Artur Boruc haven’t even talked to Waldemar Fornalik in his career – well, probably – but already caused him a headache or two. For the first time in few months, the head coach of Poland national team had a real issue with who should he take to Dublin for the Ireland game. With Przemysław Tytoń out of favour and without chances to leave PSV, constantly warming the bench as his problems mount, Fornalik had to take in account how quickly “the bottle incident” was put behind Boruc and Southampton fans, as the former definitely helped to raise Saints’ recent form.
In his six league performances so far, Boruc was given a stern test against Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham and Everton and lost only twice, with two vital clean sheets in last three games as well. Even as Southampton surprisingly changed their manager with Mauricio Pochettino taking Nigel Adkins’ place, when many discussed whether Paulo Gazzaniga will take Boruc’s place, the answer was simple – “The Holy Goalie’s” good performance against Everton.
It is doubtful whether Fornalik even took notice of Monday’s match. With Poland squad to be released on Tuesday, names were probably settled some time before Boruc took to the pitch. At 32 he made his long-lasting dream come true, playing in the Premier League with some glimpses of his old best, when he used to decide the Champions League ties with his vital saves. If he keeps his steady rise, Soton fans will most definitely feel more confident on who makes up for defenders’ mistakes.
Ireland game was probably the best moment to test Boruc after his long break with national team. Due to Tytoń’s situation at PSV, Polish coach hasn’t got as many options as he would like and every goalkeeper playing at club level in Europe, in one of the best leagues as well, should be in contention. But here is the problem – Boruc may never be taken into consideration, no matter how he plays. Even though Fornalik tried to talk about “clean sheet” for every player Smuda resigned from, it seems there is exception – Artur Boruc.
The “wine-accident” on the plane from USA was only the final straw between Smuda and then-Fiorentina goalkeeper. He was kicked out for his behaviour and accused of not representing the standards required by the national team and while the lack of him at Euro 2012 was not necessarily noticeable, the current situation is quite different.
Fornalik seems unaware of the fact, that Wojciech Szczęsny is not developing as fast as he should, even though he rightly is Arsenal’s number one. With injuries at the beginning of the season, he has played only once for the national team since that Euro 2012 opening game and friendly defeat to Estonia after conceding too easily from free kick in the last minutes of the game was his last contribution in six months. Tytoń stepped in but was his form against England, Moldova and Montenegro did not prove his doubters wrong – if anything, Kuszczak’s good form at Brighton only got Fornalik thinking that ex-United goalkeeper can be in better form.
While Kuszczak will not like to remember about weekend’s game, Boruc is the only third goalkeeper who finally is enjoying some playing time. The competition for one spot should be always considered as a battle of three keepers and definitely in the trio of Szczęsny-Kuszczak-Boruc, Fornalik would have everything he needs. Young, explosive talent; ambitious and humble middle-aged goalie and, last but not least, very experienced keeper with his own history.
Reputation, however, should not be taken in account. To be fair to Boruc, it is quite different team to the one he left, with other players taking on leaders’ roles and feeling quite confident in them. Fornalik may think that Boruc will fight for the spot again, given his experience and age, which could lead to unnecessary conflicts in the team. But this would be foolish to take it for granted – trip to Dublin would only show of how much of old, problem-causing Boruc there is in him nowadays.
This also shows Fornalik’s uncertainty over who should be the number one. Definitely, taking the start of his managerial episode with Poland, Tytoń should be some point ahead, but not in the situation that he is out of the game for such a long time. Szczęsny’s stalled progress shouldn’t be disregarded, as growing reputation of Kuszczak in the Championship, and Boruc’s in the Premier League. By sparing a chance to the latter, Fornalik may just give a hint that in this close race for three spots, reputation was the most crucial factor deciding of who is in. But with Tytoń tied to the bench, Szczęsny taking balls out of the net more often than he should and Kuszczak’s awful blunder in Birmingham, Artur Boruc’s clean sheet should count for much more.
And, despite whatever reason Waldemar Fornalik has to keep this discussion shut, Boruc’s name will not go away – especially if he continues to grow in confidence as he is and finally gets to the top of the short but much important list of Polish goalies abroad. Taking the risk of not having your best player, the one in the top form, in goal for the most vital games in the 2014 World Cup qualifications when there is still a chance to make it to the Brazil is definitely a much more of a risk than spending 72 hours with Artur Boruc in Dublin.