Paweł Abbott will be known to many English lower league fans as the man who terrorised defences during spells at Huddersfield, Darlington, Bury and Oldham amongst others. Despite being born in York, he actually started his professional career in his mother’s homeland of Poland, with ŁKS Łódź. Last year Paweł returned to Poland, signing for Ekstraklasa club Ruch Chorzów. Paweł was kind enough to answer some questions for EKSTRAKLASAreview.co.uk…
Hi Paweł. You’ve played for seven different English clubs; some more successful than others. Are there any that really stand out for you?
I enjoyed my time at all the clubs I was at; but if I were to choose just one I would have to say Huddersfield, probably because I played my best football there so far. Also my son Zak was born there, so it will always be a place I remember.
With your most prolific spell being at Huddersfield Town, you were extremely well-liked by the fans there. How difficult was it to move on?
Yes, the fans at Huddersfield were terrific towards me, which I am truly grateful for. There’s not many better feelings than having thousands of fans chanting your name. But everywhere I went to I seemed to get on with the fans, which always helps when playing for a club. I still keep getting messages from fans of each club, and it’s nice to know that they still remember me. I’ve certainly not forgotten about any of the clubs I’ve played for.
Is there a particular manager or coach who had a huge influence on your professional career?
I don’t think there was a single coach/manager, mainly because i wasn’t at any club for longer than 3 years. I have had a lot of managers in my time and everyone of them – be it coach or manager – I’ve taken a bit of knowledge from.
Do you still keep in contact with any of your ex-team-mates now that you are in Poland?
With all these social networks knocking about now it is much easier to stay in touch. Maybe not as much as I’d like, but when I’m back visiting in England I will definitely go and see a few of the lads.
If my information is correct, you made your first professional starting appearance for ŁKS Lódź in a Polish Cup game against Legia as a 17-year-old. Do you have any memories of this?
My debut was the league game before that – against the champions at the time Wisła Kraków. I got about 5 minutes, and I even got to touch the ball! [laughs]. Then in the cup game against Legia, I actually played for the full game. It was a shock to me that I would be starting, but one of the first team lads got suddenly injured and I was thrown in!
You’ve been a Ruch player for almost a year now; how are you settling into life in Chorzów?
I’m loving it! As a family we were a bit anxious as to whether it would be a good idea, especially with Zak enjoying school in England. But luckily he’s adapted well to life in Poland.
How did your move to Ruch come about? Were you specifically looking to head back to Poland?
Yeah, I wanted a move back to Poland. I always said that I wanted to play in Poland before I finished my career, and I thought that the time was right time to do that. There was a few clubs interested, but Ruch were the club who was the most serious about taking me, so i didn’t hesitate in picking them. Thankfully Charlton didn’t stand in the way of me moving back, which I am also grateful for.
Was it difficult to adapt from the English game to the Polish game?
Is was quite difficult for me to adapt at first. I came in the middle of the season -on the last day of the window – so I didn’t really have a chance to train with team before the league games started. I’m not trying to make any excuses, I didn’t do well and that’s it. I’m just glad all is going well now!
Do you notice any major differences between the English and Polish Leagues?
I would say the main differences are that tactically it’s different here in Poland. The game speed may be a bit slower, but the players are more technically gifted compared to what I came up against in The Championship/League 1.
Now that you’ve had almost a year in the Ekstraklasa, are there any stand-out memories?
My goals always stand out in my memory, especially the last minute penalty against Bełchatów in the first game of the season. I think that was my turning point.
You’ve been involved in a couple of Wielkie Derby Sląska’s [Silesian Derby against Górnik Zabrze] now; the 3-0 win last March must have been a great moment to be involved with the club?
Yes that was a brilliant game to be involved in! I only got on for about 10 minutes, but the atmosphere was unbelievable. I’ve never seen anything like it in England. The crowds are smaller, but they seem to generate a better atmosphere. Even the snow storm didn’t bother me! [laughs] I still can’t believe that the game went ahead.
You’ve netted 6 goals so far this season; is there any that stand out as being special?
Six League goals plus one in the cup game, so lets say 7! [laughs] The penalty against Bełchatów which I mentioned earlier.
I was at the Stadion Ruchu for your game against Legia earlier in the season. There you came up against defenders such as Poland’s most-capped player Michał Żewłakow, and current international Jakub Wawrzyniak. Are there any other players that have been particularly challenging to play against?
It’s still very hard to say because I’ve not come up against all the defenders. Also, as I’ve mostly been coming on as sub, I can’t really give a good account as to which would’ve been the toughest.
In the Ekstraklasa at the moment, are there any players whom you think may have the ability to go far in the game?
Yes! There are lots of players who could go on to bigger and better things. More and more Polish players are moving to big European clubs. Last year, a lot of Poles won their domestic titles in big countries.
At the moment, Ruch are sitting in fourth-place in the Ekstraklasa; just two points behind Polonia. Is there a feeling amongst the players that you can push on and maybe even claim a European spot?
We’re not really thinking about it. It’s not important where we are now, it’s important where we are in May. It won’t be easy – there are some big-name teams around us. But if we can produce the same form as in autumn, then we’ve got a big chance.
Also you have been handed an arguably easier draw in the Puchar Polski (a two-legged tie with Ruch Zdzieszowice of the II Liga). But with 5 of the top-6 clubs still in contention, it’s going to be very competitive. Do you feel that you have a good chance in the competition?
On paper it looks an easy tie, but games like this never are. I’ve seen a lot of cup upsets in my time, and we’ll make sure that it wont happen to us. We’re not in the semi’s just yet.
Do you have any personal aims for the rest of the season? Maybe to reach double-figures in the scoring charts?
I never set personal targets! I may have targets in my head, but I never say them publicly. I think it just puts extra pressure on you.
Obviously the European Championships in Poland is coming up very quickly. Is there a real excitement growing around the country?
It has been growing ever since we were announced hosts. It is great for the country, and I think it will be great for the people visiting Poland. It’s a wonderful country with lots of history – which of course means lots of things to see. And the main thing? Cheaper booze! [laughs] I’m sure the fans won’t be bored in-between games.
Will you be staying in Poland for the competition, or is it a good time for you to have a well-earned break?
It depends how long we get off and when. I’m not too fussed about going to a game; i’d prefer to go somewhere to spend some time with my family. But if there is a chance of seeing a game, then i’d love to watch either Poland or England.
Given that England and Poland can’t meet until the semi-finals of the competition at the earliest, does this mean that you will be supporting both sides in the tournament?
Of course, I’ll be supporting both.
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