. This time it's the Portuguese one and Clube Desportivo Cova da Piedade - also known as C. Piedade - are playing in the Southern section of it for the first time in their history. I'm not sure yet, but I think I might like the look of their kit colours!
At the beginning of the summer there were no players available, so I had some work to do before the start of the season. With not that many players interested to sign a contract with us, I decided to bring in both free agents and loanees. The most remarkable recruitment for me was 39-year old Mark Bosnich as a player/coach. I considered him good enough to be our first goalkeeper and also being capable to bring in some experience in the team. Then out of the blue he retired from his playing career and for no reason his wage went up way too high, so I released him on a free again. We now have 31 players, 16 of them on loan, to kick off the season. Força C. Piedade!!!
Could Portugal then be a candidate to become a steady home for me? Again a battle against relegation from a nation's lowest professional football division awaited me. The Portuguese Second Division B includes a total of 60 teams, perfectly partitioned between three regional sections (North, Central and South). At the end of the season each region sees one club promoted and four relegated. In order to prevent one of my teams conceding goals for no reason yet another year, I was going to play a very flat 5-1-3-1.
After two league games with just one goal scored against us, we played in the Second Round of the Portuguese Cup. At home against Esmoriz, who were not playing professional football, it took more than half a game for us to open the score through left midfielder Cardoso. Given our defensive record, we were ought to be on the good side of the score from then on. Apparently we needed to do more than rely on our defenders only: 1-2...
Having played the first five matches in the league without finding the net once, we still had a remarkable goal difference of just -1. That was way better than what I had experienced in previous years, although this lack of goalscoring was obviously bothering me big time! Collecting only five points out of the possible thirty at the beginning of the season wasn't very hopeful either...
When it comes to best defence we could even compete with the highest seeded teams of the division, but the attack definitely was our major concern. I decided to support our lone striker a bit more by adding instructions of going forward for the three midfielders already closest to him and both of our wing-backs. It immediately showed a positive effect as we won the 11th game, with Gonçalo - our only attacker - on the scoresheet: 0-1. Lucky us!
Losing half of the first twenty matches wasn't bad at all. Winning just one by no doubt caused the trouble where we were in at that moment. The next ten matches saw us win relatively more, however we also lost more often... Much to our relief the gap towards the first place above the feared line remained exactly the same. We still had eight whole games to do the fans a big favour!
There was nothing wrong with the willingness that was shown by my players during those last matches. It became harder and harder nonetheless to stay up with them, especially because some of the loan deals ended four or five games before the end of the season... With two games to spare our only possible way out, was picking up all six points and be the better one on goal difference.
At least we had a somewhat better season than one of the teams in the Northern section. In the end the result of being relegated was equal for both teams, though... Extremely painful to see on top of that is the number 25 in their season report:
It was up to Hungary to add something positive to my season. Beating Cyprus 1-3 away from home, brought them back at three points from second-placed Sweden. With two games to go - one of which was against the Swedes - things looked rather good. Typically for my career was the display at home to the supposed very weak Faroe Islands: 0-1... No need to mention the outcome of our match played in Stockholm, I reckon. The end of another dream...
I was shown the door by my Portuguese friends. So I had four consecutive relegations out of professional football in my pocket. Not the best of histories to find a new job in football management with. I was likely to end up at a club in the basement of their country's divisions. My journey across Europe continues with a contract at KVO Aarschot in Belgium, playing in the colours of the Dutch national team.
There's not much money to spend and that's why I mainly brought in lots of players on loan. From the 43 players currently in the squad, only seven don't have contracts with a parent club. Despite the overall disappointing season with Piedade, I liked their defensive stats. The use of five at the back will be maintained at Aarschot as well. In front of them a snake-shaped formation has been put together.
We will have to wait until early September before the Third Division kicks off. On the 11th of August we had to travel to the capital to play Rhodienne-Verrewinkel (non-League) in the Third Round of the Belgian Cup. At half-time we were 2-0 down and thanks to De Jonghe and Melkert we drew level. No extra time was played and after eight penalties we won the shoot-out with 2-4! A week later we welcomed Heusden (Second Division) for the Fourth Round. Within fifteen minutes already De Groote brought us back to 1-2. Next we played against ten men for almost an hour, but no more goals were scored...
The 32 teams playing in the Belgian Third Division are divided into two Groups (A and B). Both league leaders are automatically promoted to the Second Division and will play two legs against each other to decide who are the overall D3 champions. After every team has played a(nother) third of the regular 30 league matches, period winners per Group are decided. Although this results in only six teams to be drawn against one another, they still call it the Promotion Playoff Quarter Finals. The best three over two legs advance into the Semi Finals, where the number 16 of the Second Division enters the draw as well. Two ties of two legs are fixtured and the winners of those have one Final match to make clear which team is allowed to play or stay in D2 next season.
At the bottom of the two tables the numbers 15 and 16 are irreversibly relegated. Firstly, for the remaining two slots in the Third Division, six knockout matches between Non-League squads are played. After those the two numbers 14 out of D3 are added to the draw. Again the knockout principle is used for these four matches and finally the same goes for the last two games of the Relegation Playoffs.
Undoubtedly I was in for a genuine relegation battle for the umpteenth time in a row. Even though I don't use any of the substitutes when nobody is injured or sent off, only being able to name a maximum of four, isn't very luxurious. We proved to be a relatively hard nut to crack in the first period of the season. Just four out of ten opponents managed to beat us. Unfortunately we weren't very succesful in defeating other teams ourselves either... On the other hand, we still had every chance to survive at this level.
The sale of one or two loanees by their owners led to me concluding some new loan deals with other players. Most important was a DMRC from Anderlecht who would replace Foket in our starting eleven. This new impetus produced more wins in the second period. Because we lost more games as well, our total amount of points won was only doubled. Luckily for us the safe places weren't far away yet, so we were pretty much in it at the beginning of the last ten games.
Despite this rather promising outlook, suddenly my job became insecure. I was somewhat surprised by that news, but all I could do was go on and try to make the best out of it. First there was a very unlucky 0-0 at home against Lambusart (shots on target: 4-0) and after that a well-deserved decider in the 90th minute of the game away at Maaseik: 1-0 (shots on target: 6-1). And that was that when it comes to the board's patience with me...
At the end of the day, Aarschot ended on 24 points, resulting in a disappointing 15th place. I don't even know why clubs are still interested in my services as a manager, but pretty soon after my dismissal, I succeeded in finding another job. Not for the first time, a return to a country where I was before. The club were relegated to the Second Division B last season, so some possibilities were available as well! Portuguese side União Futebol C. I. Tomar (U. Tomar), in seventh place, would like me to reach a respectable league position after the remaining twelve matches of this season.
I'm not prepared yet to quit using five defenders and that's why a 5-2-3 was implemented. Both wingbacks are asked to move forward once in a while and the two midfielders must keep an eye on what's behind them. Furthermore, the general concept of play is based on playing long balls towards the three men up front.
The transfer window was already closed, so I arranged some loan deals to supply myself with the players I needed for my new formation. We collected a total of 21 points to make it sixty for the season. Officially neither of the teams I managed this season were relegated at the time I was in charge!!!
The people of Hungary must be hungry for some success, but the quality of said country's players might not be enough to give the people what they want. In the Qualification Group for the 2014 World Cup they have to play reigning European Champions (!) Belarus, Portugal (who lost against Belarus in the quarterfinals of the earlier mentioned EC), Belgium - who were runners up in 2008 - and Cyprus. So far, just the expected points against the islanders, without any experience on a major tournament, were picked up.
Although there was some money on the bank to invest in new faces, I thought it wasn't a bad idea to sell players I didn't plan on giving a chance anyway. With all the transformations taken into account, I think we're ready for the upcoming season, mostly playing the lads shown below.
The general opinion in the direct area of Tomar was that a finish in the top quarter of the table shouldn't be impossible. Staying unbeaten in the first five league games of the season did much to grow the fans' confidence. In the end this second place wouldn't give us anything, but it was good to get things going early on! I'm still astonished though by the way we continued after this clear moral boost. I don't have any explanation whatsoever for us picking up a total of zero points in the next five fixtures... Welcome back, danger zone
In the Second Round of the Portuguese Cup we had to turn up away from home against the semi-professionals of Abrantes. Only the first fifteen minutes gave some reason to cheer, when Tiago (FRLC) got himself a brace: 0-2! Next up were Cinfães, acting on the same level as our previous opponents. This time Musetti (FRLC) and Manuel (DMRC) silenced the home crowd, but both of our goals were singled out by their total of two shots on target: 2-2. The replay saw us dominate even more and with Pratas (SC) once and Musetti twice on the scoresheet, the result corresponded to the run of play: 3-1! Bigger opposition then in the Fourth Round, when we had to bring Taipas - playing in the North Group of the Second Division B - a visit. We took a first-half lead through a Stassin (DC) goal, although the game was only decided in the last quarter of the second half: 2-1...
