Arsenal star makes bizarre promise ahead of Euro 2012 draw
‘I’ll grow my hair if Poland get England in their group’, says keeper Szczesny
It’s already been quite a year for Wojciech Szczesny, who has risen from being a virtual unknown to be No1 for both Arsenal and Poland at the age of just 21.
But it could get even better at about 5pm on Friday evening when the draw for next summer’s Euro 2012 finals is made.
Poland, as co-hosts with Ukraine, have qualified automatically and will be top seeds in tomorrow’s draw that will reveal the four groups.
And there is a one in four chance that they will be paired together with England, a prospect which Szczesny, who has lived in London since the age of 16, finds more than a little appealing.
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“England? It would be fantastic,” beams Szczesny, before revealing that he has hatched a little plan if England are positioned in Group A with Poland.
“I wasn’t going to say anything about this,” he laughs. “But now I am going to. I have said that if we get to play against England I am going to grow long hair.”
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It is a statement that needs some further explanation.
“You may remember the goalkeeper who played against England in 1973? You all should remember him. I am going to grow my hair long and see if I can do the job as well as he did against England!”
The man in question is Jan Tomaszewski, the goalkeeper who was nicknamed ‘The Clown’ by Brian Clough but ended up laughing all the way to the 1974 World Cup finals in Germany at England’s expense.
In October 1973 the unfancied Poles headed to Wembley needing to avoid defeat to qualify for the World Cup, and did just that with a 1-1 draw.
The visitors’ hero of the night was, unquestionably, Tomaszewski, who took his place in English football folklore with a string of dramatic saves and clearances that somehow kept Don Revie’s side at bay.
His long, flowing locks were not uncommon for the 1970s, although his distinctive headband only added to the colourful image of a somewhat unconventional keeper.
“He had a headband too. He looked absolutely ridiculous but he did the job,” said Szczesny, who appears to be deadly serious about his next quest.
“It’s possible I may have to wear a wig as there’s not enough time for me to grow my hair that long. I hope I won’t get the nickname too though!”
Some would say that Szczesny has already inherited the clown of the Emirates dressing room tag from Emmanuel Eboue but his performances on the pitch this season are what count
The only player to have so far been ever present in both the Premier League and Champions League, would suggest he is safe from that fate.
But the pressure will be on the co-hosts and Szczesny, whose Twitter page is always full of banter, would enjoy a meeting with his English team-mates Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott, but is also aware the draw could produce some tough groups.
“The competition itself is absolutely massive because we are hosting it, and the draw is probably even bigger because we are not the favourites and the draw will have a big impact on how we are going to do.
“But I can’t wait for it. The whole country is really excited and can’t wait for next summer.”
The Arsenal players, who will be in their hotel on Friday preparing for Saturday’s game against Wigan, will also all be interested to learn the respective fate of their sides. Even if not all of them will have quite such radical plans for next summer as their exuberant goalkeeper.