Polish footballers in Scotland - a brief history

NEW Rangers signing Maciej Gostomski is the latest Polish footballer to ply his trade in Scotland. Here, we take a (brief) look at the history of Poles in Scottish football

NEW Rangers signing Maciej Gostomski is the latest Polish footballer to ply his trade in Scotland. Here, we take a (brief) look at the history of Poles in Scottish football

The likes of Artur Boruc, Zibi Malkowski and Maciej Zurawski are well known in Scottish footballing circles, but among the first Polish footballers to turn out for a Scottish side were the trio who joined Hamilton in the early 1970s.

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1947-1952: Kapler, Staroscik, Lesz and Morawiec

In the post-war years, a number of Polish players turned out for Scottish sides, including Celtic’s Kon Kapler; Felis Staroscik, who played for Third Lanark between 1947 and 1951; St Mirren winger Alfie Lesz and Gerhard Morawiec, who had a spell with Stirling Albion. A number of footballers who had beenb part of the Polish Army team ended up playing in the north east, where they elected to stay after being demobilised from the base near Fraserburgh.

Tychy-born Kapler, who signed from Forres Mechanics, had been spotted playing for the Polish Army team in an exhbition match and made eight appearances for Celtic before being freed in 1949. He had given up his Polish nationality in 1948 and decided not to return to his homeland.

Alfons ‘Alfie’ Lesz joined St Mirren, also from Forres Mechanics in 1947, scoring 37 goals in 134 matches for the Buddies, before departing for Worcester City in 1952.

Staroscik was born in Silesia and had moved to England as a refugee by the end of the Second World War. His time in the Polish Army XI led to him joining Wolves as an amateur, but he joined Third Lanark after failing to make the grade at Molineux. In four years at Cathkin Park, Staroscik notched 33 goals in 81 matches for Thirds before returning south to join Northampton.

It is thought that Morawiec also played in the Aberdeenshire League and Highland League between 1945 and 1947, but also played in goal for Stirling Albion in the late 1940s.

1971: Hamilton sign Polish trio in washing machines swap deal

Witold Szygula, Alfred Olek and Roman Strazalkowski pitched up at Douglas Park in 1971 at the height of Cold War tensions thanks to Hamilton’s Polish chairman Jan Stepek.

Billed as the first players ‘from behind the Iron Curtain to play in Britain’, the trio had over 30 international caps between them, and Strazalkowski had played for Poland against Brazil at the Maracana in 1966 against the likes of Pele, Jairzinho and Garrincha.

Stepek, who had good contacts in Poland and ran an electrical wholesale firm in Cambuslang, offered to ship washing machines and electrical goods to his homeland in exchange for the three players.

After ‘years’ of negotiation, the trio arrived at Hamilton in September 1971, with Accies languishing in the depths of the second tier.

Club secretary at the time Alan Dick recalled that crowds increased, and there was a flurry of media interest, but Hamilton’s fortunes barely improved.

Dick added: “Unfortunately they weren’t able to resurrect Hamilton’s low fortunes but they certainly added a lot of interest in the Accies.

“Crowd levels increased and there was quite a bit of media interest from Poland.

“They were full-time players - and clearly too good for us which is why they didn’t stay longer than a few months - but were paid only a very basic wage of under £200 per week.”

1989: Wdowczyk and Dziekanowski arrive at Celtic

Less than 20 years later, Darius Wdowczyk and Dariusz ‘Jacki’ Dziekanowski arrived at Celtic from Legia Warsaw. Striker Dziekanowski played 49 games for Celtic, scoring ten goals including four in one match against Partizan Belgrade in the European Cup Winners’ Cup while Wdowczyk played 166 times at left back, scoring four goals.

Dziekanowski spent time as assistant manager of the Polish national side between 2006 and 2008 while his compatriot has had spells managing a number of Poland’s top clubs, incluidng Legia Warsaw, Korona Kielce and Wisła Płock, and is currently manager of Pogoń Szczecin.

1993-1996: Adamczuk and Dundee

Dariusz Adamczuk signed for Dundee in 1993, following spells at Pogoń Szczecin and Eintracht Frankfurt, playing 11 games before leaving for Udinese that same season.

His countryman, Piotr Czachowski, also joined the Dark Blues in 1993, playing 18 times and scoring one goal.

Adamczuk returned to Dens Park in 1996 after brief stints at Belenenses and again at Pogoń Szczecin. After eight goals in 62 appearances, Adamczuk joined Rangers during the 1999/2000 season. He made just 14 appearances for the Gers, and spent time on loan at Wigan before retiring in 2002.

