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Rise of the Tyton: The latest hero in a long line of Polish goalkeepers

 Ryan Hubbard
 Poland Expert Follow on


Przemyslaw Tyton may not have expected to end Euro 2012's opening day as a hero. but after Wojciech Szczesny's 69th-minute red card in Poland's clash with Greece, the PSV shot stopper was thrust into action to face a spot kick from Giorgos Karagounis.

Masterfully diving to his left, Tyton palmed away Karagounis' weak shot and prevented the 2004 champions from picking up a win which had seemed extremely unlikely, given the co-hosts' early dominance.
Becoming an instant hero with his save, it's hard to imagine that just over two-and-a-half years ago, some considered him as barely a blot on the Polish goalkeeping radar. Now a certain starter in Poland's second Group A game against Russia, it has been a roller coaster ride to get to that position.
When Poland played a friendly against Canada in late 2009 at the beginning of Franciszek Smuda's reign, it was Artur Boruc and Tomasz Kuszczak who were considered the nation's top-two choices between the sticks.

With a young Szczesny having too been tested by Smuda and Arsenal team-mate Lukasz Fabianski ahead in the pecking order, it seemed as though Tyton's chances of making the tournament were extremely slim.

But after the trip to Canada, a seemingly small act kickstarted a chain of events which would change things completely.
On the flight back to Poland, first-choice custodian Artur Boruc and defender Michal Zewlakow were caught drinking wine; and with strict disciplinarian Smuda's zero-tolerance on alcohol while on international duty, both were kicked out of the squad - paving the way for a new line of Polish goalkeepers.
As 2010 approached, the Poland coach began to look for alternatives to both Kuszczak - who was receiving limited game time at Manchester United - and Boruc. Sebastian Przyrowski and Mariusz Pawelek were given chances during a four-team tournament in Thailand; but with neither managing to impress Smuda, his search continued.

71' Penalty and a red card!!! Szczesny comes out to challenge Salpingidis, hooks the 30-year-old's foot, and gets sent off for denying a goal-scoring opportunity. Tyton, the PSV goalkeeper has come on, replacing Rybus... And Tyton saves Karagounis' effort!!! Amazing scenes in Warsaw. It remains 1-1!!

After moving from Polish side Gornik Leczna as a 20-year old, Tyton had managed to claim the No.1 jersey at Dutch side Roda after an injury to their first-choice 'keeper.

Impressing national-team scouts, he earned his first cap under Smuda in a May 2010 friendly against Finland. After keeping a clean sheet, he was again called upon after Spain had stuck six past Poland in a warm-up for their successful World Cup campaign - Kuszczak's last appearance in a Poland shirt.
More appearances followed - against Cameroon, Australia and USA; but with Smuda backing down under pressure to recall Boruc (a decision that lasted just a few games), Fabianski's recovery from a shoulder injury, and the emergence of young Grzegorz Sandomierski at Jagiellonia Bialystok, Tyton slipped further down the pecking order.

By the time Smuda had decided that Szczesny was ready to be plucked from the Under-21 side for good, it was hard to see where Tyton would fit into the Biale-Orly squad. But while Szczesny was quickly establishing himself as the country's No.1, the summer of 2011 saw a couple of transfer dealings (and one non-transfer) have a knock-on effect in the race to become his deputy.
With Fabianski unable to engineer a move away from Arsenal, many felt that his spot as second choice was beginning to come under pressure. After being named as the second-best goalkeeper in the Eredivisie for the 2010/11 season, Tyton earned a loan move to PSV Eindhoven where Andreas Isaksson was struggling with injuries. Meanwhile, Sandomierski had also impressed in the Ekstraklasa, and soon packed his bags for then-Belgian champions Genk. However the transfers only managed to prove fruitful for one of them.
While the younger Sandomierski was struggling to break into the Genk fold, Tyton quickly established himself at the Philips Stadion and even after serious concussion during a September league game against Ajax, he quickly recovered and reclaimed his place in the starting lineup before the calendar year was out.
And despite Sandomierski finding a route back to Jagiellonia during the winter, it came too late. When Smuda announced his initial 26-man squad for Euro 2012, it was the in-form Tyton who was there - some even suggesting that he was the second choice ahead of Fabianski.
If there was any confusion before the competition over which order the keepers would be called upon, it was soon to be erased. A recurrence of Fabianski's shoulder injury ruled him out of the competition; and with Sandomierski's late arrival into the squad, Tyton was practically handed the No.2 spot on a plate.
Many Polish fans believe that, despite his great season in Eindhoven, Tyton should still be fifth choice behind Boruc, Kuszczak, Szczesny and Fabianski, and it is only coach Smuda's stubbornness and refusal to pick the former two that gives him his place in the squad.

With goalkeeping coach Jacek Zielinski's pre-tournament claim that he is "just as good as Szczesny" and his newly-found hero status backing him up, Tyton will go into the game against Russia knowing that another good performance will give his boss a massive selection headache going into the final group game against Czech Republic.
Although he may have a long way to go before he sees his name mentioned alongside such Polish goalkeeping greats as Jan Tomaszewski and Jerzy Dudek, Tyton's penalty save has already written him into the history books as the first substitute 'keeper ever to save a penalty at a European Championship game.

If he can continue his form against the Russias and if called-upon the Czechs, we could well have a new Polish star being born.