Sunday, June 29, 2014

Karol Linetty Linked With Tottenham Move

The Sun

Headlines in English tabloid The Sun are linking London club Tottenham Hotspur with a 2 million pound move for midfielder Karol Linetty. Lech would be adding around 12 million Polish złoty to their coffers, which would be a pretty good return on investment for an academy product. Is this necessarily the best move for the player though? Probably not.

After Robert Lewandowski's four-goal demolition of Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final two seasons ago, a story went around about Blackburn missing out on signing him cheap from Lech due to the volcano explosion in Iceland. Despite being for the most part untrue (Lewandowski was never seriously considering the offer from Blackburn), this story has a life of its own, that will never let it die. So now, it's in vogue to find some young Central or Eastern European starlet on the cheap (imagine too if you can say it's from Lech Poznan!) to bring over to England. Sorry to say though Tottenham fans, Karol Linetty is not Robert Lewandowski.

First, it's important to note how much Lewandowski had already achieved in Polish football at the time of his move to Dortmund. League golden boot award, led his team to the league title and a successful UEFA Cup run behind him, there was little else for him to achieve at Lech, and he left the Ekstraklasa as a star. Despite all this, he still struggled in his first season abroad (as most Polish players do), but luckily found himself playing for Jurgen Klopp who was able to get the best out of him and make him one of the best strikers in Europe. In the case of Karol, he hasn't really proven himself to be the best Polish midfielder, or dominated the Ekstraklasa (a relatively weak league) in the way Lewandowski was able to.

Without a doubt, Linetty is a very talented, and technically skilled central midfielder. At the age of 19, he has already made 42 appearances for the Lech first team, scoring one goal. He was also a part of the Poland U-17 squad that made it to the semi-finals of the 2012 U-17 European Championships. Is he at the level though to move to an English Premier League side and jump in to the starting eleven? Unlikely. As with most young Polish players, he'll go over, play a few cup matches, but likely spend most of his time riding the pine or toiling in the reserves.

It's time for Polish players to stay a season longer, play the whole year, get Lech back in to the Europa League group stage, make a run for the title, and then think about a "dream move to England". As with most young footballers though, money talks, and Lech's ownership aren't the kind who will overlook a quick addition to the budget.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Lech vs. Legia Instant Reaction

Trying to write this I'm at a loss of words, to be honest. I had such high hopes, even dreaming of a Lech 1:0 win last night. Well it only took 11 minutes for that to be extinguished. Legia were winning 3:0 by the 32nd minute, and it's a credit to the Poznań fans that they didn't start heading for the exits at that point.

Lech's defense were cut apart easily in the first half hour, as the absence of the injured Manuel Arboleda was punished by a clinical Legia offense. Marcin Kamiński was completely lost, and alongside him Hubert Wołąkiewicz looked like he wasn't entirely sure what team he was playing for. Lech created a few chances on their end, but Bartosz Ślusarski, who claims to be a striker, wasted chance after chance. The second half calmed down a bit, but Lech never looked like they had the ability to really launch a realistic comeback.

In the end, the scoreline was fair, a very deserved win for the visitors. I just threw up in my mouth typing that. If that isn't the incentive to show the Lech board they must spend in the winter to ensure a team that is competitive for the spring than this season will end in disappointment for Lech fans around the world.

Me, after the first half.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

What They're Saying

As news has reached the Lech Poznan players regarding the high attendance for Sunday’s match against Legia Warsaw, many have spoken to the press about their shock. Here’s what the coach and players are saying in the build up to the game.

Coach Mariusz Rumak: “We will work to thank everyone who is coming to our match. Saying thanks is possible in only one way: doing everything to ensure a good game and win it. This attendance gives us an obligation to represent ourselves at a higher level.

This match will most likely be decided by the small details. In these games against Legia it’s hard to open up, but I’m confident that the fans won’t see a 0:0 draw. We have our options in attack and will try to use them. We’re preparing just like for any other game. If it was any different, it would mean that in past games we didn’t do everything in our power to prepare. However, the match against Legia is our most important.

Legia deserves their points total so far. They are a very difficult and demanding rival. But, had we not dropped points against Pogon Szczecin, today we would be top of the Ekstraklasa.”

Lech have previously only played to a sold out crowd in the Europa League. Here vs. Manchester City

Mateusz Mozdzen: “That’s unbelievable. Over 40,000, really? I’m in shock because that kind of attendance is unheard of. Many players only get to experience this kind of crowd once in their life, and many more never get the chance. This is a really special moment and it’s really great. I kind of feel like an actor, but actors don’t play in front of these kinds of crowds!”

