Eleven games before the big freeze sets in and then Polish football shuts down for three months. Late one night at the training ground Larry Fredericks decided to mix things up a little, he wrote every one of the post Christmas fixtures out on a wall of the player’s canteen. Each game blazoned in huge capital letters and underneath what he expected from each member of his squad, it was like a scene from Stigmata (Google it).
Underneath the fixture was an empty box, here the points gathered in each game would be added. He told the squad if they could reach 20 points out of the available 33 then the mid-season break would be a trip to Ibiza and some warm weather training. However, anything less than that would be a somewhat harsher prospect.
Butcher and Fredericks had literally drawn themselves a plan, unconventionally it was on a wall and 7 foot high but it looked good. It involved winning the next two games against sides who had started their own campaigns poorly. First up Stomil, away from home.
Like all plans, this one needed to get off on the right foot…
As Fredericks sat, watching the sweat drop off his nose into a pool on the floor beneath him, he could hear Terry laying into the lads, he wasn’t listening, it sounded muffled and distant but he wasn’t interested. GKS had just lost 0-1 and it had been a bad night.
Three weeks ago Larry had received the manager of the month award, since then everything had gone wrong. The performance was OK and probably deserved a point but deep down he knew this side, this team, were a long way from what he needed them to be.
Had he made too many tactical changes? Was he searching for an instant miracle tactic instead of seeing one through for 5/6 games? He was still torn between width and overloading the central positions, he needed to choose fast as the next 6 games would mentally either make or break him. Three of them were live on TV and he wasn’t keen on having his weaknesses broadcast to the nation, but first, he needed a drink and a long think about what his next steps would be.
After, 7 minutes of the next game against Stal Mielec it was a case of De Ja Vue. GKS had held there own, created a few half chances but found themselves behind.
Then Tomasz Mikolajcak turned everything around.
As the clock ticked on to the 88th minute a bullet header pulled them level, followed by Mikolajczak being hauled down in the third minute of stoppage time. It gave GKS and Fredericks himself a shot at all three points. Larry hadn’t put himself on penalties, he wasn’t like the kid who owns the ball when your young who takes all the penalties and free kicks. He had taken them for three seasons and out of the eleven he had taken, he was still yet to miss.
He took a deep breath and strode forward…
Lubomir Tupta was a Slovakian striker, The 19 year old had joined on loan from Verona back in the summer but due to a persistent hip problem was only now avialable for selection.
The next game would see Bytovia come to town and probably ‘Park the Bus’. Currently sitting 15th in the table the visitors hadn’t started well. Fredericks knew this was a good opportunity to start and make ‘The Tychy City Stadium’ a fortress.
That’s if fortresses are made from papier mache.
The away team didn’t so much park the bus as ride it straight through Tychy’s nonexistent defence. Fredericks who sat out this game couldn’t believe his eyes as they conceded yet another set piece goal. Had it not been for young Lubomir equalising in the second half Larry worried he might have had a coronary.
At 22:00 hours, Fredericks sat reading the data analysts report from that afternoon’s game. On paper it didn’t look too bad. Slightly more possession, more shots on goal and a better passing rate. The trouble was, football isn’t played on paper and Larry knew this side wasn’t performing how he believed they could.
The older players who Fredericks had trusted and spoken to before bringing in weren’t delivering. Madej was coasting to his retirement and the loan deal meant it couldn’t be terminated. Matusiak wanted out. Not happy with his current playing time all the teddies were out of his cot and to save any further disruption he was training with the kids. Fredericks wasn’t happy with his recruitment, probably spread his net too wide but learning on the job was hard and he was learning every day.
With the televised fixtures up next Fredericks knew just how big a month it would be. He didn’t feel like they had performed like a top four side but the table doesn’t lie. Larry needed more from his players and if they produced more, maybe just maybe they could challenge for a top two spot.