I certainly didn't want to add another relegation to my palmares, so a change of league form was essential. Probably a fast recovery would take away some of the tension, at least for me. Our five defenders prevented us getting a lot of goals put passed us, which was something to build on. However, the madness was complete, while we needed another eight league matches to finally return to winning ways. It looked like we should use the full season to escape going down, that is if that goal could be achieved after all...
So far we had won just four out of twenty ties in this competition. After winning the 18th game earlier, we repeated that in matches 21, 23, 25, 27 and 29, more than doubling our wins! That surely saw us reaching a safe position and a rather quiet end of the season, wouldn't it? In fact they kicked me out, directly after that ninth victory... Without a tenth in the remaining nine games, Tomar eventually stayed up as number sixteen.
Again I had to convince a club to hire the laughingstock of world football as a manager. Thrilled to get a new chance, I went to a club that was already relegated from the top flight. That didn't matter to me at all. There were still two matches to play, meaning I would make my debut in a country's highest division!!!
Wow, this is something else indeed! An exciting draw (2-2) to start with and a very unfair loss (1-2) afterwards. My striker Krzysztof Dawidowski impressed right away by scoring all three of our goals!!!
The lost cause of Hungary was even more highlighted in the remaining three matches of the qualification. In the 88th minute a defeat against Belgium was averted (1-1), but against both Cyprus and Portugal we didn't score ourselves (losses of 1-0 and 0-1)...
Not an easy assignment for me in Poznan, as promotion is demanded. I'm especially disappointed by the retirement of several players just before the season kicked off. Taking a look at the transfer market throughout the season could be necessary after all. Hopefully I can attract some suitable players for something that can be called a 4-2-1-2-1.
A couple of cup matches made clear what can be done with the current squad. Starting at home in the first match of the League Cup First Round, meeting Gornik Zabrze, another team out of the Second Division. From our point of view the scoreline was altered by Kaminski (AM/FRC) in the first and Dawidowski (SC) in the second half: 2-0! In the second leg Dawidowski found the net more than once and Borkowski (SW/DC) fired one in too: 0-3! After that Miedz hosted a game between two sides from the same division. Both teams left it late and the latest goal of the lot, scored by Dawidowski, made the return still worthwhile for us: 2-1...
Let's try and make it a season full of these kind of scenes:
With previous contracts at Polar and Grunwald already under my belt, perhaps the scenario of third time lucky in Poland was a, albeit unlikely, possibility. Of course a story of a performance the other way around was lying in wait as well, given my history as a manager so far.
The Second Division got underway right between our two legs in the League Cup against Miedz, having lost the away game 2-1. Due to fitness issues a lot of different players were lined up for the kick-off at our own Bulgarska. Despite Kowalik (SC) grabbing an equaliser right before the interval, LKS eventually took all three points: 1-2... Lobodzinski (AMC) scored our only goal in the return versus Miedz. Too bad (Piotr) Lewandowski earned himself a brace way before that: 1-2... If losing three times in a row with the same score wasn't bad enough by itself, in that third match we also lost Dawidowski for about three months... A great opportunity for Kowalik to show the world what he's capable of. With him as our front man in most of them, we were unbeaten in the following nine league matches!
We even had to start our FA Cup campaign without Dawidowski. Away at the 'amateurs' of Odra Wodzislaw in the Third Round it was Kowalik who scored first. After a penalty for the home team we came back in front in the first half, again thanks to Kowalik. A couple of minutes past the break he completed his hat-trick and a little while later Latka (AM/FC) finished the job: 1-4! In league match ten Kowalik was replaced by the fit-again Dawidowski, but obviously he had fulfilled his role as understudy like no other!
Our defence was doing well, to say the least. But when I had the chance to sell Szmuc (DLC, age 20) for € 1M, the decision was easily made. Would something like that come out to haunt us? It was league match eleven, the second consecutive one he was playing, when bad luck struck again. Dawidowski picked up an injury which kept him out for another four months... We knew Kowalik was on fire anyway and only five other matches were to be played before winter recess emerged. We were still unbeaten, but it looked like we need to win all games to stay at the top. Could we manage to do that?
Both legs in the Fourth Round of the FA Cup were fixtured in November and a familiar opponent came out of the draw. Firstly, we had to visit LKS and an early goal by Bednarz (AML) decided the match: 0-1! A few weeks later it was one of my (Russian) recruitments in Pchelintsev (MC) to score our only one: 1-0 (again)! In short, we were doing great on the pitch and I was ever so busy to do the same off it. Letting Latka and Adamczyk (GK) go for € 1,000,000 each maybe was a bit of a risk, but they both had clauses that could make them leave for only € 775,000 or so.
Clearly, some quality players left us and in the past, my teams had difficulties to get their act together after multiple months of inactivity. With Dawidowski back in the starting eleven, we never managed to break the deadlock in the next four games, at the same time picking up five points. The last match of that quartet featured the man who then became third time unlucky in Poland. Dawidowski out. Three months... Hopefully, Kowalik was ready to shine once more.
Our attempt to reach the last four of the Polish FA Cup saw us challenging Polonia, playing in the division Lech Poznan desperately wanted to return to. At home a potential draw was denied by one of the linesmen, but in the very last minute of the game, Bednarz succeeded in doing so at last: 1-1. We now had to score in the away tie. It proved to be too much of an assignment and in all fairness, even if we had done just that, it wouldn't have been enough: 2-0...
Back to the league, where we soon built a five-point gap towards LKS and even one of ten between us and the playoff places. There is never a good moment to choke, but this was a pretty decent situation to cope with a little bit of that. Because this is a club I was in charge of, the slump continued for a too long period of matches. On the bright side, we still had everything to fight for in the decisive phase of the season.
Come on you Kolejorz!!!
Back-to-back Saturday losses and LKS went ahead of us. Then Dawidowski lightened up his almost countless return by scoring one of our three goals on Wednesday, which secured us a top-four finish after this penultimate game. Because of our mutual results, the top spot was officially out of sight. To keep things in our own hands, we could better record a win in the last encounter of the season. On Saturday Kowalik did what he does best, namely putting the (foot)ball past the opponent's goalie: 1-0 (undeserved as hell, but who cares?)!
Okay, earlier I've won the Africa Cup of Nations with Ghana. However, for me, this actually counts as an achievement as well. Surely, winning the title would have been a fine bonus, but I'm delighted to finally perform with a club. Now I need to keep it up!
As far as international football is concerned, year in, year out I'm wondering when the Hungarian Football Association will decide to take me off my duty. It's just becoming more hopeless every game... No further words to explain the situation. More than ever I expect my days in this occupation to be counted.
At first I was signing some players to arrive on a Bosman when summer would come. The promotion made me feel something more was necessary to survive in Poland's top division though. I agree that some inequality can be noticed between players leaving and coming in.
Those who went out:
- Borkowski (SW/DC, age 24, contract expiry)
- Kaminski (AM/FRC, age 32, contract expiry)
- Owczarek (DMR, age 23, € 500,000)
- Kucharski (MRC, age 20, € 500,000)
- Wozniak (FRC, age 19, Bosman)
- Romanowski (SW/DC, age 33, retirement)
The new faces:
- Kot (DLC, age 26, Bosman)
- Hajduk (AM/FR, age 24, Bosman)
- Majchrzak (GK, age 32, Bosman)
- Wozniak (DRLC, age 28, Bosman)
- Bankowski (SC, age 22, Bosman)
- Kulpaka (DRL, age 22, Bosman)
- Madej (DC, age 26, Bosman)
- Sala (SW/DC, age 27, € 75,000)
- Grabowski (DMRLC, age 24, € 250,000)
- Klimek (AMLC, age 27, Bosman)
- Malecki (DMC, age 32, Bosman)
- Wachowicz (AM/FC, age 23, € 75,000)
- Najewski (AM/FRC, age 23, € 75,000)
- Wierzchowski (GK, age 38, free transfer)
- Siedlecki (DRC, age 21, loan deal)
Call me crazy, but I'm too tempted to put the 38-year old, capped 53 times for Poland, in goal. In that way my new assistant manager can even have some influence on the results during our matches! An indication how (the rest of) the squad looks like, is hidden right below.
