Big interview: Bialkowski on a tough season, getting back to his best and whether Town might want to cash in on him
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski has been discussing his Ipswich Town past, present and future. Here’s what he had to say about a tough season, getting back to his best and whether the club may cash in on him this summer.
Q: How tough has this season been for you?
A: It’s been very tough, probably the toughest for me so far. Mentally and physically, it has been such a long season.
It’s not easy when you are bottom of the table, but as a professional footballer you need to deal with it and you need to do everything you can to put the performances into the games.
Obviously I had a slow start to the season, by my own standards, but I am enjoying myself again. Working with Jimmy (Walker, goalkeeping coach) I feel as if I’m getting back to my best again.
It has taken me a while – I’m not going to lie – but I’m feeling positive and ready to go.
Q: How big an impact did (long-serving keeper coach) Malcom Webster’s retirement have on you last summer?
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A: Mally has been a bit like a father to me in England and within football. I owe him so much and it was a sad time when he told me he was going to retire.
I remember he told me after the Norwich game last year that he was planning to retire at the end of the season and I had a tear in my eye.
We said to each other that we should make it a good year and it was for me personally because I went to the World Cup with my country.
I have missed Mally but he has earned his retirement and I just had to get on with it.
Q: Did that affect your form?
A: I don’t know. It’s been lots of things. Not having a proper break... Every player who goes to a World Cup can say that, but it was tough for me. I didn’t have a pre-season, I didn’t train hard enough I suppose. I didn’t feel 100%.
Q: When you say ‘I didn’t train hard enough’ is that just you being self-critical?
A: I’m always self-critical. I know when I’m making mistakes. I’m the first person to say I should have done better and should train harder.
Q: You’ve said that lots of things have gone into your form this season. How big was a lack of a break last summer. How long did you actually get off after the World Cup?
A: About 10 days.
Q: So you join up with pre-season late, you don’t get much time off to refresh with your family, did that all go into the mix?
A: Yeah, probably. The Championship is a long season. In other leagues you get a winter break. It’s felt like a long year for me.
I remember when I was at Southampton I went to the Under-20 World Cup. I’d had a really good year, I had a really good World Cup, I came back, had a week off and then started the first game of the season and just wasn’t myself. It was a very similar situation to now to be honest.
Q: Paul Lambert said in December, when he dipped you out the team, that you needed a break ‘mentally and physically’. It sounds like you agree?
A: Yes, but the way Paul Lambert did it was completely different (to Paul Hurst earlier in the season). He took me to his office and we had a great chat. He said to me that he was going to play Deano (Dean Gerken), but after that chat I just felt better. It was a very good conversation.
Such a small detail like that can make a big difference for a player.
Q: You can’t have envisaged what this season would be like for you after the highs of going to the World Cup, doing your late father proud and getting that new contract. Was it a bit of comedown after all that was over?
A: It’s hard to say really. Obviously I try to perform the best I can, but I just couldn’t for some reason. I tried to put in some work in the training sessions and that just didn’t work.
Recently I’m feeling very good though, I’m feeling sharp again and all credit has to go to Jimmy Walker. He knows what I need. I feel I’m playing much better.
Q: So how big an impact has Jimmy Walker had on you (since arriving from Sunderland in November)?
A: Jimmy is absolutely brilliant. He’s a funny guy and he prepares and puts on good training sessions every morning. He’s a joy to work with and the fact that I am working with him is one of the reasons I am getting back to my best.
I wouldn’t say he is similar to Mally. He’s got a different type of coaching style, which is good because even coming up to 32 I am open to learning new things. He’s definitely been good for me.
Q: Recently you look as if you’ve been getting back to your best, the West Brom game in particular...
A: It was a good game for a goalkeeper because if you are facing, say, 20 shots in a game you are obviously going to save some of them.
It’s always good for a goalie to be facing shots but there are games when you don’t have to do very much and then you let one or two goals in and all of a sudden everyone keeps asking ‘why is he there?’.
But right now I’m positive and feel I am getting back to my best.
Q: Cole Skuse recently talked about players having to take a pay cut if the club is relegated. Is that the same for you?
A: Absolutely, we’ve all got pay cuts. For the senior, experienced players who have family and kids it’s a big blow for us, but we deserve that – if we go down.
Q: You’ve dropped out of the Poland squad since the World Cup. Playing third-tier football is not going to help your international ambitions is it?
A: Obviously not. Not only for international football but for my career as well.
But we’ve still got some games left and point to play for. Let’s not talk about relegation yet. Football is a crazy game and anything can happen.
Q: You must have one eye on the future though. You wouldn’t want to be playing in the third-tier of English football again (Town signed Bialkowski from Notts County) would you given you were linked to Premier League clubs a year ago?
A: I’ve still got a contract and am respecting that contract. Whatever happens in the summer happens.
At the moment I’ve still got a contract and that’s it.
Q: Has there been any talk from the club about selling you to raise funds or lower the wage bill?
A: I haven’t heard anything from the owner, so... yeah.
Q: Would you be keen to be part of the rebuild if this club does go down to League One?
A: Yeah, I need to sit down with the manager and see what his view is about the future. I’m sure we will all speak to him after the season and he will say to us what his plans are for next year – whatever league we are in. We will see.
Q: We know how settled you and your family are in Ipswich. As far as you’re concerned, you’re an Ipswich player until the owner or manager tell you otherwise?
A: I still have two more years on my contract. I’m respecting that contract. I worked for that contract for such a long time and I’m still happy here.
My family is happy and we are even planning to live here in Ipswich after I finish playing football.
That shows how much we love this place and how much we love the area. We also love the people here.
But football can be a funny game – you can be Player of the Year three times in a row and then the next year you can have dodgy spells.
All of a sudden you might not be wanted and you need to look for something else.
But as far as I am concerned the gaffer likes me and I like this place, so... we’ll see.