Since relegation from the Ekstraklasa in 1997, these opportunities had been few and far between for Tychy and its supporters. Aside from another playoff finish in 2018, the club had failed to make any real impact in the second tier to indicate that a return to the top-flight was forthcoming. The story of Tychy was one of real intrigue from an outsiders perspective but from a supporters aspect, it had been a real rollercoaster of emotions to say the very least.
Upon their relegation from the Ekstraklasa, the club fell upon financial hardship that ultimately saw the club meet its end as they dissolved that year. It would provoke a phoenix club to return, however, as a new organisation formed under the name Tyski Klub Sportowy Tychy. They would later take on the former club's name and rights, enabling the club to maintain its achievements from its initial founding in 1971.
The 2020/21 campaign was one of optimism. The supporters were dreaming again. There was an entire generation that had to witness the club be built from the bottom up again as the club restarted in the lower reaches of the Polish pyramid, it would be a truly magical story for them, but also for those that were present when the club met its end following relegation back in 1997. The heartbreak of that would be, somewhat, repaired.
The race for automatic promotion was pushed to the very end. Tychy appeared set for a playoff finish until a late run left them with an opportunity of capturing a second-place finish, enough to merit automatic promotion into the Ekstraklasa. Unfortunately, Bruk-Bet Termalica Nieciecza had built enough of a buffer to ensure that they would join champions Radomiak Radom in the top-flight.
It would be playoffs, therefore, for Tychy. 3,500 made their way into Stadion Miejski with anticipation, excitement and tension in the air as GKS Górnik Łęczna were welcomed.
Sebastian Witek, an experienced central-midfielder who wore the captain's armband with pride, led his team onto the pitch. Witek was a local lad and knew of the club's history well. He was once in the terraces with his father, albeit now he was on the pitch in the newly-built stadium that had played home to his club since 2015. He was respected by supporters and his peers and had been with the club for the past few seasons after departing Lech Poznań.
Since leaving Lech, where he amassed over 200 appearances, Witek was determined in helping the club usher in new life in the hope of eventually bringing the club back into the top-flight. Time was running out however and he knew this. Now at the age of 38, he knew this was his last chance and he announced he would retire at the end of the playoff campaign. If the pressure wasn't already on, it certainly was now.
The semi-final was a one-legged affair with the game going to extra-time and penalties if required. The winner would meet the winner of the opposing playoff semi-final contested between Arka Gdynia and ŁKS Łódź.
It was clear that the game-plan from Tychy was to get at the opposition from the off. It soon paid off as Kacper Piątek put his side in front with just three minutes played. The support needed little incentive to create an atmosphere but this certainly boosted the volume and spirits immensely. The stands were filled with banners and flares which in turn created somewhat of a hostile environment for Górnik who now had to reply.
Tychy remained on the front-foot seeking a second but remained sturdy at the back to keep out the attacking threat of Górnik. Albeit unable to find a second goal, it seemed that the hosts were on course to reach the playoff final. The minutes were ticking away and Sebastian Witek was continually barking orders at his teammates as they edged closer to the full-time whistle. And then it happened. Górnik equalised.
With just a few minutes of play remaining, it was 1-1. The heads of the Tychy players dropped. The disappointment was evident across their faces but Witek and head-coach Artur Derbin ordered for calm. The visitors looked the more threating for the rest of normal-time but the hosts held on to bring the game into extra-time.
Both managers shared words of encouragement with their players as they entered another half-an-hour of football. As the players jogged back onto the pitch, Witek gathered his teammates again. "This means everything. Leave everything out there, lads." He barked.
There were clearly nerves in both sets of players with very few attacks over both halves of extra-time. Neither team wanted to make a sacrifice in fear that it would prove costly. It was understandable in such a game. It came as little surprise that when the referee sounded his whistle at the end of the extra-time, it would be a signal for an upcoming penalty-shootout.
The nerves would continue. Both teams missed their opening spot-kick before converting their second. Witek would, unsurprisingly, be the man to convert for his team. Górnik would convert again to lead.
Nemanja Nedic stepped-up for Tychy. The centre-back was an unlikely taker at this stage of the shootout but looked confident nevertheless. He took a couple of strides back before making his run-up and struck the ball to his left. The keeper went the wrong-way. 2-2.
Górnik converted again and the pressure continued to mount. 3-2. Oskar Paprzycki, a 22-year-old midfielder, stepped-up. He looked far less assured than Nedic did previously. It proved. His penalty was comfortably saved.
It meant that the visitors had the opportunity to win the shootout from their next penalty. Whistles and jeers filled the stadium in a desperate attempt to deter and put off Aleksander Jagiello, the penalty-taker, but they would be in vain.
Tychy and Witek were defeated. A bittersweet end for a beloved hometown hero. He left the pitch devastated. His career ending on a chapter of disappointment...
Many thanks for taking the opportunity to read my introductory post to 'Sebastian Witek: The Polish Eagle.' I am new to writing on FM Scout however have plenty of experience writing on various other FM forums. I have enjoyed reading a number of threads on this site, namely Jack's 'Neil Godwin: The Next Episode' and J_ames's 'Oriol Vivas - Creating a Dynasty' which has brought me over to this site to share my own save/story.
I really enjoy the creative aspects of Football Manager and creating a backstory like this is something that I have often done in the past. I am really looking forward to documenting this here and hope you enjoy this as much as I do.