Karol Linetty: “The most people I’ve seen at a game was in Milan. Our prize in a youth tournament sponsored by Coca Cola was a trip to the San Siro to see AC Milan vs. Barcelona. There were about 80,000 people there. In Poznan though I’ve never seen a crowd over 40,000!”

Hungarian summer arrival, Gergo Lovrencsics has said he’s been shocked all season by the crowds he sees in Poland. Something he never experienced while at Lombard Papa. The entire town of Papa could fit in to Lech’s stadium, with room for about 8,000 Poznaniaks as well! “I’ve never played in front of these kinds of crowds. Never and nowhere.”

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Polish El Clasico-April 2011

In the build up to the game on Sunday, we'll be posting fun videos, pictures, stories from the match up from over the years. Today, enjoy these match highlights from the April 2011 game, where Lech snuck out a narrow 1:0 win at home. A goal from a certain Butcher of Turin would decide a close and exciting game.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Lech vs. Legia Sells Out

You want to be there. Your friends want to be there. Everyone I know wants to be there (probably since I generally try to only associate with Lech fans). The biggest home match of the season, the Legia game, the Polish El Clasico, has sold out. For the first time in the history of the renovated Stadion Miejski, for an Ekstraklasa game, over 41,000 fans will cheer on the team this Sunday. Previously, the stadium had only been full for Lech's Europa League matches against Red Bull Salzburg, Manchester City and Juventus.

Of course it helps that both teams have been in fine form and Lech sit just one point back from the Warsaw club, and one point out of first place. Legia boast the best offense in the league, while Lech have the stoutest defense in the league, having allowed just six goals in 11 games thus far. Poznań goalkeeper Jasmin Buric has admitted that the team sometimes struggle with the pressure of playing in front of their home fans, but let's hope that this time, having 41,000 people cheering you on acts as an impetus to push the team on.

Arboleda celebrates for a packed stadium after scoring vs. Salzburg

Monday, September 3, 2012

Return of Reiss

It is with a sense of great happiness that I return to maintenance of this site, as well as with the excellent news that Lech legend Piotr Reiss has signed a six-month deal with the club. He will finish his career in the place it all began. After that, Reiss will take up a role with the club, though it has not yet been announced what that will entail.

The club claim that Reiss is not the solution to the summer search for a striker, and there are no expectations of him being able to score 10 goals this fall. He is merely finally getting the send off he deserves, and bringing in an incredible amount of experience for the flood of youngsters in the first team. It adds another club icon around the place, and for young players like Mateusz Możdżen and Marcin Kamiński, it should be an honor to play alongside a player they watched when they were young boys.

Reiss is hero-worshipped in Poznań, and even if he does not add to his impressive goal tally of 108 goals scored for the club, he will still be a welcome addition for these next six months. Personally, I hope we are able to get a at least a few goals out of him, and look forward to having him come on late in matches, and be a steady head for the team. If Tomasz Frankowski at his age is still able to score regularly on Ekstraklasa defenses, than why not Reksio?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Exclusive Interview with Jimmy Conrad

For years, when I'd go on to the Lech Poznań Wikipedia page, under the notable players, would be a lone American flag. The name beside it was Jimmy Conrad. I had always thought of it as a funny footnote that this player I'd watched here in the States, and in the 2006 World Cup, had at one time played for Lech. Recently, we got in touch with Jimmy thanks to Twitter and were able to meet with him and even spend a couple days together during his stop in Poznań  during Euro 2012. Besides being a Lech legend, Jimmy is a great guy, follow him on Twitter, (@Jimmyconrad) and check out KICKTV on YouTube where Jimmy brings you soccer goodness and hilarity.

Jimmy (#13) takes on Andrea Pirlo at the 2006 World Cup.

Lech in USA: How did you end up in Poznań?

Jimmy Conrad: I found out that one of my teammates for the San Jose Earthquakes in Major League Soccer, Wojtek Krakowiak, had set up a loan deal with Lech after our season was over and the coach at the time, Mr. Topolski, was interested in maybe having one or two more Americans come over and help bolster his squad.  When I was approached about the idea initially, I was a bit hesitant because I didn't know much about Polish soccer but I am glad I did because I learned about how great a country Poland is, how resilient they are in tough times, which, I believe was similar to a lot of things going on in my personal life.  One of my step-parents who raised me since I was very young had died at the age of 43 a few months before I arrived in Poznan and I was coping with his loss and how it was going to affect my family moving forward.  So, in short, coming to Poznań was one of the greatest decisions I have ever made in my life because I learned so much about the great people and fans and I know that I became a better player and person because of the time I spent there.

