Artful Artur Boruc dodges clown comparison

Boruc is in outstanding form but rejects talk of being the new Jan Tomaszewski

However close England may be getting to qualifying for the World Cup finals, a huge obstacle remains to be overcome in the form of Artur Boruc. On the 40th anniversary of Jan Tomaszewski’s exploits in eliminating England at Wembley in 1973, there is some serendipity in another Polish goalkeeper being likely to prove crucial to further English progress now.

Except that Boruc could perhaps be the one person involved on Tuesday night who will not be thinking about Tomaszewski, infamously dubbed “a clown” by Brian Clough. At 33, he is simply savouring the wholly unexpected resurrection of his career.

Better than ever, he has been the form goalkeeper in the Premier League this season, contributing substantially to Southampton’s surprising rise to fourth in the table.

And rarely can a club nickname have seemed more suitable than in Boruc’s conversion from a sinner to Saint. His colourful history includes a police prosecution for sectarian offences at Celtic, court appearances in libel actions (photos of a companion turned out to be his sister not a mistress), accusations of alcoholism and a complex family life linked to an acrimonious marriage breakdown.

Yet his footballing fall was worse. The star of Poland’s side at the World Cup in 2006 and Euro 2008, he was subsequently thrown off the squad more than once for allegedly drinking and misbehaving, most recently leading to an absence from the national team for two and a half years, which included the Euro 2012 tournament staged partly in Poland.

When the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign was beginning, Boruc did not have a club after being released by Fiorentina last summer. When he was eventually taken on as a free agent just over a year ago by Southampton, it was only on a short-term contract to be third-choice goalkeeper.

It was a big comedown for a footballer who was one of the five goalkeepers shortlisted for the Fifa’s World Player XI awards in 2008, alongside Gianluigi Buffon, Iker Casillas, Petr Cech and Edwin van der Sar following his impressive performances for Celtic.

His stay at Southampton could have been even shorter than planned after he threw a water bottle at a section of fans criticising him excessively in only his second match. He was dropped as part of an internal disciplinary process but, sensing a last chance, worked hard to regain a high level of performance.

“This past year and actually most of my career is a great example of how you have to try to deal with the huge ups and downs that fate brings,” said Boruc. “Whenever I’ve been left out, I’ve always had determination to fight back and re-establish myself. Things seem to be going in the right direction just now. I can’t deny I’m more than happy. But I’ve got to make sure it continues that way. Definitely. I’ve grown older and I’d like to say wiser. And I’m really pleased that I’ve managed to change for the better, as it wasn’t a small thing. I was extremely lucky to be given a blank piece of paper to start again afresh.

“I’ve matured and I’ve wised up with it. I’ve always wanted to play in the Premier League. I didn’t want to waste the opportunity, especially so late in my career. I thought I’d get there sooner but now I’ve made it I’ve got to make the most of it.”

His change of attitude helped Southampton stay up last season with a last-minute penalty save in a draw at Norwich, plus big performances in wins against Liverpool and Manchester City. It earned him a new two-year contract and he has since maintained the improvement with five clean sheets in seven Premier League games this season.

That he can at the moment do no wrong was seen in the stunning sideways volley he scored as an outfield player in a training game with the Poles before Friday night’s 1-0 defeat in the Ukraine. The video footage of has already attracted more than a million views on YouTube. Given the chance, he would like to still take penalties as he did in his early days with Legia Warsaw.

However, his main focus is on keeping ahead of Wojciech Szczesny in the contest for the Polish No1 shirt. “For me, Boruc has for several years now been a world-class goalkeeper,” said Tomaszewski. “Maybe he has not been appreciated as much as he should have been by some of his coaches. Even now it’s not easy for Boruc and Szczesny competing for one place in the team. But Boruc would be my choice.”

Not that Boruc is pleased with the Polish clamour for him to match Tomaszewski on Tuesday. “Am I ready to become the new Tomaszewski? I am Artur Boruc and I would like to stay being him.”

News
peopleJonathan Ross has got a left-field suggestion to replace Clarkson
News
Johnny Depp is perhaps best known for his role as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean
peopleBut how did he break it?
News
Andy Davidhazy at the beginning (left) and end (right) of his hike
video
Arts and Entertainment
The teaser trailer has provoked more questions than answers
filmBut what is Bond's 'secret' that Moneypenny is talking about?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
footballDoes Hodgson's England team have an identity yet?
Sport
Lewis Hamilton secured his second straight pole of the season
f1Vettel beats Rosberg into third after thunderstorm delays qualifying
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
news
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
News
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
people
Voices
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
News
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss