With Rangers next Europa League fixture looming on Thursday, we look ahead to our opponents Lech Poznan with some hopeful news…
Hands up if you’d heard of Lech Poznan before Rangers ended up in the same Europa League group as them? Even the most seasoned football fan/blogger/FIFA armchair professional may well balk when it comes to factoids over Polish professional clubs. Their premier division, the Ekstraklasa, is every bit an unknown to me as how you actually pronounce it.
That said, there’s one, and perhaps only one, Polish team that is somewhat familiar to footy fans in Britain and that’s Lech Poznan. Their fans, bless them, have a goal celebration involving linking arms, turning their backs to the field and jumping up and down. When Lech, like a fish out of water, drew Manchester City in the 2010-11 Europa League, the City fans observed this ritual dance, thought it was hilarious and copied it. Thus the Poznan was born.
Sadly, outside that little factoid, not much is known about last year’s Ekstrakslasa runners up though perhaps unfairly. They are, without question, the most popular club in Greater Poland. Their impressive, dome-like Stadion Miejski was routinely sold out of it’s 45,000 seater capacity on a weekly basis, pre-COVID. While Poznan itself is merely Poland’s 5th largest city, the club boasts support from all over the country.
Poznan, however, isn’t without it’s successes, enjoying a purple patch in the early 90s where it won 3 titles in 4 years, out of 7 in it’s history. Hardly a touch on Rangers 55, but then we exist in a one-horse league (Ok there’s maybe a few donkeys thrown in there too) while the wealth is spread a good bit more in Poland. Three clubs have won the league a maximum 14 times, one club 13 times and then it’s Lech Poznan at 7.
Look, let’s not beat around the bush here, the Light Blues are light years ahead in terms of structure, setup and, of course, cost. Some £25 million in transfer fees seperates the current squads and that’s largely down to Poznan sticking with their farm system for talent, almost entirely Polish.
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There’s no big names there, outside of actual name length, and their past players list is equally as head scratching. Well, with one glaring exception, between 2008 and 2010 a certain Robert Lewandowski sat up front of the Kolejorz and banged in 32 goals in 58 games before earning a transfer to Borussia Dortmund and then Bayern Munich, where he would become one of the best players in football.
That’s all well and good, but it’s up to Steven Gerrard to keep expectations in check here. We’ve talked before about the danger in playing these nameless European teams and taking it all for granted. It’s never been more of a concern than now when, on all fronts, Rangers are absolutely dominating.
There is some good news, however, as reports are circulating that Poznan midfielder Pedro Tiba is a major doubt for the fixture. Tiba is widely known as their most creative player, their Ryan Kent if you will. This would present a major boost for the Gers, but these reports haven’t been confirmed and, seeing as I read them in the Daily Record, I’d caution to take with a bit of salt.
Both teams will be all in this Thursday, let’s hope for another top performance and result from the Light Blues. Either way, we won’t forget at least one Polish team in a hurry.