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You just hope that nothing’s going to happen – South London News

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BY YANN TEAR
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The savagery on the doorstep to his homeland is cause for major concern for Bartosz Bialkowski at the moment – but it is also a testimony to his professionalism that Millwall fans will not notice.

The Lions keeper is closing in on another ever-present record for the season. In the three years at the club since his move from Ipswich, the 34-year-old has only missed one league game.

That level of consistency has played a part in Millwall knocking on the door of the play-offs, as they do again this season, following a 4-1 win against Barnsley on Saturday.

But it is also remarkable that those desperately unsettling events in Ukraine have not distracted him from the job at hand when he takes to the field.

“I have family in north Poland who live 30 to 40 minutes away from Kaliningrad [the Baltic Russian enclave] which has many Russian soldiers,” he told South London Press.

“My younger sister Anna is in the military police, so is effectively a soldier, and it is a very tense time, as you can imagine. Very difficult for everyone there.

“The country is helping many refugees coming over from Ukraine as much as it can. I have spoken to her a great deal about it. It is a time when anything can happen and they have to be prepared for everything.

“I go back to Poland once or twice a year – usually in the summer for a few days. I hope to go over again this year. I have two young kids and we also want a holiday away from everything going on there.

“Of course, in a way I am lucky to be here playing football, but then you don’t really worry about yourself, you worry about your family – because you can’t do anything about it. You just hope nothing is going to happen.”

Bialkowski is under contract until the end of next season and so far, has not held talks about prolonging his stay at the Den. But it is clear he is happy and would be keen to stay, while boss Gary Rowett knows his value.

“I will be 35 in July and my contract ends after next season,” he said. “There have been no talks about extending it yet. There will be time for that later, because right now we just want to concentrate on doing the best we all can until the end of the season.

“But if the club is willing to offer, it’s definitely something I’d consider because I’m happy with my form and the club – and there’s a tremendous atmosphere in the dressing room and I love being part of it.”

Rowett said of his number one: “Bart’s performances have always been very consistent and at a high level. We have two great keepers and George Long has been pushing him to perform that way.

“He makes big saves for us and earned that trust over a big period of time. He’s an incredibly hard worker in training and he looks after himself. Diligent commitment gets rewards and it’s a good lesson for all young players.

“We’ve had discussions about his personal worries, as is normal with all the players. He’s been very professional in dealing with it.”

Speaking about the victory over Barnsley, Bialkowski said: “It was good to bounce back after the Swansea defeat to give ourselves a chance again to reach the play-offs.

“We think it is very much a realistic goal. We have five games left and they are all winnable and if you think that 72 points are what you need to get there, then we have a good chance if we can win four out of five.

“But of course, we don’t know if that will be enough.”

Millwall are at Preston today and at home to Hull on Monday.

“We have a good record against Preston and our run-in looks good on paper,” the keeper said. “But it’s not an easy league and anything can happen. We know no one’s going to give us anything for free. We have to go out and beat them for ourselves.

“If we show fight and can get the basics right, we back ourselves. We have creative players who can help us score goals and we are defensively solid. We are going to fight until the end. You’ve got to go and try.”

Photo: PA

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