He came out of retirement to play for Pogoń Szczecin Nowa in 2006, before retiring for a second time in 2008.

2005: Zibi, Magic and the ‘Holy Goalie’

In 2005, three notable Poles signed up for their first taste of Scottish football. Goalkeeper Zbigniew ‘Zibi’ Małkowski had signed for Tony Mowbray’s Hibernian from Feyenoord after impressing during a pre-season tour of Ireland while in Glasgow, Maciej Żurawski and Artur Boruc joined Celtic from Wisła Kraków and Legia Warsaw respectively.

Of the three, Boruc enjoyed the happiest stint in Scotland, making 221 appearances for the Hoops in all competitions, before being sold to Fiorentina in July 2010. His final match had been a 2-1 win over Rangers and although he did put in some fine performances for Celtic, a couple of howlers and a well-documented run-in with Rangers fans slightly soured his time in Scotland.

Although Żurawski did score 30 goals in 72 appearances, he fell down the pecking order following the transfers of Chris Killen, Scott McDonald and Georgios Samaras. And at Hibs, Małkowski saw a promising start deteriorate after calamitous performances and high-profile errors.

2006-2012: Klimek, Krysiak, Szamo and Załuska

Between 2006 and 2010, a number of Poles signed for clubs in Scotland - the most notable being Łukasz Załuska, who joined Dundee United in 2007 from Korona Kielce. Two years and 53 appearances later he joined Celtic, where he spent six years primarily as back-up ‘keeper before joining Bundesliga side Darmstadt in August 2015.

Another goalkeeper, Grzegorz Szamotulski, joined Hibs in 2009 a couple of years after a six-month deal at Tannadice covering for the injured Załuska. Although dogged by injury, he did keep four successive clean sheets during the 2008/09 campaign - the first Hibs goalkeeper to do so since 1991.

A third stopper, Artur Krysiak had spells with Gretna in 2008 and Motherwell in 2009. He now plays for Yeovil Town.

Arkadiusz Klimek played just two games for Hearts on loan from Kaunas in 2007, but will forever be remembered for that remarkable horseback photoshoot.

Adrian Mrowiec made 69 appearances for Hearts over two spells while Bartosz Tarachulski (Dunfermline, 27 appearances) and Dawid Kucharski (Hearts, 14 appearances) failed to set the heather alight in Scotland.

Paweł Brożek had a forgettable loan spell at Celtic in 2012, making just three appearances and criticising manager Neil Lennon at the end of his stint.

2012-present: Tannadice trio

In 2012, Radosław Cierzniak became the third Polish goalkeeper to play for Dundee United, following Szamotulski and Załuska, and signed a two-year deal. He racked up 112 appearances for United, before returning to his homeland with Wisła Kraków in 2012. Two years later, Jarosław Fojut and Michał Szromnik arrived at Tannadice.

Despite signing a two-year deal, Fojut left to join Pogoń Szczecin on a three-year deal in June 2015 while Szromnik displaced Luis Zwick as United’s first-choice goalie, although the arrival of Japanese ‘keeper Eiji Kawashima may limit his game time.

Along with Szromnik, Hearts defender Błażej Augustyn is the only player flying the flag for Poland in the Scottish top flight. The former Catania stopper has made 14 appearances for Hearts this season.


• There are a handful of players with Polish descent plying their trade in Scottish football, including Hamilton defender Ziggy Gordon, born Zygmunt Ian Gordon, Kevin Rutkiewicz (Blantyre Victoria) and Michael Bolochoweckyj (Clyde).

• So far, only one Scot has gone in the opposite direction, with former Dundee United defender Barry Douglas starring for Lech Poznan in the Ekstraklasa.

• Most Scots will be undoubtedly be aware of Robert Lewandowski, the Bayern Munich and Poland striker whose goals helped to scupper Scotland’s chances of Euro 2016 qualification, but may not have come across his Scottish counterpart - goalkeeper Robert Lewandowski who, until recently, was turning out at the age of 41 for Fort William FC.

• Sticking with the Highlands, there’s also an Inverness and District League side called Polonia FC, set up by a priest and ex-schoolmate of former Celtic and Dundee United goalkeeper Łukasz Załuska.

• In Glasgow, a team named FC Polonia competres in the amateur leagues while a futsal team of the same name is based in Dundee.