Probably as a result of our regained elite status we didn't play any early cup matches. Instead three friendlies were programmed within five days. Besides the oldy in goal - who played all three of them - thirty field players were named for one game per person. It's safe to say that the so-called strongest eleven clearly made the most of the 90 minutes they were between the lines.
This is a great read!....good work!
Our promotion from the second to the first tier of Polish football was accompanied by € 525,000 for finishing 2nd and another € 775,000 came Poznan's way when TV money was handed out. With that, it probably wasn't the biggest deal of all to meet the expectations of the man in charge even above the manager, as he requested me to improve the squad during the upcoming season. Did this mean he wouldn't mind if, god forbid, by chance a quick return to the Second Division occurred?
For one thing, I had to find out what the league structure has in store. All sixteen competitors are drawn to play just seven of the possible fifteen opponents in the first months of the season. Facing all of them on both grounds, means that the first balance can be made up after fourteen matches. It wasn't clear to me why there was a dotted line halfway through both of the groups. By the look of it, some kind of reward could emerge after ending up in the top half of your chart.
A visit from reigning champions Wisla meant our first taste of competitive action. Despite us creating the most goal chances, we suffered a last-minute defeat. Away at Stomil the same story could be told. At least we weren't outplayed... We headed for Radzionkow next and when their goalkeeper caused a penalty and got sent off for that at 0-0 (± 20'), I became optimistic about a good result. 0-1 from the spot and a one-player advantage, but still we managed to concede a late goal and drop some more points. With the first attack of the game we immediately silenced Hutnik's crowd. Chance after chance to double the lead were missed and then someone with a definite weak spot for Kowalik (SC) did something incredibly stupid, which produced yet another loss...
To complete the first series of games in Group A, we could count on our own fans' support in all three remaining fixtures (Orlen, Widzew and (the return against) Stomil). Unfortunately Kowalik wasn't our biggest threat in those, scoring just once himself. Apparently even that was enough to win each one of them and lift our point tally from one out of four to ten out of seven! What an out-of-the-blue luxury!!! On top of that, these performances kept us near the still mysterious dotted line, with only Wisla (far) out of sight.
Such a shame we were tied against Wisla in the Third Round of the League Cup, starting in Krakow. In short, not our best game: 3-0... We had nothing to lose in the return and that's exactly what we did. In the second half Bankowski (SC) got us underway and near the end of the game Nowicki (D/DMC) gave us some more hope. If only the match could have lasted a couple more minutes: 2-0...
The FA Cup saw us entering in the Second Round, facing KSZO - one of our former league opponents - at our ground. Although our goalie had to stop some shots as well, a first-half goal through Kowalik was followed by a second-half Tarasov (AMR) brace: 3-0! Hosting Stomil in the Third Round would probably ask for a different approach. Eventually we had to process the same number of shots against and I was ever so happy with both Kowalik and Wachowicz (AM/FC) finding the net before half-time: 2-0!
We continued the first stage of the league by somehow holding Wisla to a draw in Krakow! In fact, we only lost, undeservedly too, away at Widzew. By doing so, we managed to double our amount of points gained. Could we make it into the top four with that? And if so, what would it mean? And if not, was that bad news? In general, I was proud of the way we presented ourselves in the highest national league of Poland so far anyway!
No matter in which part of your group you'll finish, your points are halved before the closing stage of the league kicks off. In case of an odd number, the .5 is rounded up to give you sort of an extra point. Instead of eleven points we now were 'just' six behind the league leaders. For me, the most intriguing part was another grouping of eight teams each. Both top and bottom halfs of the previous groups were matched, meaning you don't have to play four of the teams in the same league for an entire season. Again every team in the second phase of the season is played twice. To make up for the clubs you don't encounter, some of the others will be contested four times!
The first leg of the FA Cup Fourth Round was at home against Kietrz, who finished 7th in Group A of the opening stage. In the first hour or so there was nothing between both teams, but from then we needed Bankowski and Hajduk (AM/FR) to come back from behind: 2-1! The return match displayed the same scenario, only this time in the first fourty minutes of the game. It was Bankowski again to open the score and this time Kietrz fought back in style: 2-1. No more goals were scored, neither in the second half nor in both halfs of extra time. Guess who were the most secure from the spot? Not us...
For a change the league wasn't resumed with a fixture against Wisla. Polkowice came to visit and we clearly brushed them aside: 4-1! We didn't have to wait for too long before Wisla came across after all. After Szymanski (DMC) had received two yellow cards we still managed to score twice: 0-2! Besides the downer in the FA Cup, we went into the winter break with rather positive feelings all along! And by then I finally came to the conclusion, looking at the positions on the table and the corresponding points won, that we were already safe from relegation worries
Quite remarkably, as I led Hungary to four wins on the bounce against Luxembourg (A), Bulgaria (H), Faroe Islands (H) and Slovakia (A, friendly) to end 2015 in some fashion! To put things right, 2016 saw them losing both friendly matches against Ireland (H) and again Slovakia (A).
The winter break was quiet as ever. Nevertheless my coaches all agreed that Szewczyk (DRLC) at the age of 15 was already mature enough to join the main squad. He didn't play a game, though, and even if he had done so, our overall inconsistency would still have been victorious. It became clear that we weren't ready to immediately compete with the very top of the country. Of course that's nothing to be ashamed of when you're just promoted from the league below!
Maybe I shouldn't have been so excited already about securing our stay in the top flight midway through the season. Now it was hard to keep my playing personnel motivated for the last hurdles in the league. When we had to play Wisla for the 6th time (cups included), Wierzchowski (GK) was suspended after 'earning' himself a red card in the previous match. The replacement of our golden oldie in goal definitely shared in the malaise: 1-5...
Despite all that, I was surprised in particular by the prize money given to us in comparison to last season in the Second League: € 350,000 now versus € 525,000 back then
No real necessity to compose a completely different squad. I did ask for improvement of the training ground. At the cost of € 1,000,000 we went from good facilities to:
- Bugaj (D/DMC, 21, Bosman)
- Wysowski (D/DMC, 18, Bosman)
- Bazler (D/DMC, 35, Free --> player/coach)
- Nowak (DC, 31, Bosman)
- Giguel (DC, 23, Free)
- Lauwrijs (GK, 36, Retired --> coach)
- Drag (DR, 35, Retired)
With two cup winners as well, it was beyond all things I had expected, so I even had to recall my players from their summer holidays to compete in the First Round of the Inter-Toto Cup. Grabowski (DMRLC) was at the Euros with Poland, thus we started without him at home against Loko Plovdiv (Bulgaria). Lacking match practice all over my squad and to make matters worse, we went one goal down after a good twenty minutes. Thanks to Szymanski we drew level before the break and after that the run of play was in our favour. In the end it was Wachowicz who sealed the deserved win for us: 2-1! Four days later almost everyone was replaced by a (slightly) fitter subsitute and the Bulgarians took maximum advantage of that, by totally outclassing us. Within thirty minutes they were three goals up. Kowalik was the first to wake up and at half-time the deficit was brought back to two. In the second half the pressure kept on coming towards us and it was some kind of miracle that Sala (DC) made our second. After that we still had at least 35 minutes to defend the even score on aggregate. We only had two shots on target in the whole game, but it seemed to be enought to advance on away goals: 3-2! Wait a minute, what is that referee thinking? We are playing European football, right? We can't handle another thirty minutes on the pitch! And so we went down at the first occasion: 4-2 (118')...
After those games Giguel from Senegal arrived. Sala and Adamski (DRC) moved one position to the right to fit him in and Kulpaka (DRL) lost his place.
Just caught up, really good stuff. You've certainly had some tough jobs in recent years but glad to see you doing much better with Lech.
Keep it up!
A new season equals new chances of success. By the words of the board, the hope for improvement was there. By my interpretation, not much more pressure was laid on us. With the deception in Europe fresh in mind, the first part of the domestic competition presented itself. For a change we didn't had to play Wisla (for a while), however last year's champions Radomsko made it to our group.
According to our first attempt for a cheerful season, nothing more disappointing to behold was possible for Lech's loyal crowd. Four days later we were handed an opportunity to win their support back, when Second Divisions' Ceramika came to visit us in the context of the League Cup Second Round. This first leg was over already before fifteen minutes were played, because Wachowicz (AM/FC) beat the opposition goalie twice. Within ten minutes after the break Dawidowski (SC) was the only one to find the net as well: 3-0!
