|Tomasz Radzinski - Striker|
Not many people in England had heard the name Tomasz Radzinski before the summer of 2001 – except for some dim memories of a surprising Anderlecht victory over Manchester United in the European League-Cup in which the Canadian international scored twice
That brace to sink Sir Alex Ferguson's men was just one of many highlights for Radzinski that season as he finished top scorer in the Belgian league and helped Anderlecht to the league championship.
His £4.5M transfer to Everton turned into a month-long saga of typically Evertonian proportions as FC Anderlecht fought a public battle of words and denials over the loss of their leading goalscorer who had set his heart on a move to England and, ultimately, it seemed as though player power had prevailed.
Tomasz has come a long way, literally, since his 13th birthday when his family left their native Poland for a new life in Germany. His dream was to emulate to the great footballers of his country; Boniek, Lato or Deyna who turned Poland into a world footballing power during the 1970s. With PE teachers for parents, Radzinski could hardly fail to improve his ball skills or hone a streak of athleticism that was to stand him in good stead when he chased through-passes for provincial club Vfl Osnabrück.
His next stop was Toronto Rockets when the family moved on to Canada. Radzinski was taken on board at the behest of Grzegorz Lato, the ex-Poland international, who had coached the local club. In 1993, he moved on to play for St Catharines Roma, who won the Canadian Cup in 1994.
Thanks to another illustrious Polish contact in Wlodzimierz Lubanski, Tomasz crossed the Atlantic again to play for Germinal Ekeren in Belgium and he helped to repay the club's faith in him by scoring the decisive goal in their 4-2 extra-time win over Anderlecht in the 1997 Belgian Cup Final.
The forward had few qualms over his subsequent transfer to Anderlecht, but a far more difficult choice awaited him. Was he to concentrate on playing for his club or continue his arduous journeys on behalf of his adopted country?
"I had to make a decision," he explains, "as the club were always fighting with me over that." The upshot was that Radzinski reluctantly renounced further claims from Canada and effectively terminated his international career.
Some Canadians who have followed his career think he is pure class, an outstanding player, although reputedly quite highly strung and a bit injury-prone. Seeing as Radzinski joined Everton as a direct replacement for Francis Jeffers — a loss of tremendous future talent and potential (albeit to some extent unproven) that could well haunt us for many a year if he overcomes his ankle problems and the Radzinski experiment goes awry — the stakes are high for the club, particularly given the price they paid for the Polish-born star.
Much hinges on the presence of a creative midfield — something which has been sorely lacking at Goodison since the departures of Nick Barmby and Don Hutchison, not to mention the onset of a seemingly endless state of flux attributable to a succession of injuries and the failures of Alex Nyarko, Paul Gascoigne and Thomas Gravesen to solve the Blues' problems in that area.
However, after a delayed start to his Everton career because of injury, Radzinski made a reasonable impact, scoring on his full debut in a 5-0 drubbing of West Ham and sowing the seeds of a dynamic partnership with Kevin Campbell that was quickly broken up by injuries, first to Campbell and then to Tomasz himself.
By the end of winter 2001-02, Everton's need for a goalscoring partnership was becoming more acute, placing more emphasis on a quick return to fitness and form by Radzinski.
It's not all good news, though: Radzinski has next to no movement — he's quick, but that's it — and against the better defences in the Premiership, he'll always have trouble getting near the goal.
He's fast but just doesn't have a football brain. Watch the number of times our midfielders move forward with the ball and he stands stock still next to his marker. Gravesen and Tie are looking desperately for him to move into a channel, but he doesn't; the midfield catches up and we lose possession — or the counter attack breaks down.
He faired better during the 2002-03 season, with signs that he was coming to terms with the increased pace and greater physical demands of the Premiership. Excellent last-minute goals against Southampton and Manchester City were vital, as was his opener in Wayne Rooney's special moment against Arsenal. He was sorely missed for the vital last eight weeks of the season — a prime factor in Everton's descent out of the European slots.
The following season was a critical one for the Rad to hone his firing boots even more and really make his name in the Premiership: although he did score eight goals, he failed miserably to make the required impact, missing vital one-on-ones and guilt-edged scoring opportunities more often than we would care to remember. And perhaps most telling of all, at 30 years of age, his pace was beginning to go.
Although not out of contract until 2005, he was not impressed with an offer of a meagre two-year extension offered by David Moyes under the new 'over-30' short-contract policy at Everton, and seemed destined to look for a more secure deal... with Fulham perhaps? Or Blackburn? That seemed Radzinski's intention when he submitted a transfer request in mid-June, a request which Everton rejected.
But Everton eventually relented and at the end of June 2004 offered him the 3-year deal he wanted, mainly due to uncertainty over Rooney's future. And what does Tomasz do? He turns it down, and takes the opportunity to shit on the Moyes (accusing him of being unable to make a decision) and the Club from the dubious height of the Daily Mirror in a scathing attack — adding salt to the raw wound by going on to tell Rooney he should leave!
While his comments about Moyes indicate that the Manager has lost way too many of the players, this highly unprofessional move shows a total lack of respect to long-suffering Evertonians who have supported him through thick and thin, and turned him into a millionaire over the past three years. His comments about Rooney are a massive hammer blow, coming from one of his teammates, although Radz probably already knew the decision about Rooney's future had already been made.
Radzinski decided to fight the fine of two week's salary levied against him for spouting off in the media. He said he doesn't regret anything he told the Mirror, but he plans to fight to have the fine quashed or reduced at a 29 September 2004 hearing. "I don't think it was a big outburst," he said. "It was just bad timing maybe and that's why I was got fined. I thought it was really not fair to me after the service I provided to Everton for three years." Ha!
Radzinski can be a half-decent player but he is not irreplaceable. Eight goals from a Premiership striker is pretty poor. Now that he has badmouthed the Club, he can be sure he will feel the full opprobrium of the fans should he darken the Goodison pitch again with his new chums at Craven Cottage.
Updated by Michael Kenrick, September 2004