Thursday, October 21, 2010

City v KKS Lech Poznań: City Play The Generation Game

Manchester City are not the most decorated of European campaigners. Until recently, City's continental c.v. looked a little on the threadbare side of embarrassing. Mention of the capture of the Cup Winners Cup these days brings the same non-plussed look from listeners that I used to give my uncle when he regaled us with tales of the great Leeds United in something called the Fairs Cup. "The Fairs Cup!" I would whinny with delight, "that doesn't even exist anymore!". Despite remembering the Cup Winners' Cup of Everton-Rapid, West Ham-Anderlecht, Chelsea-Stuttgart and Arsenal-Parma, try as I might, I cannot pretend I am old enough to have seen City's one and only European win first hand. All of which dates the exploit somewhat.

Gornik Zabrze, City's opponents in that final of 1970, played out in the vast empty concrete bowl of the Prater in Vienna during a night-long downpour, recalled for me "typical Cup Winners Cup occasions". The competition always made me think of Carl Zeis Jena and Magdeburg, Ujpest Dosza and Ferencvaros, the Dynamos Berlin; Moscow and Tbilisi. It was often an Eastern European thing played in front of huge brown-clad crowds, with dirty snow lining the edge of the pitch.There seemed to be military personnel as far as the eye could see and they often kicked off at four in the afternoon. On a Wednesday. This, remember, long before UEFA and the t.v. moguls snuggled up to each other under the duvet.

Line-ups in Vienna, 29th April 1970: 

City: 1.Corrigan, 2.Book, 3.Booth, 4.Heslop, 5.Pardoe, 6.Doyle, 7.Towers, 8.Oakes, 9.Bell, 10.Lee, 11.Young. Sub: Bowyer

Gornik: 1.Kostka, 2.Oslizlo, 3.Florenski, 4.Gorgon, 5.Olek, 6.Latocha, 7.Szoltysik, 8.Wilczek, 9.Szaryniski, 10.Banas, 11.Lubanski. Subs: Skowronek & Deyna.
 

Somewhat strangely, then, for a team with such a distinct lack of pedigree in Europe, what City do have is a rich and engaging past in Poland. The Blues take on Polish champions Lech Poznan this evening, but it is far from our first encounter in Europe's 8th most populous country.

Seaman applauds the park end at Groclin

City's record against Polish sides is surprisingly impressive. Out of eight games the Blues have managed to stay unbeaten in all but one of them [W3 D4 L1] of which [W1 D2 L0 in Manchester]. Analysing performance in more recent ties, however, throws up some slightly less auspicious numbers: City have drawn their last four games against Polish opponents, their previous win coming on 31 March 1971 when they beat Górnik 3-1 in a Cup Winners' Cup quarter-final replay staged in Copenhagen. That, as you will readily agree, is quite some time ago.

There is a curious symmetry to City's encounters in this part of Europe: the club has often been thrown into competition with Polish teams at a time of crucial development in the domestic game there. One look at the line-ups from the 70s games with Gornik and the names Gorgon, Lubanski and Deyna stand out. Deyna, later to play for City after Peter Swales swapped a lorry load of television sets and washing machines for the army captain, was a sumptuous midfield orchestrator, Gorgon a long-haired rock in the centre of defence and Lubanski a stylish rapier quick front runner, who scored one of Poland's two goals in beating England in a 74 World Cup qualifier. All three would play decisive roles in Poland's storming 1974 World Cup, where they were unlucky to only finish 3rd in their first ever finals appearance. Gornik in the early seventies contained many who would go on to greater things with the national team in Germany and later in Argentina in '78.

A young Boniek steps out to do some damage

By the time Widzew Lodz arrived in Manchester for a UEFA Cup tie on 14th September 1977, Polish football was in the middle of its golden era and about to drift from the first great generation of players to the second. Another World Cup beckoned, this time far from home in Argentina, and another strong showing would ensue, built around the stylish ball skills of Gadocha and Deyna, the classic goal threat of Lato and Szarmach and the granite defence constructed around Jerzy Gorgon. City were not to know it but they were about to become the unwitting victims of the next glorious phase of development, which would again take Poland to a World Cup 3rd place finish, at Spain 1982. In particular, we were about to be introduced to the man. who would be the undisputed leader of a fresh generation of polish success.

Leading 2-0 through goals from Peter Barnes and Mike Channon, City were stunned when a youthful-looking midfielder by the name of Zbigniew Boniek suddenly took the game by the scruff of the neck and brought Lodz level at 2-2 through a deliciously placed shot and a penalty inside 6 minutes. City then added attempted suicide to mortal injury when Donachie decided to upend the author of his side's downfall and was promptly sent off. This was too much for one City supporter to put up with and the steaming Kippax was treated to a brief moment of comedy as the ever-threatening Boniek came face to face with one of Manchester's finest. A fast moving policeman curtailed the conversation and Boniek could get back to bossing the middle of the park..

Having thrown away the first leg, the second leg took on an entirely different colour. City now needed a goal. That they did not manage it was thanks mainly to a calamitous miss from close range by big Joe Royle, who was seen to twice wipe his foot over the ball when the merest of touches would have dispatched it into the net. 40,000 Poles excitedly cheered Lodz into the next round as City licked their wounds and Royle attempted to put one foot in front of the other.


A schoolboy's scrapbook captures the moment Burzynski drops a cross and Joe Royle prepares to fail


Line ups at Maine Road, 14th September 1977:  

City: 1. Corrigan, 2 Clements, 3 Donachie, 4 owen, 5 Watson, 6 Booth, 7 Barnes, 8 Channon, 9 Kidd, 10 Hartford, 11 Keegan 

Widzew Lodz: 1. Burzinsky; 2 Kostrzewinski, 3 Janas, 4 Chodakowski, 5 Tlokinski, 6 Kowenicki, 7 Rozborski, 8 Mozeijko, 9 Grebosz 10 Boniek, 11 Gapinski

Facing the nasty teal green shirts of Groclin Dyskobolia Grodzisk Wielopolski was hardly the romantic notion most of us had had when City finally returned to European football for the first time since the late 70s of Booth, Kidd and Tueart in 2003, but it was at least a step up from the qualifying round which had pitched the Blues against Total Network Solutions Llansantffraid for their troubles. Groclin came to the City of Manchester Stadium and played admirably to eek out a 1-1 draw. Anelka had put City into an early lead but Sebastian Mila swerved a majestic free-kick past David Seaman for the equaliser. As had happened against Lodz 25 years earlier, the away goal proved crucial for the Poles, a 0-0 draw watched by 1,000 travelling City fans in a capacity crowd of 5,000, being enough to put them through and City, as it ever was, out.  
  • Line ups in Grodzisk, Thursday 27th November, 2003                                     
 Groclin: Liberda; Pawlak, Koziol, Krizanac, Mynar, Zajac, Wieszczicki, Sedlacek, Mila, Niedzielan, Raziak subs: Gorszkov, Piechniak)              

City: Seaman; Sun, Sommeil, Dunne, Distin, Wright-Philips, McManaman, Barton, Sinclair, Fowler, Anelka (subs: Reyna, Wanchope, Macken)

    Now it is Lech Poznan, who stand in the Blues' way. Lech's only previous encounter with English opposition came against Liverpool FC in the 1984/85 European Champion Clubs' Cup first round; they lost 1-0 in Poznan and 4-0 at Anfield. With Poland's hosting of the European Championships on the near horizon, maybe once again City face opposition from this great footballing nation at an interesting and crucial time for the game there.

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