Three days after that first national win of the season we went to Radomsko for the league. By a tiny margin we were the better team in play and - probably as a result of that - we left the pitch as winners, albeit by a one-goal difference. Again only four days separated a league encounter and a meeting with Ceramika. People had to wait until the last half an hour of the game to see goals, but they weren't disappointed from then on. Dawidowski managed to bring us back level more than once, so we were through on aggregate: 3-2 (3-5).
Despite this lost match, we somehow got a boost just by being in the Third Round of that cup. We added four unbeaten games in the First Division to our win at Radomsko, before Wisla found their way to the Bulgarska in Poznan. Was it a bonus that they were in the other group of the league or could they do us damage anyway in this first of two legs? To the utmost extent an early bath of Wierzchowski (GK) affected the final score: 0-3... With him suspended the next fixture wasn't easy either and we were beaten once more.
By then we didn't only had eleven players in our starting formation. It was that same number returning in the figures showing the goals for and against, resulting in exactly that amount of points as well!
Another - even when hitting the target ten times (thirteen with both teams included), scoreless - draw made it all the more difficult towards the return in Krakow. With Danilewicz provisionally for the last time in goal during the last game of suspension for Wierzchowski, the same scoreline, but unfortunately for us reversed, was reached: 3-0 (6-0)... Right after this humiliation we had to visit Hetman (D2) in the Third Round of the FA Cup. We were the weaker party the entire match and thereby it was impossible for us to pick up a positive result: 1-0...
Being cleared out of both cup tournaments within a week. A hefty setback in terms of confidence. Surprisingly though, we were able to string together a total of six consecutive league encounters without a defeat. By doing so, we made it through to the 'Championship Half' before all fourteen group matches were played. I couldn't care less about ending that run in the very last one!
It was clear that Group B provided some tougher opposition in the second half of the season than Group A did. No less than three quarters of those teams were above us in the adjusted rankings after the group stage. Could we do the same as or even better than last season? We had to keep an eye on the fifth spot then at least. And on Wisla of course... Go Lech Poznan!
The season wouldn't be complete without playing Wisla in the league. In fact our very first duel of the Second Phase was played in Krakow. A perfectly equal match was decided in our disadvantage, meaning a bad resumption for us. We were kept in the race by winning the last fixture before the gap in the schedule of play. The dream was still alive with Lech Poznan 'only' five points behind a possible title (a.k.a. Wisla)!
Our vocabulary was clearly missing the word 'consistency' and all of its synonyms. In the spring of 2017 the advantage of the league leaders towards us was doubled. Yet we had to aim for the highest possible position on the table. Something that wasn't easy as we obviously had major problems finding the net. I was desperate to turn things around (a little) during the last quarter of the season. If only my players would be able to do so... On a positive note, in the first half of the season relegation was avoided already!
One can imagine we had a severe slip-up when I tell you that after the penultimate game all possible outcomes of a football match had occurred just as often as the other two. Then again, somehow there still was a scenario available in which we could consolidate last year's final position of fifth. The type of result that eventually went into double figures, was - and my point of view in this can be generalised with impunity - the least favourite of them all... So that's why we ended up at place seven, almost twenty points behind Wisla.
I had the feeling things were going nowhere when it came to my attempts to bring a revolution to Hungarian football. A change of plan was designed and basically a 3-5-2 was introduced to the players. No real stability was reached, with us dropping points against Macedonia, Albania (twice) and even San Marino. On the other hand, Sweden and Yugoslavia were defeated, although our goalkeeper had to be at his best for that. Anyway, at this stage we aren't out of it (yet)! We're facing Sweden (H), San Marino (A) and Yugoslavia (A) - in that order as well - in the near future.
Dropping from fifth to seventh in the space of a season led to a serious bunch of unhappy players. It's not my aim to throw in the towel at any point, but I realised something (big) had to happen (anytime soon). I can't come up with another explanation for the fact that I decided it was my priority to splash a fair bit of the cash, in order to finally respond to the needs of the board. A quick reminder about that: improve the squad.
Players moving out:
- Bednarz (AML, 26, Contract expiry)
- Kowalik (SC, 27, Contract expiry)
- Bazler (D/DMC, 36, Retirement (as a player))
- Tarasov (AMR, 30, Contract expiry)
- Marzec (DRC, 26, Contract expiry)
- Bankowski (SC, 24, Contract expiry)
- Bak (AM/FLC, 26, Bosman)
Players moving in:
- Gasior (GK, 17, Youth academy)
- Bialek (SC, 21, Bosman)
- Szewczyk (AM/FLC, 24, Bosman)
- Terlecki (AM/FLC, 20, Bosman)
- Masewski (DLC, 27, Bosman)
- Wozniak (AMR, 26, € 75,000)
- Skocic (DRC, 26, € 100,000)
- Kowalski (AMRC, 26, € 150,000)
I think we're in need of someone that's more of a killer in front of goal, so Bialek gets his chance instead of Dawidowski (12 goals in 30 appearances last season). At the wings Klimek (AMLC, played 27 times, scored 1 and assisted 4) is replaced by Terlecki and Wozniak comes in for Najewski (AM/FRC, 28 games, 2 goals and 2 assists). Skocic is the new right back at the expense of Adamski (DRC).
Tough season, the Polish league is weird! Still well in with a shout in a very tight qualifying group as well, despite some dodgy results.
Me not noticing any demands from the board, probably wasn't the best of starting points for the upcoming season. A great part of the players unhappy with me and/or the way things were going performance-wise, sounded like an even bigger challenge than I had already experienced throughout my years in football management. If it wasn't for my love of the (simulation) game, this story could have faded away silently on the one hand, but rather quickly on the other...
Not that I really had time to overthink this kind of crap, because the first games presented themselves exactly at the right moment. For the third season running we tried to qualify for the 'champions stage' of Poland's premier football league. After five matches I couldn't resist a negiotated offer for Nowak (DC, 33), who had joined us during the summer of 2016 for free and now earned us a quarter of a million Euros.
One fixture later we made our return in the League Cup. The First Leg of the Third Round was at home against Hetman, leading the league right below us. Five minutes in and Sala (SW/DC) put us ahead, but we had to wait until ten minutes or so after the break for another goal: 1-1... Fifteen minutes later first Wozniak (AMR) and then Wachowicz (AM/FC) woke up and well into injury time both of them got theirselves a brace to finish things off: 5-1! We had a free weekend before the return, but Hetman dropped to second in their league, albeit on goal difference. I was confident enough to replace all eleven of my players for this one. One goal in both halfs, scored by Dawidowski (SC) and Scewczyk (AM/FLC), proved me being right in the end: 0-2 (1-7 on aggregate)!
I had some serious doubts about the possibilities we had and I couldn't have been more wrong. The purchased players did gave us a real boost and almost all results in het first quarter of the (league) season were truly magnificent. Was it just a glimmer of hope or was this the recipe I had been searching for all of those years? Of course there were much more points to gain, so I tried not to get overconfident. If only the belief amongst the players could stay intact...
By then, some player trading was executed. Grabowski - DMRLC, 26 - who was sitting out a nine-match suspension, wanted to leave us for a bigger club and had an expiring contract, almost departed for half a million Euros, when Gruszka (SW/D/DMC) arrived for € 50,000. Our captain Szymanski (DMC) moved to the left and Wysowski (D/DMC) partnered him in defensive midfield to replace Grabowski.
When the second half of the opening stage of the league was one match old, we went to Odra Wodzislaw to play in the Third Round of the FA Cup. They were sitting 10th in the Second Division at that time and Wysowski opened the scoring within the first ten minutes. During the last 25 minutes Wozniak, Szymanski and Wachowicz really made this one count: 0-4! One surprise after another came across on all fronts and I didn't exactly know what to think about it...
Just before the 14th and last league tie in Group B had to be played, Wysowski (19) went out for the same amount of money as Nowak did earlier. Apart from the suspension, he manoeuvred himself in the same situation as Grabowski had been in. That's why I more or less had to accept the money and let him go as well. For a combined € 1,000,000 Radomsko took away three of our defensive options. So nice of them to sponsor us like that! With Gruszka in for Wysowski we extended our largely unbeaten run, even though a place amongst the first four was secured a relatively long time ago already.
