Bialkowski enjoying life at The Den
Yesterday we featured a loan report, taking a look at how Town pair Corrie Ndaba and Bailey Clements started to life in a Hemel Hempstead shirt, but of course we have another contracted player currently applying his trade away from Portman Road.
Bartosz Bialkowski completed a season-long loan move to Millwall in the summer, ending a five year spell with Town which saw the Pole win three player of the year awards and a place in Poland’s World Cup squad in Russia.
With our drop to League One, Bialkowski was one of a very few ‘sellable’ assets and with a reported wage of around £20,000 per week it was widely accepted that a move would suit both parties.
We have been in contact with Nick Hart who runs the popular Achtung! Millwall podcast (@CBL_Magazine) to check in on how Bart is adapting to life at The Den.
Bialkowski has been a ever present since coming on as a substitute on the opening day, is he now firmly your number one?
Absolutely. Over the summer we made a slightly odd ‘on then off’ attempt to sign Bart following Ipswich’s relegation. This deal all seemingly hinged on a knee that he injured some time in 2006, but had not troubled anybody since – least of all Bialkowski himself. There was some internet comment around at the time that we were trying to ‘gazunder’ the Blues in some underhand, almost Arthur Daley-ish way. I didn’t buy into those views, as anyone would want to revisit the price if (for example) a house or car that you were buying, had had major repairs done which weren’t previously known about. Initially Bart was signed as competition for our other goalkeeping acquisition from Bristol City, Frank Fielding – a man who played a grand total of 43 minutes on opening day before leaving injured – never to be seen again. Bart’s current competition is Luke Steele, signed from Forest. Nobody has yet seen anything of him, beyond noting that he has a great name for an 80s spy movie.
Neil Harris signed Bart in the summer and has since left the club, do you think he is a ‘Gary Rowett’ goalkeeper?
Truth is, nobody yet knows. The whole squad is trying to show that it is a ‘Gary Rowett’ squad, following his appointment in the wake of the departure of club legend Neil Harris. Early impressions of Rowett imply that he puts a premium on hard work, organisation and the elimination of unforced errors. Now as much as Bialkowski can be a brilliant shot stopper, sometimes verging on the world class, he is also prone to heart-fluttering mistakes and gifting the ball to opponents in dangerous positions. Go figure. So to answer the question directly, I think the Rowett jury is currently out on a fair number of the squad – including Bart.
He endured a pretty poor last season with Town but was outstanding prior to that, what’s been your initial assessment of his season?
Initial assessment is to ask whether he a genius or a walking mistake. Probably both at the same time. We’re still working on the answer to that question in truth, but myself … I like him. As recently as Saturday, he made some absolutely first-class saves and then casually tossed the ball up in front of a Charlton forward under no pressure at 1-1. ‘Have a shot on goal sir, it’s on me …’
The Millwall crowd can be unforgiving, how have they taken to Bart?
Bart has, on balance, saved more goals than he has conceded this season and for that reason the Lions’ faithful are ‘with’ him and not against him. After the decline and fall of last season’s stopper (and one time tip for the top) Jordan Archer, Bialkowski does inspire far more confidence in defence … mixed with the odd howler.
With the deal only a loan, and Ipswich look set to cash in on Bialkowski, can you see him signing full time at The Den?
I certainly hope so. Bart is clearly enjoying his time at The Den and the feeling is mutual. Millwall has a tradition of good goalkeepers and some of his saves this season have been amongst the very best I have seen from a Lions stopper.