BIG INTERVIEW: Bartosz Bialkowski on his pre-match ritual, ‘Beard of the Year’ honours and why the Championship’s big-spenders will be feeling the pressure

Ipswich Town keeper Bartosz Bialkowksi

Ipswich Town keeper Bartosz Bialkowksi - Credit: Archant

A devastating December was followed by a jaded January, but Ipswich Town remain just three points off the top in the Championship. STUART WATSON spoke to Polish keeper Bartosz Bialkowski ahead of Saturday’s game at Rotherham.

Q: Hi Bart. First of all, what was last weekend’s game (goalless home draw with Wigan) like for you? You can’t have many quieter games as a keeper?

A It was cold, definitely! These games are the hardest ones tough because you need to keep focus and concentrate. You might not have much to do for 89 minutes and then have to make an important save. They are the hardest games for goalkeepers. I said to Malcolm (Webster, keeper coach) after the game, physically I was good, but mentally I was tired.

When you’re making saves every 10 minutes you’re flying and feeling good. When you don’t have much to do you need to keep focussed and keep working with your feet because the next minute you might need to make a wonder save.

Q: How do you assess current form? It was 16 points from a possible 18 in December, but just one win in six across all competitions in January.

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A: We’ve had a couple of bad results, but nothing’s changed to be honest. No-one would have thought before the season started that we’d be in this position. It’s a great position to be after Christmas and we realise what a chance we’ve got. We just need to go and take it and grab it.

We’ve only lost one or two games recently and are still three points off the top spot. There’s nothing to worry about. We’re in a great position and we’re so hungry for success. As a group we want to achieve something.

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Q: I guess the good thing is that, despite a couple of disappointing results, other teams at the top end of the league have dropped points too?

A: Exactly. It’s a long season and every team drops points at some stage. We’ve been on a fantastic run and in the last few weeks we’ve dropped a few points. That can change so quick. If we win the next game we might go on another run. We just need to concentrate and keep focussing on our jobs.

Saturday will be another tough one. This is such a competitive league; anyone can beat anyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re top and playing the team that is bottom, you still need to be at the top of your game and treat each one like a Cup Final.

Q: The gaffer has barely spent a penny putting this squad together, but your promotion rivals have spent some big money, be it on fees or wages, during the transfer window. Does that put all the pressure on them?

A: Absolutely. They have spent lots of money. We’re not under any pressure because no-one expected us to be in this position.

Maybe other teams didn’t know what to expect from us early on, but we’ve shown we can compete with anyone and maybe now they realise how good we are. We just need to keep doing our job and doing what’s worked for us.

We’re in a great position and want to achieve something. We don’t want to put ourselves under any pressure, but we realise what a good position we’re in. We just need to do our jobs. In the last few months we’ve been absolutely fantastic and I see no reason why we can’t do it again.

Q: How tough will Saturday’s game at Rotherham be?

A: Very, because teams at the bottom of the table need to start picking up points to avoid relegation. I know that situation from Notts County – we managed to beat teams in the top spots to stay up on the last day.

Q: You’ve started the last 14 league matches in a row now. Do you feel established as number one?

A: I still need to stay on my toes. Deano (Dean Gerken) just came back from injury and Paddy (Kenny) has come in too – they’ve both been fantastic. They are training so hard and pushing me. I just cannot relax. I need to keep doing my job in every session and every game. Hopefully I can keep my place. I’m confident right now.

Q: How’s working with Paddy Kenny been?

A: He’s a good lad! I didn’t know him before so didn’t know what to expect, but he’s been absolutely brilliant – he’s a top guy and a top keeper. He’s so experienced and is always there to help you.

Q: Let’s talk about the beard! You finished second in a recent online ‘Beard of the Year’ poll...

A: That was quite funny. Someone tweeted that to me. I think that was the Ipswich fans who put me in that position. It doesn’t matter whether I was second or first or third – it was just nice that all the Ipswich fans supported me. A lot of the lads have beards at the moment, but obviously I think mine is the best one!

Q: Can you tell us a bit about the reasons behind your pre-match ritual of crossing yourself and pointing to the heavens. I presume that is to do with your faith?

A: That’s a bit personal for me. I believe in God, so I believe God is helping me in every aspect; my game and my life. I just pray for a good game. I keep saying that I do it for my family. I’ve always done that in my career.

Q: Is this the best period of your career so far?

A: I think so. I was at Southampton when we managed to win back-to-back promotions, but I wasn’t playing; I was on the bench. I was happy, but at the same time I didn’t feel part of those promotions. Now obviously I’m playing. I want to know what it feels like to be a big part of a promotion.

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