Immediately the vultures of the media were there to put the spotlights upon us. I know they have to do their jobs too, but I decided to do mine as well and ignore this kind of messages. By doing so, I hoped the players could keep their focus on what they are obviously good at and perhaps we did stand a chance to make this season count in the history of the club. So far, so good, that was for sure! Now coping with the pressure was our main duty.
Especially a fine defensive record saw us placed above the best teams of Group A as well. Even with half the points, we were three points clear of our closest pursuers. Make that a virtual four when goal difference is taken into account. But still, this wasn't the time to adopt a lax attitude or something similar. Three pieces of domestic silverware were there to be won and any single one of those could have the power to turn things around in the beautiful city of Poznań.
We were handed the first chance to keep it all up in the Fourth Round of the FA Cup. Home team Polkowice found themselves in third place of Poland's Second League. After a quarter of the game they took a double lead and soon after the break Bialek (SC) did something back. At the end of the match a fourth goal was added to the game total: 3-1... Not the best of preparations concerning the league resumption. Away at Kietrz - unbeaten against us in the two previous meetings and also responsible for our only league defeat until then - we got in front early in the second half (Wachowicz). The 0-1 didn't stay on the board for long and with some injured players leaving the pitch on our side we would be happy to settle for a draw. One man in particular had other thoughts in mind when lining up a free kick in the penultimate minute of this tie and so Szymanski turned this one into another victory!
The exhausting contest against Kietrz left its marks on the starting eleven for the return versus Polkowice. A somewhat weakened team were pretty much unable to create anything worth mentioning: 0-0 (1-3 on aggregate)... We were clearly losing the mental game by then and the next visitors undoubtedly sensed our weakness at that point. To make matters worse, the last fixture before the winter break was the long-awaited reunion with our tormentors from Krakow... Just see for yourself what happened on that day, because sometimes a picture can tell more than a thousand words:
Taking all three points from this kind of games extended our incredible league run. However, I had to point out that our luck couldn't be perpetual, at least not in these quantities. For now that wasn't an issue yet, as we were going into the (free) winter period, five points ahead of both the numbers two and three. And so there I was, living the dream when entering the festive month of December!
If only the results could keep on coming our way after Szymanski (28 | € 1,000,000) and Sala (SW/DC | 29 | € 250,000) were sold to Kietrz, only to be replaced by Zagorski (D/DMC | 22 | loan deal). Almost immediately after his arrival a Bosman deal was concluded to make his stay at Lech permanent. The man from Zaglebie came straight in to take over the free position in defensive midfield and Adamski (DRC) was back in the team to complete the defence.
Despite all this Polish tension, I had to concentrate on my other job too. A group of World Cup Qualifiers containing five countries within touching distance of each other, separated by a maximum of three points. We were fourth in line and our first of three remaining ties was at home against Sweden, equal on points with us, but second-placed all together.
That was one of my teams back on earth. The other one had a long way to go until the next official match was scheduled. In the past few years we had some trouble winning games during the winter and spring season. I thought it couldn't hurt to change the approach of that part of the season a bit and I was ever so happy to secure the services of this club for meeting us. Let's say revenge obviously was in play...
Whether or not we were truly ready to continue our title challenge, at first a double cup confrontation with Polonia (11th in D1) awaited us. As a host we had to accept that their only shot between the sticks hit the back of the net: 0-1... After half an hour on the clock in the return, they doubled their summed advantage, decimated by Wachowicz with 25 minutes left to play. Another away goal would see us through. No worries, right? So much for using the winter break wisely: 1-1 (2-1 on aggregate)...
A little drop of form would be totally understandable for me, but this was a bit too much surrounded with a smell of conspiracy. I was so furious that I almost missed out on capturing the (slightly distorted) rankings prior to the start of the last and deciding quarter of the season. Without a league win in five, 2018 had everything in it to not become one of our favourite years... More than ever we were longing for a major turnaround: the sooner, the better!
Finally we did manage to win a game or two in this calendar year. Partly because of that the fight for the title was still wide open before all the games of the last matchday kicked off. Everybody was dropping points in March, April and May, so there were plenty of contenders left. A solid performance, I'm talking about the result here, away at Stomil (0-3) was all we could do to rescue our eventually frustrating season... Boys and girls, never ever even consider the option of premature cheering
Maybe I shouldn't have let that many players go in the middle of the season. Probably selling them to rival clubs wasn't overly sensible either. Rebuilding the squad and preparing them for some European matches in the UEFA Cup gobbled my summer.
- Jurkowski (DC, 26, contract expiry)
- Danilewicz (GK, 26, contract expiry)
- Malecki (DMC, 35, contract expiry)
- Timofeev (MC, 30, contract expiry)
- Klimek (AMLC, 30, Bosman)
- Najewski (AM/FRC, 26, Bosman)
- Bankowski (DL, 25, Bosman)
- Zaluska (AMLC, 24, player swap)
- Wierzchowski (GK, 41, retirement) --> stays in charge as the Assistant Manager
Arrivals (next to Zagorski of course):
- Dariusz Owczarek (DMC, 31, Bosman)
- Lewandowski (D/DMRC, 23, € 500,000)
- Trzeciak (D/DMRL, 26, player swap)
- Ptak (AMRLC, 25, € 750,000)
- Adam Owczarek (D/DMRC, 28, € 100,000)
- Swierczewski (DMC, 20, loan deal)
- Zilic (DRC, 25, € 200,000)
Two of his competitors are gone and that's why Gielarek now gets his chance in goal and is named as captain too. The other adjustments are Zilic for Adamski at centre-back and pairing up Swierczewski and Lewandowski from left to right as the holding midfielders.
at all of the friendlies against Polkowice!
Very unlucky there, the season promised so much and delivered so little. Like you said, you probably let too many players go. Hopefully you can put the transfer funds generated to good use and challenge again next season.
Thanks for your continued support!
Can I get away with an image-based report to reflect on the past season?
For the first time under my command a club started a season as defending champions. That's right, Poland's most important piece of silverware was ours to lose! Encouraged by their chairman, Lech Poznan were aiming for prolongation of the national title. Before things really kicked off, we were already beaten by our clear rivals Wisla Krakow in a battle to win the Polish Super Cup. That had to give us all the more motivation to make the best of the remaining dozens of games.
In the Group Phase of the First Division a missed penalty and later on a red card against us made the opening match a bit more difficult than necessary. Luckily we went into the next one, more of a challenge because of its continental character, with three points in the bag. At home to Maribor (Slo) a scored spot kick and later on a sending-off in our favour were responsible for our opponents not once finding their way towards the area between the posts and under the bar were Gielarek was (literally) waiting. We had a total of ten goal attempts and seventy percent of them were on target, but Robert Bingo was keeping ever so well. Consequently it was Pawel Szewczyk (AM/FLC) who became the matchwinner in Leg 1 of the Champions League Qualifying Round 2: 1-0!
Our trip to Slovenia was preceded by a lost home game in the league, so we knew it was important not to underestimate any other team. Again we kept on testing Bingo and eventually it was Terlecki (AM/FLC), the man that came crawling back to us a week and a day after leaving on a free, who found a way past him. Remarkably, the hosts didn't produce any shot towards our goal, let alone Gielarek: 0-1 (agg 0-2)! Followed by a comfortable league win, it didn't really matter which club we had to play in the Third (and final) Qualifying Round.
We had to play on foreign soil first. Gazovik-Gazprom Izhevsk were happy to welcome us to Russia. Isn't that the same country where we were eliminated from European football last year? I'm afraid so... Any chances of a better result this time? The story can be told with people scoring close to the half-time break in both halfs: 2-0... Before Gaz-Gaz came to town, we only gained three points from two league fixtures, also played in Poznań. At our own Bulgarska the deadlock was broken after less than twenty minutes by Lewandowski (D/DMRC) and after the interval some more effectiveness in front of the enemy goalkeeper was shown: 1-2 (agg 1-4)...
Before it was time to enter the League Cup, we won another game in the First Division, this time outside of Poznań. The team at the summit of Division Two visited our home town in the Third Round of said tournament. Belchatow managed to let us concede twice and we only had Ptak (AMRLC), Wozniak (AMR) and Marzec (SC) to hand us the win. A minor addition to that, the last two of the mentioned players scored a brace each: 5-2! A gameless week - for us, they stayed on top of their league thanks to a win - later and nothing changed: 0-0 (agg 5-2).
