THE list of Polish goalkeepers who have forged successful careers in England is a strong one as Kamil Grabara well knows.
From Artur Boruc to Lukasz Fabianski, both currently earning their crust in the Premier League, to Bartosz Bialkowski – and prior to that, there was Tomasz Kuszczak, Wojciech Szczesny and, of course, Jerzy Dudek.
But for the big Pole in the Huddersfield Town goal, he is wary of imitations and if the Liverpool loanee cracks it in a country which he calls his ‘second home’, he will do it his way.
Single-minded in his pursuit of success and someone who professed to having never been a star-struck teenager aiming to emulate a boyhood hero and play in the Premier League – maybe a Dudek, for example – Grabara is determined to carve out his own niche.
That, ultimately, is how it should be.
After lining up against Millwall goalkeeper Bialkowski last weekend, another fellow Polish native will be in opposing colours this afternoon in Hull City’s in-form winger Kamil Grosicki.
I needed to grow up and play some important games for my country and this is why you play football – to be number one. You want to feel good with yourself and being a number one obviously gives you that feeling.Goalkeeper Kamil Grabara
For Grabara, it is just another opponent, another obstacle.
He told The Yorkshire Post: “I do not know him personally, but I have seen he is on quite a good run and has scored five goals already and five assists and something like that. That means he is in good form so, hopefully, we can stop him.
“Obviously, it is nice to play against Polish guys and against Millwall I played against Bartosz Bialakowski and it was nice to speak to someone in my language. But, on the pitch, the only thing that matters is winning the game.
“I follow them a little bit, but everyone starts at different times. It is great they have made a career, but I am just focused on myself and I define my own career.
“Maybe, it is some kind of pressure that Poles have made a career in the UK. But I am quite okay with the pressure and it needs to be something serious to bother me.
“I always say that I want to be the best version of myself and not copy anyone, that is how it is. If I make a good career, I do not want anyone talking: ‘I want to be like him.’ Don’t do it.”
Grabara may acknowledge it being a bit of a ‘roller-coaster year’ after swapping a play-off tilt in the Danish Superliga with AGF Aarhus for what now has the potential to be a relegation scrap at Huddersfield, but is it one that has largely been rewarding.
It was topped off by captaining Poland at the Uefa European Under-21 Championships in Italy, with 2019 also seeing him sign a new deal at Liverpool in the summer before heading straight back out on loan to Huddersfield – having previously headed to Denmark for a temporary stint at Aarhus in January.
Grabara will be busy on duty with Poland in the forthcoming international break and a resting upon laurels is not in the equation.
The 20-year-old continued: “The year has been special and a breakthrough and I appreciate it.
“It is the most important of my football career and a journey that, hopefully, will stay positive to the end of the year.
“Maybe the next one will be even better.
“It’s been a roller-coaster. I was in Denmark and then in the Euros, which was quite good for me and then in at Huddersfield. When you come to a club, you expect to keep winning the games, but the reality was different. You need to not stand still and not go under.”
On captaining his country, Grabara added: “I am proud of it, but the main target is to captain of the first national team. I know many Under-21s players who did not make it. You know you are really close with one step more to do, but sometimes the step is massive. The boss has to see something in me to give me the armband.
“I needed to grow up and play some important games for my country and this is why you play football – to be number one. You want to feel good with yourself and being a number one obviously gives you that feeling.
“If you play for your country, you are extremely proud and it makes your family and people around you proud.
“I am (also) in the Championship which is a very good league and playing at 20 and that is a good base.”
Breakthroughs for Huddersfield have not been so forthcoming in 2019, but one refreshingly arrived at Stoke City on Tuesday evening when the Terriers joyously claimed their overdue first league win in 20 attempts since February 26.
It was a sensation that Grabara will remember, and he is eager to experience more of it. On his first victory in Huddersfield colours at the 10th time of asking, Grabara, who cast aside his mistake last weekend against Millwall to secure a maiden clean sheet, said: “It was a cold night at Stoke on a Tuesday and it is never easy to play there.
“We said to each other that it would be nice if we won and you could see that in the reaction when we scored and in the game when something went wrong and something was good.
“Everyone stuck together. I am pleased and happy. I was not expecting (it), but was thinking that this was a day where we could break through finally.
“Nothing happens without a reason. Maybe we needed that to realise where we are and what we have to do to carry on.
“It was easy to talk about how many games we had lost, but a proper mentality is talking about winning games and that is what you get paid for.
“You need to go into yourself and find what is wrong.”
Grounded in reality and conscious that there are no magic wands available to spectacularly turn Huddersfield’s season around, Grabara is equally wise to his own hopes of emerging on the first-team scene at Liverpool.
It is likely to be a fair way off on the horizon and with the gloves assigned to the second most expensive goalkeeper in history in Alisson Becker, Grabara is practical in his assessment of his longer-term hopes at Anfield.
He continued: “They need to know what I am doing. But if I was the boss and I had the best goalkeeper in the world, I would not be (too) bothered about some youngster!”
As Grabara will well know, you have to keep your head down and somehow earn the right one day. As it stands, he is doing nicely.