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Former Celtic hero Dariusz Dziekanowski knows the importance of Scotland friendly – but puts it all in perspective

© Czarek Sokolowski/AP/ShutterstockRobert Lewandowski's Poland face Scotland on Thursday
Robert Lewandowski's Poland face Scotland on Thursday

Dariusz Dziekanowski will be watching Scotland’s friendly with Poland at Hampden on Thursday night.

But he will find it difficult to focus fully on the game.

The former Celtic star – quickly dubbed “Jacki” by the Hoops’ adoring hordes after signing for the club in 1989 – admits his mind will drift elsewhere, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, right on the border of his homeland.

The Polish legend told The Sunday Post: “Everyone is really worried and frightened. What is going on in Ukraine is shocking.

“I’m not sure of the exact figure, but more than 1.5-million refugees have arrived in Poland from Ukraine. We are here for them, and they need us.

“This is a time for everyone to pull together and offer love and support in the community. We all pray for peace, and we hope that it happens soon.

“Football is never important in comparison to the situation in Ukraine just now, but it does allow people to find a new focus, even if it is just for 90 minutes.

“It’s great to see that football has united against what has been happening, and it is fantastic that there is money being donated to the Appeal Funds from this game.”

Poland are playing this fixture because they were due to play Russia in a World Cup Play-off tie.

With the Russians banned from playing by FIFA, the Poles received a bye to their Play-off Final, where they will face the winners of Sweden against the Czech Republic.

They were looking for a match this midweek, and Steve Clarke’s side were available as their own Play-off match at home to Ukraine is on hold due to the war.

Dziekanowski (Pic: Imago/PA Images)

Dziekanowski is sure it will be a worthwhile game, but is certain Czeslaw Michniewicz’s side will have more than one eye on the World Cup tie.

The Pole said: “Obviously the game at Hampden Park will not be our priority.

“But it will give the manager the opportunity to try one or two things. He will learn from the game, and put that to good use in the Play-off match.

“There is a real determination and focus to make sure we qualify for Qatar this year.

“We were at the World Cup in Russia four years ago, but were knocked out at the Group stage.

“We lost to Senegal and Colombia, and that ended our chances. It was a huge disappointment.

“This is the chance to go again and make amends. Whether we get the Czechs or Sweden, I think we can do it.

“This may also be the last time to play in a World Cup for three or four of the players. They will not want to miss out, so we hope to get a good result against Scotland to lift us for the Play-off.”

The star man for Poland is, of course, Robert Lewandowski.

The Bayern Munich legend is their record appearance holder on 128 caps, and has scored an amazing 74 times for his country.

Dziekanowski, who’s now 59, was capped on 62 occasions for Poland, finding the net 20 times.

He has total respect for Lewandowski, and said: “He has just been incredible, and there is much more still to come from him.

“He is one of the superstar footballers in the world, and deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as anyone.

“Robert has worked hard to achieve what he has in the game, and – despite all his success – he has no ego.

“He is a brilliant team-mate and a great person. He is a fantastic example to any young sports person, but we in Poland are particularly proud of him.

“I’m not sure that he will definitely play against Scotland. The manager might want to rest him for the Play-off, and try another striker. We will see.

“But if he is called upon, then he will be ready and will give 100% as always. It will not matter to him that it is only a friendly game.”

Jacki Dziekanowski is challenged by Richard Gough during the 1990 Skol League Cup Final (Pic: SNS Group)

Having played for Celtic more than 30 years ago, Dziekanowski developed a strong affinity with Glasgow, and the Parkhead fans.

He played in Billy McNeill’s team alongside the likes of Paul McStay and Peter Grant, and still keeps an eye on what’s happening at Celtic Park.

He said: “I’ve been pleased to see the success at Celtic in the past 10 years. There was disappointment last season, but it is looking good again under Ange Postecoglou.

“Overall, it looks as though Scottish football is in a good place, with healthy competition going on up and down the country, and Rangers doing well in the Europa League.

“The Scotland team is also good, and I watched them play against England last year at Wembley in the Euro 2020 Finals.

“It was 0-0, but Scotland deserved to win after a very impressive performance.

“Now they will be looking to keep it going, and the progress is there.

“Steve Clarke will be wanting to see his team qualify for the World Cup Finals, and it would be nice to see Scotland back involved again.

“There has been good success in the past two years, and the manager is clearly very talented.

“With players in the squad from Celtic, Rangers, Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal, there is a high quality to choose from.

“So I hope Scotland can achieve their dreams, and also be at the World Cup Finals – with Poland.”