Notts County's big decision to bring in Bialkowski is vindicated
AT the time, it raised many an eyebrow when then boss Keith Curle released his retained list.
After steering Notts County to the cusp of the play-offs in League One, losing out on goal difference, Curle went about reshaping his squad for his first full season in charge.
And when it saw goalkeepers Stuart Nelson and Rob Burch both released last summer, many were perplexed.
Nelson had been a cornerstone of the team, one of the best performers. But Curle, along with goalkeeping coach Kevin Pilkington, wanted a new man.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, May 26 2013
And that arrived in the shape of Bartosz Bialkowski from Southampton, joining on a three-year deal with highly-rated Fabian Spiess and Liam Mitchell left to fight it out for a spot on the bench.
Now, with the season entering its final furlong, the decision has been vindicated. The 25-year-old Pole has made 40 appearances and pulled off some heroic performances in matches.
Notts sit six points off the play-offs, ahead of a trip to Swindon today, but former player and now coach Pilkington believes the new No.1 has been a huge success.
"Nelson did fantastic but we wanted to bring somebody in and for Nels to be number two would not be right," said Pilkington.
"So we made the decision that he could go and find another club somewhere and he has gone to Gillingham and done a brilliant job so it has worked out for both parties.
"I am chuffed for him and hopefully they will win promotion and be in League One next season.
"Bartosz has done a fantastic job and I have been so pleased with him. He has a level head, is so enthusiastic and takes everything on board. He wants to work hard and his performances have proved we made the right decision.
"Bart has proved nothing hassles him and he has had that one nasty setback with his head injury, when he suffered concussion at Leyton Orient.
"In his first game back against Walsall, it did affect him a little bit when coming out for the ball, but from then he has been a different class and been vital for us in games.
"He has been the difference in some games and the lads love him to bits. Playing week in, week out is what he needed and it gets you sharper, more consistent so we have been pleased with the decision."
While he was out, Spiess got his chance and took it with some impressive displays between the posts.
He only turned 19 a few weeks ago but showed maturity beyond his years and Pilkington said the German-born stopper, as well as Mitchell, who is on loan at Tamworth, have been doing very well.
And while he has loved every minute of being goalkeeping coach, the 39-year-old said the adjustment has been strange, especially as he was still playing for Luton at the start of 2012.
"It has been different and a bit strange not playing and not being involved as a player on a Saturday," he said. "I have been getting used to it and it is never dull.
"I have been playing for the last 20 years so it was always going to feel weird but I like to keep fit, be around the lads and I still want to be a winner so it has been very enjoyable."
One blow came when Keith Curle was axed as manager earlier this year. And as the man who brought him back to Meadow Lane, it was a difficult time for Pilkington.
But he has remained in his position under new boss Chris Kiwomya and accepts it is just part and parcel of the game.
"When you take the job as a coach or manager you know at some point in your career either yourself or someone else is going to get the sack," he said. "It was disappointing because Keith Curle brought me in and I have a lot of time for him and made good friends with coaches Colin (West) and Colin (Lee).
"But we all know that's football and it is what happens and rightly or wrongly, at some stage it is going to happen.
"Just look at how many managers have gone from their jobs since the turn of the year, you just know it is going to happen at some point."
All his focus is on helping the club make the play-offs and Pilkington believes it is possible.
"The season is far from over," he said. "That win the other day against Scunthorpe put us six points off the play-offs and if we put two or three wins together, it is a different picture.
"We have to get back in the pack and need to put in a couple of big performances against the top teams coming up. If you keep pushing, keep believing, anything can happen. We saw that last season when the lads went so close.
"There is no reason why we can't put a run together, starting today at Swindon."