BLAZEJ AUGUSTYN still harbours hope of playing international football.
The Hearts defender, 27, believes he could even earn a late call-up and feature at Euro 2016, provided Poland qualify and he avoids injury. Their visit to Hampden Park on Thursday will go a long way to determining their fate.
As a team-mate of Robert Lewandowski at youth international level, Augustyn has watched their respective careers take very different paths since. The free-scoring Bayern Munich forward is a national treasure in Poland with much of their qualifying hopes resting on his shoulders after ten goals in a week.
Augystyn, in contrast, is uncapped. He has played in his homeland, England and in Italy’s Serie A but persistent injuries have hindered his progress. To date, three under-21 appearances are his lot.
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t dream. If he can stay fit and play consistently for Hearts this season, there remains hope that national coach Adam Nawalka will visit Tynecastle to watch him in action.
“You know what, I was always close to being called up but my injuries made me far away,” he said. “If I can play well here every week for one season, then they will look at me at least. I don’t want to talk about what might have happened if I had not been injured in the past, that’s in the past.
“Looking forward, I know if I stay fit and play games I will go there.”
Surprisingly, Hearts’ Scottish contingent have yet to mention the upcoming European Championship qualifier to Augustyn. “No-one here has mentioned the game yet, I think they have forgotten they are playing against Poland. I don’t know if I am going to stay for the game. We have three days off so maybe I will spend them with my family.
“I am just trying to do my best here every day and I am looking forward to being as strong as I can be.
“It hasn’t been difficult for me to change countries and adapt to a different style of training. But last week was tough because I hadn’t trained hard for four weeks and then I played three games straight after each other. After the Celtic game I was really tired. Right now I feel good, I have trained all week and I am looking forward to playing well.”
While Augustyn will be at the centre of Hearts’ defence against Kilmarnock today, Lewandowski will be preparing to take on former club Borussia Dortmund tomorrow. Then it’s international duty as Poland head to Glasgow for a critical Euro 2016 qualifier for both them and Scotland.
“I played with him for the under-17s and under-18s. I hope he will score a lot next week,” smiled Augustyn. “When I was with the under-21s, he was already in the senior national team. He wasn’t as good then as he is now but he has grown up a lot since then. It all depends on the person. Some people take big steps forward, others take steps back.
“With him I am not surprised at how he has gone on because he is a good guy. He was always looking at ways he could improve. And then he met his wife. I don’t know what things she does for him, but it works! I mean food!”
Anna Stachurska, Lewandowski’s wife, has commented on her own internet blog and on social media about how she feeds her husband. “She is famous for her cooking in Poland. She makes things without gluten,” continued Augustyn. “She says on her blog some things she cooks, and sometimes she won’t say anything about what he has had to eat before the game.
“It’s always nice to see a guy you played with get to that level. We are not close friends or anything. I have many different friends who are playing at a high level and I am always happy when they do well. In the current Poland team I know Kamil Glik, Kamil Grosicki and Maciej Rybus. They haven’t asked me anything about Scotland yet but they know it will be a hard game. All Polish people know that. They all say if we don’t beat Scotland right now we shouldn’t go to France. We want to win, for sure.”