Saturday’s game against Jagiellonia should have been a joyous occasion for Górnik Zabrze supporters. The opening of the first section of their new stadium, and as a result their biggest home crowd in over four years, should have been more than a cause for celebration. Torcida – Górnik’s largest ultras group –had celebrated moving into their new home behind the southern goalmouth with a stadium-width tifo, which was subsequently peppered with pyrotechnics. It was supposed to be the beginning of a new era for a club whose financial troubles have been well-documented.
Yet by 5:30pm, the atmosphere around the club had somewhat soured. A 3-1 victory for their guests from Podlaskie left the 14-time Polish champions rooted to the bottom of the Ekstraklasa – their only point coming on the opening day against Wisła, putting them on zero points after starting the season with a deduction.
With five goals in their opening four games, scoring isn’t so much of a problem for Górnik – it is the nine conceded which has left them stranded at the bottom. Only Podbeskidzie’s eight-goal leakage comes close, and highlights a key area in which they need to improve.
Prior to the three conceded to Jaga, another three were shipped against local rivals Piast Gliwice, while Górnik Łęczna were also able to put two past them. Weaknesses have been targeted well by opposition teams – notably their vulnerability to counter attacks, as well as the positioning of Oleksandr Shevelyukhin, speed of Adam Danch and inexperience of Bartosz Kopacz. Mistakes from new goalkeeper Sebastian Przyrowski have also been largely unhelpful. A goalkeeper lacking confidence in his defence combined with a defence not entirely confident in its goalkeeper, undoubtedly being a sure-fire recipe for disaster. Meanwhile the loss of Błażej Augustyn, which had been apparent as he was ruled out through suspension and injury towards the end of last season, has also continued with his move away to Scotland.
However, the man who is taking the most flak for the White-Red-Blue’s capitulation is head coach Robert Warzycha: boss since March 2014, and a former Górnik star himself. Having helped Górnik to their last league title as a midfielder in the late-80s, ex-Columbus crew boss Warzycha was paired with second-string boss and former Górnik team-mate Józef Dankowski, to pick-up the mess left by Ryszard Wieczorek’s catastrophic short reign.
The club’s plans were hampered though, when it emerged that the coaching badges earned during his time in the US didn’t equal those of UEFA standard. Warzycha was forced to watch from the stands as a Director of Football, as Dankowski led the team to safety, and to top-eight finish.
It took over a year for the former Everton midfielder to complete both his high-school equivalency (having graduated from a vocational school) and UEFA A Licence, and in April 2015 he was eventually allowed to take a seat in the dugout at the Stadion Ernesta Pohla.
But since making the move downstairs, Górnik’s form plummeted. Just seven points were picked up in their final nine games of the campaign, while his first four games at the helm after picking up his pro licence have yielded even less. With no sign of form improving, Torcida issued a statement calling for a change of management:
“Due to the poor performances of the team, we demand the immediate reaction of the board and owner of the club. Górnik Zabrze sit bottom the league table, and there is no indication that in the near future the situation will improve. From many sources signals reach us telling that the atmosphere in the team is not the best. The duo of Warzycha and Dankowski can not only not control the actions of the team on the field, but also of what happens in the locker room. If both gentlemen have honour, they should give their immediate resignation.”
It is unlikely that Warzycha and Dankowski will do such a thing, but Wednesday’s Puchar Polski trip across Upper Silesia to face Zagłębie Sosnowiec, followed by a journey to Mielec on Saturday to take on new-boys Termalica Bruk-Bet Nieciecza, signal an important few days for the pair. Failure to reach the next round of the competition, or to pick up a first victory of the Ekstraklasa campaign, could see the Górnik board forced to take action. Three losses and a draw from the opening four games of 2014 were enough to see Wieczorek dismissed, and with a similar record for the start of the current campaign, Warzycha and Dankowski must surely have their backs against a wall. With the likes of Leszek Ojrzyński, Ryszard Tarasiewicz and Jan Urban all touted as potential successors should the axe strike, Zabrzan fans may still be awaiting the beginning of their new era.