IN the latest series of getting to know our Under-23 players we profile goalkeeper Marcin Brzozowski who joined the R's in 2011.
The Polish stopper signed for QPR as a 12-year-old and has been named as a first-team substitute on a couple of occasions.
The Poland youth international moved to England with his family when he was 10 and joined QPR soon after.
Brzozowski signed a professional deal at QPR in 2017.
Best qualities: One-on-ones, shot-stopping and my distribution is getting better
Sum yourself up: Confident
QPR, and football in general, helped Marcin Brzozowski to settle into England as an 11-year-old who’d recently emigrated from Poland with his family.
“I started school in year 7 and I couldn’t speak much English. Being good at football, in comparison to my classmates, was helpful,” he explained.
“At lunchtimes everyone wants to play football, obviously. It was an easy way in for me. Then you try to make conversations about football and whatever, so it definitely helped me.”
Marcin “always wanted to be a goalkeeper,” but started off in unusual fashion.
“I was always into football but before I started playing football, I did taekwondo,” he revealed.
“That was back in Poland when I was probably seven. I got into it because my brother was doing it and I did it for a year or two but I kept telling my parents, ‘I wanna play football, I wanna play football.’
“Because of taekwondo I was very flexible, so even now I’m quite flexible. I used to be able to do the splits, but not anymore. It still helps, though. For things like one-on-one saves, it helps; you can spread yourself as much as you can.”
Marcin faced rejection on the football side of things as soon as he arrived in England, though.
“I was looking for a club, and it was hard. I went to Bedfont Eagles but they weren’t really having me because there was already a goalkeeper my age and he was the son of the manager! So, there was no chance there, but they got me in at Kempton Park instead.”
Brzozowski was playing only a 10-minute drive from QPR’s Hayes training ground. It didn’t take long for him to be spotted.
“I’m not actually sure how it happened,” he recalls. “I just remember being at home with my mum – my dad was at work – and she got a call from a random number. So, she picks up and it’s this guy speaking in Polish. I couldn’t speak much English back then and so we were shocked, thinking ‘who is this?’, ‘who’s got our number?’
“Anyway, it was one of the coaching staff at QPR who was half-Polish and could speak a bit of Polish. He said: ‘We’ve heard about Marc and seen him and we’d like him to come on trial.
“Straight away my eyes opened up and I was like ‘wow’, I was celebrating.”
For a young Polish boy moving to West London, nothing could have been better than signing for one of the big local clubs within a year or so.
“My family were always watching Champions League and Premier League games in Poland, all the time. Mum and Dad would take me to training [once he signed for QPR] and they’d be there watching me every game. They supported me and it really helped.”
It was watching the Champions League with his family where Brzozowski was “always looking up to Jerzy Dudek,” the goalkeeper who won it with Liverpool.
“There was Edwin van der Sar and Peter Schmeichel at Manchester United, too. More up to date, right now, I’d say Manuel Neuer and David de Gea are good to look up to.”
It wasn’t just characters like those which made Marcin want to stay between the posts, though. He laughs at the fact that he didn’t have a choice in some regards.
“I was never that good at running so I wouldn’t have a chance at playing outfield, and I’m a bit clumsy as well!”
For goalkeepers, it can be even harder to break through and earn chances than for outfield players. The level of trust a manager has to have in a goalkeeper is huge.
Brzozowski’s solid performances for QPR’s academy sides, though, earned him a reasonably quick call-up to the first team. In January 2016, he was on the bench for the R’s. He didn’t get on, but it was a fantastic experience.
“When I got onto the bench I was 18. Straight away, I told myself ‘this isn’t going to be every week’,” he said. It can be hard for young players to be rewarded for their efforts with such a high and then have to keep pushing when they return to normality in the Under-18s and Under-23s.
Brzozowski didn’t feel that, and “just tried to make the most of it.”
“I think we lost that game and even seeing how people reacted, because no one was happy, was a lesson for me. I just wanted to take it as a big learning curve. I knew I just had to hope that another opportunity would come.
“It would be good to get first team experience on loan, definitely, but it’s not up to me. It’s up to the first team coaches to decide if I’m ready or not. I just need to keep working hard and playing well in the games I’m picked for to show that I’m capable of going out on loan if I have to.”
If Brzozowski needs any inspiration, he need look no further than QPR’s own Joe Lumley. Like the Polish international, Lumley came from within the club and is now first-choice at Loftus Road.
“Both Joe and Matt [Ingram] are really nice guys. They always help out when they can and they’re class to work with,” Brzozowski said. “I pick up little things from both of them in training and it just helps me to kick on even further.”