Jagiellonia Białystok coach Michał Probierz once chose the UEFA Champions League anthem as his mobile phone ringtone, and with his side leading Poland's Ekstraklasa at the winter break he may get to hear the iconic tune at one of their games soon.
The team marshalled by the 38-year-old former Górnik Zabrze midfielder went into the break three points clear at the top of the table and on course for a first league title. Confidence levels are running high at the north-east club who last season celebrated their 90th anniversary by winning their first Polish Cup and Polish Super Cup. "This year we are ready to make history and win the league," Probierz told UEFA.com.
Given they finished 11th in the 16-team First Division last term, few expected Jagiellonia to mount a championship challenge. Probierz, though, had faith. "I said before the season that we would fight for the title," he said. "
Of course, we cannot compete financially with clubs like Legia Warszawa and Wisła Kraków, but money is not everything. We surprised people and are desperate to do so again in the spring."
Jagiellonia – whose name comes from the Jagiellon dynasty that ruled Poland from 1386 to 1572 – began the 2009/10 campaign with a ten-point deduction and earmarked for relegation, yet according to Probierz a new spirit was forged in that battle to survive. "The pressure was intense," he explained. "We were winning matches but were still bottom. My team were born and matured in those tough conditions. We not only stayed up but won the cup. It gave us a huge lift and this season we are benefiting from that growing belief."
Star 'Jaga' performers include 21-year-old goalkeeper Grzegorz Sandomierski and forward Tomasz Frankowski, who, at 36, is the eighth highest scorer in Polish league history – eight of his 141 goals have come this season. "Everybody knows how important Frankowski is to us," said Probierz. "I am sure he will also lead us in the spring. He is an example to the younger players."
Probierz will be unable to call on another key man, though, with winger Kamil Grosicki's fine form having prompted a move to Turkish side Sivasspor. "Kamil is the only player we have allowed to leave, so I am not surprised he is not with us," said the coach. "However, I would like to assure our fans they can sleep calmly. We will find a replacement. We won't play with ten men."
The prospect of losing Probierz may keep Jagiellonia fans awake at night, however; he was recently named the club's best ever coach, and former international Zbigniew Boniek said he was a Poland coach of the future. "It is nice to hear that, especially from such a great player," said Probierz, "but being a coach means proving yourself every match, so I must stay focused and not think about my chances of becoming a top coach."
If his feet are firmly on the ground, that ringtone remains sure-fire proof that he is a romantic too. "I put the anthem in my phone quite a while ago," he said. "I just like the music. But, of course, it is also a kind of inspiration.
I watch the Champions League; I went to the final once. I would go more often, but it is not so easy to get tickets." He may not need them next season.
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