Another away win to wrap up the first half of the Qualifying Phase of the domestic league was enough to reflect our ambitions. We were clearly in the race for a place amongst the eight best teams of the season in Poland. A rather tight defence and a less than prolific attack would describe us best at this stage. As always, we still had a long way to go and this competition was far from decided yet. I had to wait and see or and if so, how the UEFA Cup could interfere with our main goal of winning that one trophy for the second time in a row.
Since 2011/2012 Malinowski (AML) only played four matches for Lech and I was willing to let him go for € 50,000. On our way to Finland then, to play in the First Round of the UEFA Cup against the squad that got the better of Shakhtar Donetsk in the Qualifying Round. Jari Aho, the goalie of Pallo-Iirot Rauma, earned himself a ten and Gielarek made sure nothing got past him. One can imagine the amount of shots we had, given the names of Wachowicz (AM/FC) and Bialek (SC), with his first goal of the season, on the scoresheet: 0-2!
Without conceding a goal, we picked up four out of the possible six points in front of our own fans. Against P-Iirot the first to put one home was Lewandowski and the other two shots on target in the first 45 were goals as well. In the second act we needed less than ten minutes and the brilliance of both Wachowicz and Bialek to score from all attempts on goal and cancel out the in-game deficit: 3-2 (agg 5-2)!
Nothing but clean sheets and a total of six goals brought us the same number of points. As an additional result we had already qualified for the Championship Group of the Polish Premier League! So I thought this was the best possible moment to cross swords with a well-known side from Germany. We went to Munich to destroy and, much to my amazement, that's exactly what Wachowicz and (ironically) Lewandowski did to leave the players and people wearing red shirts behind with an unfamiliar look on their faces: 0-2!
We were trying to collect as many points as there were available to set up a good position for the second half of the season. Even though we lost two points, our little run of unbeaten games continued. Partly because of that the stars of FC Bayern were somewhat hesitant to visit Poznań. After the first half the same scoreline as two weeks earlier was accomplished, this time by Zilic (DRC) and Terlecki. With 120 minutes of football on the clock, the Germans had their first shot on target against us and scored as well: 2-1 (agg 4-1)!
Three days later we were ever so lucky to win the last Group match in the league. I was especially impressed by the amount of goals scored against us (0.5 per game), which looked pretty much in accordance with the average we produced in the opposite column (± 1.6 per game). Pretty decent figures all in all, but not really spectacular and the biggest question was if this would be sufficient to eventually win the league.
At first sight, most unsurprisingly, our eternal rivals from Krakow looked to be the most likely challengers for the title. To be fair to all the other six teams, the gap between Lech and position eight was only five points. With us still acting on the European stages, maybe we were in a vulnerable position after all. My philosophy is to have a go at every trophy, so I wasn't prepared to choose between any of them and therefore resting players wasn't addressed. Let that squad rotate like never before!
Immediately at the 'real' start of the championship, we lost away at LKS... This was followed by a European confrontation with some other (former?) giants in red. In Lisbon we never got to our game properly and limiting the damage seemed all we could do: 1-0 (38')... Two defeats in a row since we were beaten last by Gaz-Gaz. I was glad to see my boys turning the tide against Dolcan, with Marzec (SC) scoring a hat-trick. By then I decided to make him (7 goals in 8 starts) my number one striker instead of Bialek (3 in 18).
As you can see, we played the return with Benfica as the league leaders in Poland. Four minutes played and we were already back in this one, with Marzec providing the goal. We were the better team all day long and at the stroke of half-time we were suddenly forced to score two more... Four minutes into the second half it was Giguel (DC) who made this assignment fifty percent more achievable. Ten minutes later all hope was gone, because we again had to find a way past their goalie twice in the remaining thirty minutes... Within four minutes Marzec did so once. Total madness! We kept on bombarding their goal, but unfortunately time wasn't on our side. Minute 87 and the name of the last scorer became known. Sport Lisboa e Benfica came close to proceeding, if it wasn't for Wozniak: 4-2 (agg 4-3)!!!
One can understand we went into the winter break on a high. Piotrowicz (DMLC, 27, € 100,000) coming in was the only change I made to our selection. No need for me to arrange something during that couple of months without matches scheduled. That gave me some time to apply for national jobs that came available. My predecessor and successor József Kiprich was one of the sacked bosses. I don't even know why they or why I want to do this, but I'm back at Hungary. Bosnia offered me the job three days later, which I declined because of my loyalty. I played some friendlies with a rubbish formation (or just weak players) and that's why I'll have some considering to do.
Lech's first match of 2020 was played at their home ground and Stomil, sitting eleventh in Division One, were faced in the First Leg of the League Cup Quarter Finals. The guys in blue and white were the dominant team, but the majority of the crowd was relieved to see Marzec finally finding the net in the second 45 to level the scoreline: 1-1.
The same stadium, two teams playing in blue and white, yet a total different match. UEFA Cup Round 4, Leg 1, and with less than fifteen minutes past, Napoli were put behind by Wachowicz. In a brief spell shortly after the hour-mark the game exploded with three goals within a space of four minutes. The first two of them meant Wachowicz completed his hat-trick, however this was all but over with a match in Italy still to play: 3-1!
To make the variation complete, we had to play a league game first. Again we managed to fire in three goals. Sometimes two can play that game and that's exactly what Orlen did. In the last two fixtures, three teams succeeded in scoring three times. Proceedings beginning with a penalty (38'), the return in Naples added another team to that sequence: 3-0 (agg 4-3)... It's little consolation that they won the tournament in the end.
We were quick to react and comfortably won a league game before we were heading to Olsztyn to play another Second Leg. They hadn't left their position in the rankings and we had to score at least one goal. It was a close encounter and again the scoring was opened from the spot. Just like in the reversed fixture, a total of two goals were registered: 2-0 (agg 3-1)...
Two cup exits in a few weeks time. That made the following three wins in the league even more remarkable. Only the last quarter of matches to go and we were six points clear at the top. The case that worried me most was the fact that we still had to play Wisla twice in those seven games. But hey, in fact we were the champions of 2018/2019. We could do this!
Based on these standings my conclusion was that Lech had little difficulties winning matches and Wisla was very hard to beat. Round 22 of 2019/2020 and the battle between those two, played in Krakow, resulted in a very even fight. Nevertheless, the result wasn't that undecided when a single goal made all the difference in the world: 0-1... An advantage of three points to defend in the six games to come.
Before the other meeting with our closest pursuers awaited us, we didn't lose any of the four contests in between. What bothered me, though, was the way we failed to win one of them by simply not utilising (all) the chances we created over and over again. We had to be careful with that kind of performances, although the one against our archrivals could prove to be the most decisive of them all.
Despite some results going against us, we were five points ahead of Wisla when they came to visit our turf. Two 'finals' of ninety minutes to go and obviously we were the team to beat. If we managed to keep one or more points in the safe by not losing this first one, no one would be able to catch up with us anymore. As usual, an important match was ignited by a converted penalty kick. The further development on the scoresheet showed what our role in this play was: 0-2...
Quite a disappointment, to say the least. On the other hand, the last kick of the season had to take place yet and we were the favourites to stay on top in the end. I got the feeling that playing in the country's capital didn't make us feel overly confident. Given the scoring process in the other match, there was a definite urge to avoid defeat. We had few problems realising just that and after the final whistle it became clear that gaining three points with a three-goal margin determined the final table.
Our overall performance this season was pretty equal to that of Wisla, but in the mutual duels we were never there. Probably because of some memorable wins, mainly against foreign opposition, I received some individual recognition. Of course I would trade that for an actual trophy any time...
No need to massively rebuild the squad, in my opinion. Those who left us are Bak (DR, 29, Bosman), (Grzegorz) Ptak (DL, 33, retired) and (Dariusz) Owczarek (SW/DMC, 33, retired). To make up for that, the very versatile Lejman (D/DMRLC, 27, € 150,000) came in. Two of my foreign players recently got a Polish passport, but apparantly I'm still not allowed to buy new foreigners...
Due to Wisla's run in Europe last year (2018/2019) and the resulting postponements, the final of the Polish FA Cup was only played in July 2019. Therefore - I think - the edition of 2019/2020 was given a go in late June 2020. For us it all started in the Third Round against non-league Pelikan Lowicz. Away from home three first-half goals by Marzec, Wozniak and Pawel Szewczyk were sufficient to put us through: 0-3!
