Despite looking as though they will finish in their highest position since 2007/08, Cracovia look set to search for a new coach in the summer upon the expiry of current boss Wojciech Stawowy’s contract. Tensions between him and the club’s president Janusz Filipiak have ran high for a while now; but with Filipiak’s most recent comments driving the wedge further between the two, Stawowy himself has admitted that his days at Ulica Kałuża are numbered.
After briefly representing Cracovia as a player, 48 year-old Stawowy is now into his second spell as the club’s manager. His previous four-year spell at the club had came to an abrupt end after leading the Pasy from the depths of Poland’s regional third-tier to a top-half Ekstraklasa finish in his first three seasons. But having failing to build further on this during his fourth season, Stawowy resigned from his position following a fall out with his superiors – including Filipiak, whose IT company Comarch had bought the majority stake in the club two years previously.
Cracovia went through three more managers before the season was out; and although they climbed into fourth position by the end of 2006/07, there hasn’t been much else to shout about since for the Red-and-Whites.
Taking charge of the club whilst in the second tier, Filipiak did see some progress in his first few seasons – most notably their return to the top-flight after a 20-year absence. However after their ascent to the top-four in 2007, flirts with relegation became common on the south side of Park Błonia – only escaping in 2009 thanks to the PZPN’s refusal to give ŁKS Łódź a license due to financial problems.
When they finally did succumb to the drop two years later, poor results under both Yuriy Shatalov and Dariusz Pasieka which left them rooted to the bottom of the table by March. Filipiak brought in Tomasz Kafarski after a disappointing spell at Lechia Gdańsk to save the club’s Ekstraklasa status; however form dropped even further – just three draws and a single win in his ten game stint sealed both Cracovia’s and Kafarski’s fate.
In order to get the Cracovians back to the top flight, Filipiak turned back to the man who last achieved promotion – and six years after his dismissal, Wojciech Stawowy was reappointed at the Stadion Cracovii.
It proved a good decision too, as the Pasy returned to the promised land at the very first attempt – although they were seconds from missing out in the penultimate game of the season. Nieciecza had the second promotion spot tied up, leading Olimpia Grudziądz heading into injury time; but with seconds remaining, Grudziądz goalkeeper Michał Wróbel struck and unlikely equaliser. A week later Nieciecza surrendered their runners-up spot with a 4-1 hammering to Flota Świnoujście, meaning that a 3-1 victory at Miedź Legnica left Stawowy’s side celebrating at the final whistle.
Despite snatching their unlikely promotion, disagreements between Stawowy and Filipiak still hadn’t subsided. Just days later rumours of Stawowy’s impending dismissal were rife, with the president claiming that he wasn’t happy with both the coach’s style of play, and his transfer dealings. However with the Ekstraklasa returning to action earlier than usual due to the league’s reforms, he was allowed to lead the team into the top-flight for the second time.
Though there were doubts over how the Kraków club would adapt to life back amongst the country’s elite, Stawowy and his side have gone on to surprise with both performances and results. With Stawowy’s preferred short-passing style, Cracovia have become a joy to watch – one of the most attractive teams in the league. However the their leaky defence – the Ekstraklasa’s second-worst – has proved costly in the attempt to compete in the Championship group once the league is split into two.
In recent weeks Filipiak has further fuelled talk of Stawowy leaving the club by telling the media of his frustration with the moustachioed coach. Particular emphasis fell on perceived failings in the a Winter transfer window – although with Filipiak practically admitting to his meddling in team affairs.
“I found more than 30 players to evaluate. A large number were rejected, as he [Stawowy] said that there was no time [to watch them]” said Filipiak. “If it was not for my decision that we would make transfers, we would have had no transfers at all”.
Some of these late transfers, including Deniss Rakels and Marcel Wawrzynkiewicz, have received little or no playing time at all; despite Filipiak claiming that all new signings were “ready to go” – a statement which Stawowy was swift to oppose. Some supporters have also confirmed their coach’s words, stating that one-or-two of the new signings have looked unfit.
The 61 year-old president also proceeded to go against both public and critical opinion that Cracovia’s performances have been mostly a pleasure to watch.
“If you are going to fool yourselves that coach Stawowy is enjoyable, and that Cracovia is enjoyable, they will soon be in very big trouble”.
Filipiak’s brutal interview forced Stawowy to defend himself in an interview just a day later, with Cracovia’s biggest fan site TerazPasy.pl. In it, he responded well to the president’s claims.
“I’m already used to it that – ‘what would be if Cracovia were not promoted?: it is the fault of Stawowy'” said the coach of the blame-mongering. “We moved up to the Ekstraklasa, but there were claims that we played badly and that by fluke we moved up. I prefer flukes rather than others. You have to enjoy and appreciate the fact that Cracovia is in the Ekstraklasa. Today we have such a situation where no-one takes into account whether we are promoted into the top eight or not.”
Stawowy also agreed with his employer’s claims that he didn’t have time to go to watch the thirty-or-so players picked out for him:
How can you go to watch a player when we are at a training camp? I would have to leave the team and go for three or four days and watch these players. In preparation for the spring round I can not go to Europe and watch the players training with other clubs – I have to focus on my team and work in training”.
Filipiak’s actions have led to numerous comparisons with former Polonia Warszawa owner Józef Wojciechowski – famed for interfering in team matters and sacking coaches for trivial matters. Despite pumping money into the club, the interference from Wojciechowski was seen by many fans as hurting the club more that he was helping it. Filipiak seems to be beginning to strike a similar chord amongst fans in the striped-half of Poland’s second city.
And as it stands; it looks likely that wherever Cracovia finish this season, Stawowy’s contract will not be renewed past June 30th – something that the coach himself is equally sure of.
“I feel that my days at Cracovia are numbered – it is inevitable. This can only vary on the basis of either: I do not last until the end of the season because of the results, or that in June my contract expires – and it certainly will not be extended”.
Whether he goes in the summer, or much sooner, one thing is almost certain: there is no way that Cracovia’s most successful manager in recent history will be back for a third spell – especially with Filipiak and Comarch at the helm. Like it did after his last exit in 2006, that could spell trouble for the club.