Four games before the big freeze and with 12 points on offer GKS Tychy wanted to remain in their lofty position. The final of these four fixtures will be against title-chasing Gornik Leczna, a real six-pointer.
In the first of the four games Tychy welcomed Wigry into town. With target man Zapolnik struggling to run off a calf strain, Fredericks once again went up to top to add some physical presence alongside Vojic.
Pitiful, Abject, Appalling. Three of the words Terry Butcher had used at halftime and again at full time after Tychy lost 0-1 to Wigry. Fredericks had been pulled at halftime and the whole team failed to offer a single shot on target in the 90 minutes. The side had dropped down to 4th but that wasn’t a problem, the problem was that the team had looked like a shadow of its former self.
Changes were rung for the trip to Katowice, Fredericks dropped after his horror show the week before along with Vojic and Tupta came back into the starting eleven with left-back Abramowicz.
Instantly the recoupling of Zapolnik and Tutpta up top had a remarkable effect. With just three minutes on the clock Tupta ran onto a Zapolnik flick and cooly finished round the keeper. The young striker could and should have had two more but missed glorious opportunities. Luckily Tychy weren’t made to pay for there lack of a killer touch when Zapolnik doubled there lead and that’s how it stayed.
The least that is said about the next game the better. Daniel Twardzik had made a good start to life between the GKS posts but this was a day he would want to forget. Not content with passing the ball to the Chobry striker for the first he then went on to deflect a cross into his own net for the second. For all Tychy’s attacking intent they never got the breakthrough and the game ended 2-0.
The bad news didn’t stop there for Fredericks. With the final game before the winter break approaching GKS would be without Chinonso Agu through suspension and up to 3 players could be on international duty. Fredericks took a risk and played the lads who had travelled with their respective international sides, they were fit enough for one last push and this was a big game.
Fifteen mins in and Fredericks can’t believe what he has seen. He slumps back in his seat and looks up at the scoreboard. Przemyslaw Pitry (Leczna) had touched the ball 5 times and scored 3 goals, The game was gone. There is no coming back from the 4 (four) early goals he has seen his side give away. He took the halftime team talk and didn’t mix his words. This was the last 45 minutes of competitive football for 3 months and they needed to show a huge improvement. To their credit they did give it their all, the woodwork was rattled twice before goals from Vojic, Fidziukiewwicz and Nowak gave Leczna a nervy two minutes to hold out but the first half collapse had left them too big a mountain to climb.
On top of this, the goalkeeper Twardzik had broken his hand in the first half and striker Zapolnik had been taken injured from the field. Both would be nip and tuck for the recommencement of the league campaign in three months time.
The three cold months that followed were in no way wasted. The players were given an initial fortnight off and then the Christmas period with their families but that was it.
Terry Butcher had been a centre-half of International quality so Fredericks felt confident that he could work this defence into a solid dependable unit. What followed in the next 8 weeks was a program based entirely on fitness and defensive duties. The last game against Gornik had hurt and Fredericks promised himself that would be the last time they would be embarrassed like that.
There would be transfer activity too with five players arriving and four leaving the club. Fredericks had used the loan market probably more than any other club in the country and now had 11 borrowed players plying their trade at GKS. This short-term wise was helping but Larry knew long term it couldn’t be sustained.
He had help again from Butcher with the transfers. Terry’s encyclopedic knowledge of the Scottish game had led them to three players and it was Butcher’s reputation that had convinced the lads to join. Larry felt that the starting eleven and options in the squad made them now stronger than they were back in November.
The season recommences with 7 games in 25 days so it’s either hit the ground running or before you know it your idling towards a midtable finish with nothing to play for. With Fredericks taking a backseat role on the bench he got to see just how well the mid-season break had served his side. The first four games served up two wins and two draws with four clean sheets.
It was a very positive start and the new players were integrating well. They still played very centrally, three centre mids and a flat back four were Fredericks go to positions but now the defence did nothing but defend. They never went forward, the fullbacks sat alongside the central pairing and tried to stop anything that came down their flank. In midfield now sat two more defensive roles with one attacking playmaker and then another Attacking Playmaker sat behind a target man and a Advanced Forward/Poacher.
It was working. Well on a results front it was. They weren’t ripping teams apart or controlling large swathes of possession but results are results.
Olimpia Grudziadz were above Tychy in the table so this next game was a big one.
****ing useless ****s!
Didn’t turn up. Not one of them. It was a real blow, not a fatal blow but with only two promotion spots available it felt like a kick in the guts. The midfield trio were showing signs of exhaustion but with three more games in the next 11 days, they would need to suck it up and move on quickly.
And move on quickly they did, winning four of the next five games and in doing so made their post-winter break defensive record sit at 7 clean sheets in 10 games.
The final of those fixtures was a fantastic 2-1 victory over table-topping Podbeskidzie. A late late penalty from Larry Fredericks himself had been the difference. The experienced campaigner once again held his nerve when it mattered the most, his penalty prowess had been vital in three of the last four games.
The league table showed that they had climbed to third in the division and with just five fixtures remaining, promotion was still a possibility.
The next two games would be huge as they were both against fierce rivals. Given the closeness of the league positions any points dropped would be huge. One further problem was that Fredericks himself had suffered a bad calf strain in training and would now miss the remainder of the campaign. He would have to let his words and actions do the talking rather than his boots.