Lech in USA: How was the EK different from the MLS?
Jimmy Conrad: The EK is much more technical and tactical than I had imagined it would be before I showed up but, that said, I thought I adapted quite well and hopefully proved that Americans can play the game, too.  Also, as I think about it some more with my hand on my chin, what I really enjoyed about the EK was that it was fighting for respect as a good league just as much as MLS was and still is!  Everybody in the league is hungry to prove that they belong and that was something I could relate to.

Lech in USA: What was the most difficult transition coming from the US to Poland?
Jimmy Conrad: The most obvious difficulty was the language.  Polish is an incredibly difficult language to learn but I did pick up on a few words that were usually directed at Legia via spray paint on walls and started with the letter, "K."  I'll let you figure out what the word is.  Also, I remember thinking how crazy some of the people drive, most notably Coach Topolski's son, who picked us up from the airport in Warsaw and drove over 120 mph on the way back, going around big trucks and buses and almost getting hit head-on or going off the road.  I honestly thought we were going to get in a car accident so I put on my seat belt and he made fun of me for putting it on, calling me a "Sissy American" or whatever but I didn't care that guy was crazy!

Lech in USA: What are your fondest memories of Poland?
Jimmy Conrad: My best memory from Poland was our last game before we went back to the States. I was honored at halftime with a Lech jersey that all of my teammates had signed and all of the supporters were chanting my name.  I knew right then that I had made a positive impact on the club and its fans during my short stay and that meant a lot to me.  Also, I should probably mention that I met a lot of beautiful girls because they are everywhere in Poland! What a country!

Lech in USA: What do you remember about the fans?
Jimmy Conrad: I remember them being incredibly intense and passionate about their team.  If we were playing at home and won, we were treated like kings throughout the city. Free drinks, free food, and everyone wanted to be your friend.  However, if we lost at home, we were told not to go out afterwards because there would be a lot of angry people who would probably be drunk, which could lead to a fight. We only lost once or twice at home during my stay but I never went out because I didn't want to put myself in a position to defend myself against people who would probably be yelling at me when I didn't know the language.

I know that makes them sound a little mean but I loved it!  I loved that they cared that much about how we performed on the field and how much the club was in their blood because back in the States, in any sport, they don't really know what it means to be a fan.  Most fans in the States go to sporting events just to say they were there, not to actually support and live and die with the team.

Lech in USA: Have you kept up with the club since you left?
Jimmy Conrad: Of course!  I can't tell you how proud I was when they won their group in the UEFA Cup over Man City and Juventus. I told people that I played for that club, that I played for Lech but they wouldn't believe me until I pulled up Wikipedia or whatever.  And then, when Lech won the league in 2010 with their star forward, Robert Lewandowski, who is going to do big things in the Euros this summer, was incredibly rewarding since the club hadn't been champions in over 17 years.  These achievements make me very proud to say I was a part of the Kolejorz for a little while.

Lech in USA: What do you think of the new stadium and Lech's progress since you played there?
Jimmy Conrad:  The new stadium looks amazing and I'm jealous I never got to play in something so magnificent!  When I was there, Lech was going through some turmoil and I don't think renovating the stadium was high on the list but it definitely needed a face lift so I'm glad they got it done.

Lech in USA: Is there hope for ‘marginal’ clubs like Lech Poznań in the midst of Manchester, Barcelona and other financial giants?
Jimmy Conrad: If I'm being completely honest, then I don't think there is too much hope because those teams are built to play in and win multiple competitions.  As evidence of this, just look at the names they keep on the bench!  Berbatov, Chicharito, Dzeko, Tevez to name a few from the Manchester teams.  I think a club like Poznań can compete with them in a knockout competition like they showed in the UEFA Cup a few years ago but not over the course of a season.  Those teams just have too many weapons. 

Lech in USA: Any favorite Polish foods/drinks?
Jimmy Conrad: Since I played at Lech, then I have to say Lech beer. It always went down good after games.  Also, because I am a sugar fiend, I would always stop by one of the bakeries in downtown Poland and ask for some makowiec with a lot of extra icing on it.  I think I gained a lot of weight when I was there!