The Fourth Round contained two legs and Slask from our division were the opposition. At the Bulgarska we needed two Marzec goals to save us: 2-1! In the return we really outclassed them, but only a penalty was scored. No worries, it was taken by Wachowicz: 0-1 (agg 1-3)! For the First Leg of the Quarter Finals a team acting at the same level as Pelikan Lowicz travelled to Poznań. Zaglebie Sosnowiec didn't threaten us at all, with Marzec (2x), Wachowicz and Wozniak causing the damage: 4-1! Three days later all shots on target resulted in goals and Pawel Szewczyk single-handedly neutralised the 1-0 by not only scoring from the spot: 1-3 (agg 2-7)!
We now have almost € 3,000,000 in the bank, but I would love to generate some more cash by playing in the Champions League. As the number two of Poland we might have a chance to do so this season, while we're allowed to qualify for the Group Phase. In Leg One of the Second Qualifying Round we made a trip to Kiev. Not the best of matches from both sides, presumably because of the tension and the importance of the outcome. It's the same old story over and over again, whilst Terlecki is transfer listed once more, because he wants to move to a bigger club, and to generate some publicity he headed one home for us: 0-1!
On the one hand we were still massively suffering from the narrowly lost title race. On the other hand it was plain obvious that Lech Poznan had become one of the top teams in Poland. In order to keep living up to those standards, we needed to keep defeating opponents and of course winning prizes could add to that in particular. I was desperately hoping to finally enter the main tournament of the Champions League, although lifting that trophy would probably be far out of reach for us, at least for now.
Before the Dinamo Kiev squad came to visit for the return of the Second Qualifying Round, the Polish First Division got underway for us. We needed all the luck in the world to scrape away with a 1-0 win (Zagorski (D/DMC), 74') at home to Arka. That was exactly the margin we had against the Ukrainians. They played much better at home, but couldn't produce a single goal attempt this time. We did had a few ourselves and went in front after just ten minutes when Marzec (SC) already decided this confrontation: 1-0 (agg 2-0)!
The next and final Preliminary Round - the First Leg that is - had to wait one more league game. For the third time in a row we played in front of our own fans and again it was Zagorski (73') who scored the only goal of the match in a domestic tie. Then there is was: our trip to Great Britain, England to be more specific and the blue part of Liverpool to give you all the details. I don't know what got into us, but for sure it wasn't just me who wanted to proceed from this! Within half an hour all that resulted in a given penalty and an associated red card as well. The fouled Marzec himself hopelessly failed to seize this opportunity to take the lead... We continued to pressure them, though, and at the beginning of the second half a Wachowicz (AM/FC) header finally paid the scoreline some justice. In the end it was debatable whether we should have scored more often: 0-1!
Business as usual after that, with another home game in the national league. This time it was Andrzej Kowalski (AMRC) to be the only one on the scoresheet. That's how we registered six consecutive wins of 1-0 and a club record of eleven successive victories in total! An exciting start to the season if you ask me.
Because of the shifted schedule concerning the 2019/2020 Polish FA Cup we now had to play the first Semi Final away at Radomsko, featuring in the other Qualifying Group of the top flight. Thirty minutes on the clock and one of their players received his marching orders. Not much time to take advantage of that, while it took Wachowicz less than ten minutes to make it an even number of players between the lines again. In the second half one team's only shot on target went in: 1-0...
To make sure our unbeaten run was ended by then, Hutnik showed us who was the boss at their ground. They completely dominated the league game there and we were very fortunate to concede just the two goals. It certainly wasn't the best moment to defend our minimal lead against The Toffees after that miserable spell... Instead of deciding this double confrontation in the first match, we were forced into extra time because of a first-half goal. At the stroke of the second half-time we got what I think we deserved: 1-1 (agg 2-1 aet)! Our ticket to the Champions League was presented to us by Marzec!!!
We returned to our domestic league full of excitement about the chance to measure ourselves with the European elite. The only downside was the amount of minutes needed to reach that goal. In a pretty even match we scored a very, very late equaliser and still managed to go home with no points... Four games without a win and the big question was if we were capable of reaching the Final of the FA Cup. Radomsko were having a slight advantage following their home game. Halfway through the first half and our star defender Giguel (DC) had to be substituted with the scoreline still unchanged... One minute later and things suddenly were totally different when Wozniak (AMR) was the scorer. With the last kick of the first half and his first goal of the season Lewandowski (D/DMRC) sent us flying! At about twenty minutes from the end it looked like the game was put to bed by Marzec, but two minutes later a penalty brought a lot of tension back in this game. In the end only one of these teams could advance towards the next and also the final round: 3-1 (agg 3-2)!
In fact, that FA Cup Final was immediately scheduled after reaching it. The First Leg against fellow league opponents Kietrz was at our own Bulgarska. The supporters were probably looking forward to the Champions League a bit more, while not every place in the stadium was filled. Maybe they were right as well, because both teams were responsible for not even a handful of dangerous shots each. Nevertheless a winning goal was welcomed in the last few minutes of the first half: 1-0 (Wozniak)!
To make it an uninterrupted series of FA Cup games, the return against Kietrz was our next match. Between those two matches we bought Wielkoszynski (DRL, 25, € 500,000) to become our new first-choice left-back and a possible stand-in at right-back. This fixture was far more attractive than the first one and Kietrz' players were damn effective as well. Their first goal in the first 45 minutes came after Marzec and Pawel Szewczyk (AM/FLC) had already put us in front. They really came back in the game with a second goal ten minutes before the final whistle. In the very last minute this tie was decided by Andrzej Kowalski: 2-3 (agg 2-4)!
By winning this cup for the first time since 1988 we added € 775,000 to the starting fee we received from the UEFA for reaching the Champions League. Speaking of which, we went all the way to Greece for a meeting with their champions Panathinaikos right after the Second Leg of the Cup Final. In a hostile atmosphere nothing more than a decent match from both sides was recorded. Around the hour mark the first hit was a fact and by opening his account for the season Swierczewski (DMC) caused the damage. Ten minutes later the game was level again and everyone had to wait until the injury time to see what the final result would be. With his first of the season as well, Bialek (SC) handed us a flying start in this major tournament: 1-2!
I'm the first one to admit that our biggest chance to win the FA Cup was by avoiding a battle against Wisla. And so it happened. What about the League Cup? Same approach then? Our first round and the Third in general made things clear right away... Thus to Krakow we went to play the First Leg. Within five minutes we were behind and just before the first half hour was played, Zagorski received a straight red... All in all we played an okay match, despite conceding once more in the second half: 2-0...
And then there it was: the first home game in the Champions League in over ten years! It could have been easier, but we had to do with a visit from the Spanish champions by the name of Barcelona... Not even a handful of minutes passed and Marzec fired in his tenth of the season! The whole match got me wondering what was happening and I couldn't believe my eyes when after three quarters of the game Swierczewski doubled our lead to convincingly win it in the end: 2-0!
Six non-league games later we made our comeback in that competition. At home to Legia in the first half already all three points were collected. Last year's number three in Germany came to Poznań after that. Freiburg withheld the pressure for less than fifteen minutes when the head of Wachowicz met the ball! Based on the run of play in the rest of the game, the visitors deserved at least one point. Just before the last quarter started that's exactly what they got: 1-1.
Only one other game to break our league schedule this time. Another home fixture, Hutnik the opposers, resulting in the maximum of three possible points. Not surprisingly at all it took us some more time to play half the group games in the Polish top flight than any other team needed. Despite those two defeats we were still in an amazingly good position to qualify for the actual championship. Let's keep that up then!
It wasn't the easiest of assignments to make up a 0-2 deficit against that club from Krakow. Wachowicz did what he could by scoring as a midfielder in the first and, after Marzec went off injured, as our striker in the second half. In the meantime, the 45th minute to be precise, a field goal and a penalty were scored. Over two matches we scored from two of our six shots on target as they converted four out of five: 2-2 (agg 2-4)...
Our sixth home game in a row in all competitions counted as the first of three consecutive league fixtures. That one went by without any ball crossing the goal line. The other two were both on the road and the hosts remained goalless in the process, securing two excellent wins for us! We were ready for our trip to Freiburg, the only ones who prevented us from winning in this continental Group Phase so far. They surely meant business as they went 2-0 up within twenty minutes! Less than fifteen minutes later and Swierczewski and Pawel Szewczyk had already squared everything. In true German fashion the game was eventually decided with a winner in the last five minutes: 2-3 (Wachowicz)!
