Time to shine for Plock
For two years now, Orlen Wisla Plock, under the guidance of coach Xavi Sabate, have been implementing a sport development strategy.
The 2020/21 season is the third year of this strategy, and the club has been clear that now they are not only in the hunt for domestic titles but are ready for the next step on the international stage as well.
And what better stage than the EHF European League for the ‘Oilers’ to make their mark?
- 10 names leave and Plock welcome seven signings for the 2020/21 season
- finished runners-up to Kielce in the Polish league for eight seasons in a row
- also go by the nickname ‘Nafciarze,’ in Polish meaning the ‘Oilers’
- the club has 15 seasons of EHF Champions League handball under its belt
The burning question – Is Sabate's fresh new look to pay dividends?
There is a certain freshness about the signings and changes that Sabate has made before this season.
Gone are the likes of Zdrahala (37), Igropulo (35) and Sulic (40) and in are Fernandez (24), Komarzewski (21) and Serdio (26). An injection of youth into the dressing room.
However, just in case Sabate was worried about the average age of the squad dropping too low and TikTok taking over dressing room proceedings, the Spanish coach did find a balance in signing defensive specialist Mirsad Terzic (37), who he worked with during his time in Veszprém.
Jeremy Toto (28) joining from Saint-Raphaël Var Handball and Abel Serdio (26), the Spanish international coming in on loan from Barça, make for an interesting new pairing on the line.
The signings do seem like a shift away from the ‘old-but-gold’ strategy recruitment style in the past.
Was this all part of the masterplan? Or is it time for a fresh crack at leaving Kielce’s shadow domestically and pushing on for that elusive quarter-final spot in European cup competitions?
Whatever the reason, it is a welcome change and will make for interesting watching once the EHF European League group phase gets underway.
Captain fantastic - Michal Daszek
The speedy versatile right wing can also be deployed at centre back and wears the captain's armband for the blue and white of Plock.
Daszek is seen often in the Polish league’s player of the month awards and sometimes breaks the odd domestic record, like last season when he scored 18 goals in one game against Tarnow. And if that wasn’t impressive enough, he didn’t miss a single shot either while breaking that league record.
At 28 he is in his prime and his years of EHF Champions League experience will be vital this season.
Hot shot – Zoltan Szita
The 22-year-old's upward trajectory has been steady since his performance at the EHF EURO 2020 when he was an important goal scorer for Hungary. The young left back quickly made his mark on the tournament netting 20 goals and showing off his impressive right arm.
Szita will be eager to make his mark on the EHF European League and you can’t help but think this is the perfect stomping ground for the young sharpshooter to further develop his game and build his confidence.
Early signs show he is in good form at the start of the Polish league too with him coming out as top scorer for his side in their opening three games, with 16 goals and 11 assists.
New blood - David Fernandez
Signed on a three-year-deal from Ademar Leon, head coach Xavi Sabate brings in fellow countryman Fernandez. The right back has been very impressive in the ASOBAL up until now, scoring 93 goals last season and finishing top scorer for his former club.
His performances earned him a spot in the extended squad of the Spanish national team before the last EHF EURO; however, he didn’t make the cut with Jordi Ribera favouring the likes of Alex Dujshebaev und Jorge Maqueda.
The 193-cm tall shooter is excellent from long range and should also play a key role in defence.
Fernandez is one part of the new-look right back position for Plock this season, as he will be joined by Serbian international Predrag Vejin.
A night to remember
Despite being a well-known club in the handball world, Orlen Wisla Plock is a side that have come close to causing big upsets on many occasions. But in recent years, that big result which would propel them into a quarter-final seems to be missing from their CV.
There is, however, a cold and dark night on 6 December in 2014 when the mighty Barça came to town that will stick in the memory of Plock fans.
It was an EHF Champions League season in which the Spanish side looked unstoppable and they ultimately were, winning the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne by beating Kielce (33:28) in the semi and Veszprém (28:23) in the final.
This legendary Barça line-up included the likes of Nikola Karabatic, Siarhei Rutenka, Victor Tomas, Kiril Lazarov and Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson, to name a few. With 12 wins, one draw and one loss, this was an almost flawless season. I say almost, because Orlen Wisla Plock can hold their heads high and proudly proclaim themselves as the only team to topple this seemingly invisible Barça side.
Nemanja Zelenovic led the charge with seven goals and Mariusz Jurkiewicz also put in an incredible shift netting six on the night.
The 34:31 win will always be remembered as one of those electric European cup nights for the club and a fond memory for now team captain, Michal Daszek, who was also in the squad on that faithful evening.
Arrivals and departures
Newcomers: Krzysztof Komarzewski (Wybrzeze Gdansk), Abel Serdio (Barca), Predrag Vejin (Ramahat Telaviv), David Fernandez (Ademar Leon), Mirsad Terzic (Telekom Veszprem HC), Jeremy Toto (Saint-Raphaël Var Handball), Oliwier Kaminski (SKF Wisla Plock)
Left the club: Ondrej Zdrahala (Al-Wakrah SC), Mateusz Goralski (MKS Energa Kalisz), Konstantin Igropulo (retired), Pawel Kowalski (Gwardia Opole), Jerko Matulic (RK PPD Zagreb), Ziga Mlakar (RK Celje), Mateusz Piechowski (Ademar Leon), Renato Sulic (Limoges), Igor Zabic (Limoges), Wiktor Jankowski (MMTS Kwidzyn)
EHF Champions League: Last 16 (4): 2011/12, 2013/14, 2014/15, 2015/16; Group Phase (7): 2002/03, 2004/05, 2005/06, 2006/07, 2008/09, 2016/17, 2017/18 Last 32 (1): 1995/96
EHF Cup: Quarter-final 1993/94; Group Phase 2012/13
Cup Winners’ Cup: Quarter-final 1996/97
Polish league: 7 titles (1994/95, 2001/02, 2003/04, 2004/05, 2005/06, 2007/08, 2010/11)
Polish Cup: 10 titles (1991/92, 1994/95, 1995/96, 1996/97, 1997/98, 1998/99, 2000/01, 2004/05, 2006/07, 2007/08)