Here’s my column from last week’s Leader. It forms part of the paper’s comprehensive pre-match coverage every Friday, featuring interviews, an in-depth look at the opposition and lots of statistical analysis. All content in the column (c) www.leaderlive.co.uk.
When Adrian Cieslewicz finally left The Racecourse last January, ending a particularly drawn-out divorce between a manager who had come to realise that he couldn’t get consistent performances out of him and a player whose output had dipped since the turn of 2013, my eyes immediately turned to one date. March 8th. The reunion.
It promised to be intriguingly awkward. Would Cieslewicz be inspired and turn up determined to show up the manager who had finally admitted defeat in his attempts to coax more out of him? Or would his return be as benign as Danny Wright’s? Who knew then that we’d be denied the pleasure of seeing all this unfold before us?
Morrell’s departure has taken a bit of the spice out of Cieslewicz’s return. Not that there was any personal enmity between them: as far as I’ve got to know them both, they really don’t seem the types to bear grudges in that way.
However, Cieslewicz would surely have found a little bit of extra motivation in showing Morrell what he could do. Morrell would argue that if he’d found the desire to do that while he was still in a Wrexham shirt, the Pole would still be at The Racecourse. Perhaps Morrell, with a flying match winner at his disposal, would be too.
It’ll still be fascinating to see how Cieslewicz fares on Saturday. We all know that he’s capable of rising to the occasion. He lit up Wembley in the FA Trophy Final, tended to perform in play-offs and was decisive against Brighton two years ago. But then nobody ever doubted his ability. It was the regularity with which he played to his potential that was the issue.
Kidderminster fans may already be recognising this. He regularly performed well against them, no doubt catching their eye, and even went viral when he last appeared at Aggborough, scoring that infamous goal which went through a hole in the net! But life hasn’t been easy for him at his new club. Harriers have been struggling with the loss of the man Cieslewicz has essentially been signed to replace, and their results have dipped as a result.
There’s no question that Joe Lolley was a real loss, one of those rare finds you manage to unearth once a generation in the lower local leagues who immediately looks like they’re too good for your level and need to move on. His impact was similar to Lee Trundle’s when he arrived at The Racecourse from Rhyl, and there was a real buzz about him among the home fans when we travelled there this season. Cieslewicz’s ghost goal stole the headlines from a match-winning performance by Lolley, and it wasn’t his first of the season. He’s left a big pair of shoes for Cieslewicz to fill.
But Saturday offers him the perfect stage to show that he’s up to that task. In familiar surroundings, against players he knows well, he’ll be eager to shine. He’ll get a warm reception- Wrexham fans even raised a banner in his honour Hereford last Saturday. But he could wreck our afternoon.