SOME footballers are stricken by self-doubt. They fret about wrong roads taken and become obsessed with episodes of bad luck. Jaroslaw Fojut is not one of them.
The 27-year old Dundee United centre-half has developed a very effective strategy for dealing with enquiries about the cruel twist of fate that saw a potentially career-changing move to Celtic ruined by a cruciate injury three years ago. He stares straight ahead and states how the past is of no consequence to him. His shaved head tends to help get the point across.
And the past to him means as recently as last weekend. “I don’t get paid for analysing games,” he said, bluntly, in response to a question about last weekend’s Scottish Cup quarter-final clash with Celtic, the ripples of which are still being felt. According to Fojut, that game has no bearing on this weekend’s re-match at Hampden Park in the League Cup final.
“The coaching staff talk about what has happened and, as a player, I take it game by game,” he said. “It has been easy to move on from that.”
If not exactly easy, he has succeeded in moving on from the cruciate injury that saw his career stall. Fojut, then at Slask Wroclaw, had just returned from a trip to London to sign a pre-contract deal with Celtic when the injury occurred, in 2012. Neil Lennon, the then Celtic manager, was desperately in need of Fojut for the Champions League qualifiers so he could not wait around for him to recover.
The news was duly delivered to the player that the move was off. Lennon sympathised with the defender but life had to go on. With Glenn Loovens and Daniel Majstorovic nearing the end of their contracts, he was forced to look elsewhere for a defender. “It’s a huge blow for him – and for us,” Lennon said. “We really liked the cut of him.”
So, rather than continue his career in Scotland, Fojut was forced to watch from afar as Celtic qualified the Champions League without him. More frustrating was missing out on the famous 2-1 victory over Barcelona in the group stage. Following his recovery Fojut ended up in Norway, with Tromso. His career eventually wended its way to Scotland, when he signed for Dundee United last summer. So surely it is tempting to now contemplate the quirk of fate that means he is a few days away from playing against Celtic in a cup final? Helping firm up the impression that Fojut has had to endure more setbacks than most players his age, when Slask Wroclaw won the Ekstraklasa Cup – Poland’s equivalent of the League Cup – in 2009, he was suspended for the final after playing in all the previous rounds. So Sunday is an opportunity to right a few wrongs, yes? The unsentimental Fojut doesn’t view it that way.
“Right now, I cut the past,” he said, when asked to consider the identity of the opponents on Sunday – does he ever think that maybe, had things been different, he could have been lining-up for Celtic? “It doesn’t matter what happened before,” he added. “I am now in the exact position I want to be in, which is just a few days away from a cup final.
“Every football player would want to be in this position, looking ahead to such a big game. So I am really happy that I am here and pleased with how my career has gone.”
“It was a disappointment at the time but I don’t think about it now,” he continued. “At that point I had just won the league with my Polish team and was celebrating with my wedding a few days after it happened. It happens. Not to many players, but it happens.”
He added that wife Karolina would be better placed to answer a question about how he coped with the setback. With his focus solely on Sunday’s final, Fojut certainly seems philosophical about it now.
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