Bart Bialkowski on losing his head after move to Millwall collapsed, Crystal Palace attempts to sign him and a tough season at Ipswich Town

BY RICHARD CAWLEY
richard@slpmedia.co.uk

Bartosz Bialkowksi has opened up about his Ipswich Town exit – admitting that the initial collapse of his transfer to Millwall left his head “all over the place”.

The Poland international looked set to sign at the end of June but complications with the medical saw the 32-year-old resume pre-season training with the Tractor Boys.

But Bialkowski did end up in the blue of Millwall just before the Championship campaign started. He signed a season-long loan deal on July 30.

“I was hoping to get something done before pre-season started,” he said. “I had my medical but there were some issues with it.

“But over the past seven years I’ve only missed two or three games maybe, and that was down to illness or something like that.

“[My head] was all over the place, to be honest. It was on and off about 10 times but finally we got there and I’m happy.

“I needed a change and I mean that with all due respect to Ipswich. I had unbelievable years there and I’m still their player, technically. But it was difficult for me to fully concentrate on the pitch in the friendlies and everything I do in training.

“I needed a fresh start. I had been at Ipswich for five years. I could see last season that I was not myself – for some reason or another. I don’t know why. But as soon as I signed for Millwall even my wife spotted the difference and said: ‘You’re a different man’. And I feel that. I feel great.

“My head is clear and I can fully concentrate on training and playing games. It’s also easier when you are playing well and we’ve had a great start to the season, so that is going to make you enjoy it even more.”

Bialkowski’s performances for Ipswich – he won Player of the Year for three consecutive seasons – led to Premier League interest.

Crystal Palace were one of the clubs on his trail.

“It was close – but not close enough,” said Bialkowski, who had saved 92 per cent of the shots he had faced in the Championship this season before Wednesday’s derby at Fulham. “I think Ipswich turned down some good money for me.

“That’s it really – they said: ‘You’re not for sale’. They offered me a contract and I signed it.”

That deal runs until 2021 and Bialkowski – who has featured 178 times for Ipswich – says there is no option that automatically kicks in if Millwall wish to sign him at the end of May.

“I’m here on loan and we go from there,” he said. “If I play well then I hope Millwall might want to do something about it.

“But nothing is in place. I want to play as long as I possibly can – I love the game. I’ve had a few injuries over the years but that [a serious knee problem] was more than 10 years ago. Since then I’ve been fit and healthy.”

The local press in East-Anglia described Bialkowski as an ‘Ipswich icon’ when he penned his Millwall deal. But the Braniewo-born shotstopper was not immune from criticism as the club slid into League One.

Paul Lambert replaced Paul Hurst in the managerial hotseat but could not arrest their freefall last season. They finished bottom – 13 points from safety and conceded 77 goals.

“Last season was difficult,” said Bialkowski. “Not only for myself, but for the whole club. I’m not trying to defend myself but I had some issues after the World Cup. I didn’t have a break – I only had a week off.

“It was a tough season and I was tired – mentally and physically. The new gaffer [Hurst] came in and we had some issues with him as well. It just didn’t work out.

“The season seemed so long, especially when you keep losing. Then it becomes even harder.”

Millwall were one of the clubs battling to secure their spot in the division too.

“That’s why you need experienced players in the team who can turn things around when you don’t win a few games in a row,” said Bialkowski. “That’s what we have here.

“We have got a very good Championship squad who can compete against anyone. It’s not going to be easy. It’s such a tough league and so we’re going to have some games which we’re going to lose – but I believe in this team and I believe in this manager. I believe we’re going to do some good things this year.”

Bialkowski’s chance came on the opening day of the season, Frank Fielding tore his quad and had to be subbed off in the 1-0 opening day victory over Preston.

“These kind of things happen in football,” said Bialkowski.

“I was gutted for Frank – he is such a good guy and a great goalkeeper.

“Usually in our position if you start a game then 99 per cent of the time you finish it. But with my age and experience I have learned I have to prepare myself like I’m going to have to play.

“I was ready for it.

“It was almost a perfect game for me. I had nothing to really do in that games. The boys played brilliantly.”

PICTURES BY BRIAN TONKS

 

 


 

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