EKSTRAKLASAreview’s season reviews continue with an overview of sixth-placed Górnik Zabrze’s year, brought to us by Dawid Kosmalski.
From the early league leaders to the second-worst team in 2014 – you might say it’s a lot for one, long season in the Polish Ekstraklasa. But in the case of Górnik Zabrze, it’s no more than half of the story. Even when expectations – by which I mean a safe position in the Championship Group – were filled, everybody should at least satisfied. But as football has proven many times before, the truth beneath league position is much more complicated than this simplest of statistics suggests.
If there was any doubt as to how important Adam Nawałka was for Górnik Zabrze’s development, the very first game in 2014 showed that they were going to miss him badly. 20 minutes against relegation-bound Zagłębie Lubin and they already found themselves three-nil down as a result of shocking defending and calamitous goalkeeping. At this point the team, leaded by Ryszard Wieczorek, looked far worse than in 2010, when Górnik returned to Ekstraklasa. In space of just a few months, after Nawałka was appointed for National Team, everything changed. They lost desire, a game plan; even the certain evolution that existed under Nawałka was stopped. Nobody realny expected that we could go for the Championship, but it is still very confusing why Górnik decided to hire Wieczorek. The man was partly responsible for relegation of two teams in the 2008/2009 season, one of which was Górnik. As you can imagine, the fans didn’t like that move at all.
His reign, from November through to March, saw Górnik grabbing just 8 points from a possible 27, but the damage was even greater. Four games in a row without scoring, defeats against their greatest rivals – Ruch Chorzów, Legia Warszawa and Piast Gliwice. It took 13 matches and one managerial change, from Wieczorek to the duo of Robert Warzycha and Józef Dankowski, for Górnik to achive their first victory since the 3-2 win against Widzew in December. Despite such awful form, Górnik somehow managed to stay in the Championship Group, and could even have surpassed Ruch into third position during the last game-week, but similar to last year’s poor finish, they squadered it.
There wasn’t any team that could have benefitted more from the Ekstraklasa’s new rule – dividing the points after 30 games – and to be honest, it would have felt almost unfair to be the third force in the league with the current state of things.
For many, the 2013/2014 campain was Górnik’s last chance to finish in top 3 and participate in Europe – not only because Nawałka was destined to take charge of National Team, but also as a few key members of the squad are leaving. Next season, Górnik will have to cope without right-back Paweł Olkowski, who is joining FC Köln; and Prejuce Nakoulma, whose contract expires with the end of the season. Both were arguably the club’s best players in recent years and will be well-missed.
The only positive about squad at the moment is Radosław Sobolewski. The veteran, named Ekstraklasa Player of the Year 2013, will stay in Zabrze for another 2 years. His experience was vital during tough moments and might be more important next season. But overall, the quality of the team will be lower than a year ago, and with not very convincing Warzycha and Dankowski in charge, the future isn’t as bright as it was.
More bad news for Górnik came from the city authorities: after months of promises about finishing the new 3 stands were proven to be false, we now have to wait until 2015 to finally take one of the 23,000 seats. It has been a very long process – initially supposed to be completed in 2013 and kick-off a new chapter in the club’s history. Instead we have to exist in a frustrating transition phase with a mere 3000 seats available. The current stadium situation is affecting almost every aspect at Roosevelta 81: match revenue is decreasing, creating troubles in gaining licenses to play in both the Ekstraklasa and the Europe League.
Now we can forget about Europe and focus on staying in the league. With Adam Nawałka relegation never was an option, but life after him is too unclear to think that Górnik will gain safety with ease.