Travel number four on the spin and we witnessed a robbery, meaning our third defeat in the national championship. Good thing we were on ten points in the Champions League when PAO came by. Together with Barça they were four points behind us. I don't know if we were so dominant or they just couldn't do any better, but there was only one team with shots on target and an injury-time strike by Bialek, putting away his fifth of the season, saw us go up right before the break. Still no sign of the Greeks and so we extended our stay in Europe for the second half of the season as well: 1-0!(!!)
By winning the next one at home against Polish opposition, we secured a place amongst the eight best teams of the season. The sixth year in succession to do so. In the remaining two away games we picked up another four points, which in the end made us win our group, despite not winning five out of fourteen. That had me slightly worrying for the slowly upcoming so-called business end of the season. Maybe I had to do something with a part of the Champions League money that kept on coming in.
Even with a guaranteed qualification in the bag, it's very hard to play uninhabited before the eyes of almost 100,000 spectators at Nou Camp. We played well enough to let Marzec score in the first thirty minutes. It took Los Blaugranas nearly all of the remaining minutes to avoid a defeat: 1-1. That's how we kept our unbeaten status in Europa!!! I'm still in shock about that specific fact, I must admit...
The new grouping of the Polish First Division saw us challenging for the title with two teams in front of us. That sounds heavier than it really is, because the summit was only one point away at the time. Needless to say that it was Wisla Krakow in first place at that time. As always, the difference between all the teams in this half of the table was negligible. We were only looking up obviously, although everything was all but decided yet.
Between the end of the First and the beginning of the Second Group Phase in the Champions League we played the last two domestic fixtures before the winter break. Not only did those bring us the maximum of the points, but we also became the new league leaders! I had no other choice but being confident for everything to come, no matter the country of origin belonging to the squads we were facing. And yet I had the same doubts I was suffering from every season...
In imitation of Spain's champions their Italian equivalents visited our Bulgarska. Less than ten minutes gone and as usual against top teams Marzec opened the scoring. Close to approaching half-time with that being the only goal, Milan's game started as well and they even went ahead before the break. We weren't capable of realising such a return ourselves, so our first loss in European context was a fact: 1-2...
One game away from the half-season pause and we were scheduled against the champions of Turkey. In that same country Denizlispor were unlucky with two early injuries and we had to handle a man-down situation during the last twenty minutes, because Skocic (DRC) saw a red card shown against him. We took the lead fifteen minutes earlier, when Wachowicz headed one in. Even with more players on the pitch the home side couldn't create any danger: 0-1!
The winter months were used to give some of the cash away. Rather big signing fees persuaded Giguel (€ 1,500,000) and Swierczewski (€ 750,000) to sign a new contract. I was also allowed to finally add another foreign player to our squad: Argentinian attacker Villarreal (SC, 27, € 1,500,000) came in as the new backup for Marzec. No friendlies this time and everybody was looking forward towards February, when the season was bound to continue.
Two games versus the champions of Russia were our share to start 2021 with. Ten minutes to play in the first half at our own turf and Lokomotiv Moscow also got to know who Marzec is. Right before the break Lewandowski picked up a torn groin muscle, which ruled him out for the second half naturally, but for the following three months as well. On the short term we succeeded in keeping the Russians at bay: 1-0! In the reverse fixture abroad a man-of-the-match performance by Gielarek (GK) told the whole story pretty much: 0-0.
An absolute cracker to resume the league with, playing in Krakow. Both teams had the chance to defend an advantage and eventually a draw seemed a fair result, causing little to no damage. We then had to deal with an in-form goalie ourselves and lost at home to Radomsko, who were rapidly closing in on us rankingwise in this way.
Shortly after one another the last two rounds of group games in the Champions League were played. At first our visit to San Siro, which really went by as boring as it sounds: 0-0. By then we had only scored three goals in our last five European ties, but those were sufficient to get us through to the last eight!!! Literally the last kick of the home game against Horozlar went in off the underside of the bar: 1-0 (Wachowicz)!
Not much time between both games when Wisla were on the menu again. 0-0 at half-time and a few minutes after the break the Lech crowd went crazy! Too bad the linesman spoiled the party and when the first goal did count, there was too little time for us to come back from that: 0-1... Two home fixtures after that in which we didn't concede once, but only scored a single goal ourselves. No great developments for our title chances, to say the least!
Away at Legia Marzec reached the landmark of twenty goals for the season by putting us in front twice. Still we were losing ground on Wisla and Radomsko and even teams like Stomil and Legia themselves leapfrogged us: 3-2... By no means were we ready for the First Leg against Sporting, Portugal's Runners Up of last season. Just over ten minutes on the clock and the Poznań people went crazy when Ptak (AMRLC) fired one in. As the Portuguese didn't find a way to our goal(keeper), we were heading towards the return with the smallest of margins: 1-0!
Our trip to southern Europe had to wait two rounds of league ties. Kicking off with a more than welcome away win at Stomil and ending with a home beating by two Kietrz penalties. On our way to be part of the best four teams in Europe, but no chance whatsoever of success in our own country... Nearing the end of the first half in Lisbon the task for the home team became all the more complicated thanks to the first goal of the season by Kaczmarek (AM/FRC). In the second half it was Villarreal who did the very same after Ptak had doubled our lead earlier on: 0-3 (agg 0-4)!
Again two Polish games away from home and on both occasions we weren't nearly as effective as in the matches against Sporting. So no goals at all for us and just the one for the other teams, costing us a grand total of five points... Up to the First Leg of the Semi Finals then. The nearest contenders of Milan during the last season in Italy were our guests in Poland. We were toying with the Fiorentina players the entire game, but still they managed to do the business: 0-2...
A visit from Legia and just like in the other meeting with them we took the lead twice. Don't even mention what happened the first time around: 2-3... Off to Florence then and we were back in this battle after ten minutes, with Villarreal putting his name on the scoresheet! La Viola weren't as deadly as last week, but halfway into the second half the pressure became unbearable: 1-1 (agg 3-1)... Sad to see us leaving the tournament at this stage, but what a journey it has been!!!
The last match in the national league saw us building an advantage of 9-2 in terms of shots on target (12-2 in total). It left me furious that we only took away one point from that... After winning the first two of fourteen in the championship half of the season, our continental adventures didn't combine well at all with the domestic aspirations. Only two more wins, four draws and six losses made us drop the table all the way to the sixth place...
Lazy as I am the 3-1-3-2-1 formation of Hungary wasn't changed when the World Cup Qualification campaign got underway. However, it surprised me somewhat that we were able to beat the supposedly stronger countries England and Norway! Of course we dropped a lot of points in almost all of the other matches against Slovenia, Latvia and Faroe Islands... Three fixtures still to play and we aren't eliminated yet. Let's hope for the best in the following months!
Plenty of business to do in preparation for the new season with Lech Poznan, given the amount of players leaving the club. Wysowski, who has a history with us already, is there to take over the position Lewandowski made available.
Those who left:
- Bialek (SC, 25, contract expiry)
- Owczarek (D/DMRC, 31, contract expiry)
- Adamski (DRC, 31, contract expiry)
- Malinowski (D/DML, 24, contract expiry)
- Kot (DLC, 32, contract expiry)
- Lewandowski (D/DMRC, 26, Bosman)
Those who arrived:
- Zewlakow (D/DMC, 21, € 50,000)
- Seweryn (D/DMC, 22, € 50,000)
- Zajac (DRLC, 28, € 100,000)
- Wysowski (D/DMC, 23, € 1,000,000)
- Skrzypek (AMRC, 25, € 100,000)
- Paszulewicz (D/MR, 25, € 500,000)
Probably the FA Cup delivered us a place in the upcoming season's UEFA Cup. I don't think the schedule of said Polish cup will ever recover, so the first official match of the 2021/2022 season was in the Third Round of it. One day before his departure (to bloody Wisla FFS) Lewandowski played his last match for us away at non-league Avia. In the 80th minute of a game we completely dominated, Giguel was stretchered off. Going into half an hour of extra time was one thing I couldn't believe and I can't say the other thing out loud...
In total confusion I accepted the request of a home friendly against Kilmarnock (2-0, Marzec & Wachowicz) before the FA Cup we did win handed us a place in the battle for the Polish Super Cup. I was so glad to see Wisla again: not...! Very early in the game they gave us some chasing to do and with the break in sight Marzec levelled the game. He and Terlecki (AM/FLC) were the ones who couldn't keep their nerves from the spot, so our record against Wisla doesn't make good reading at all: 1-1 (Pens 2-4)...