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Monday Morning Image #6

Pogon Szczecin v Widzew Lodz Polish First Division 1982/83

Pogon Szczecin v Widzew Lodz take the field in June 1983 for a crucial match in that season’s Polish first division.

This morning’s Monday morning image winds the clock back almost 38 years and lands in the West Pomeranian city of Szczecin.

The picture shows the emergence of two of that season’s (1982/83) title-chasing teams in Poland: Widzew Lodz the visitors and reigning champions, and Pogon Szczecin who were unusually finding themselves in the midst of a race for the championship.

I had the good fortune to see Widzew Lodz play two seasons previously at Old Trafford against Manchester United in the UEFA Cup. That particular game featured one of the greatest players I’ve been privileged to watch live, Zbigniew Boniek, who played in a deep centre-forward role and controlled everything for his team, securing a deserved 1-1 draw.

It was the golden period for Widzew when they were the team to beat in Poland. In Manchester that night as well as Boniek, the visitors had Wladyslaw Zmuda - only Lothar Matthaus and Paulo Maldini have played in more World Cup Finals matches - Wlodzimierz Smolarek (represented Poland in the ‘82 & ‘86 World Cups) and Porto’s 1987 European Cup winning goalkeeper Jozef Mlynarczyk.

The photograph, dated 1 June 1983, comes from the end of the first season after Boniek had left for Juventus.

Widzew in pursuit of their third title in a row and having reached the last four in the European Champions’ Cup, extinguished The Dockers’ hopes of a first-ever title by winning this game 1-0, but eventually came up short themselves, conceding their title to Lech Poznan, by a single point.

Pogon Szczecin eventually finished fourth but did achieve their first-ever First Division top three finish the following season 1983/84, again behind Lech Poznan and Widzew Lodz, enabling the club to taste UEFA Cup football for the first time.

The match from which the image is taken went down in history mainly due to the large crowd that filed into the compact Floriana Krygier Stadion that day. The crowd figure non-traceable or non-existent was certainly larger than the 20,500 capacity the stadium will hold when current renovations are completed in 2022.

Fans also lined the tracks at either end of the pitch on a day when temperatures reached 30 degrees.

Pogon has still never won a Polish top division championship, but lead the current season by two points with the Ekstraklasa slipping just past the halfway stage.