MAX STRYJEK has revealed that Rangers goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin urged him to make the switch to Scotland – but former Celtic cult hero Artur Boruc will always be his glove idol.
The Livingston stopper was on the books with McLaughlin at Sunderland and, having built a bond while training together every day, he keeps in contact with the experienced Gers ace.
So he had no qualms about canvassing McLaughlin’s opinion when the opportunity to join Livi from Eastleigh arose during the summer – and he received a glowing endorsement of the Lions and the platform afforded by the Scottish Premiership.
Stryjek, 24, has been forced to be patient due to the form of number one Robby McCrorie, albeit he turned in a virtuoso performance in August’s 0-0 draw with Rangers when the Ibrox loan star was ineligible to face his parent club.
And, with McCrorie currently on international duty with Scotland, Stryjek has been handed a place between the sticks for this month’s Betfred Cup games.
Stryjek said: “I did text Jon McLaughlin, who I played with at Sunderland. I knew Jon for a year and we helped each other. We had a lot of good chats and I still keep in contact with him.
“He had positive things to say and told me to come up here and prove I can play.
“I wanted to move to a Premiership side, that was my main aim before I came to Livingston. I wanted to go somewhere where I would be on the radar of people again and be involved in bigger games again.
Stryjek added: “My goalkeeping coach at Sunderland, Craig Samson [now on the coaching staff at Hibs], was also a big help.
“When I told him I might sign for a team in Scotland, he told me what the clubs would expect from me – and he knew the coaching staff here, so that was good advice.”
Although Stryjek can draw on those connections at Rangers and Hibs, it was Celtic he used to watch regularly when eccentric custodian Boruc was between the sticks for the Hoops.
Stryjek was a fresh-faced youngster in the youth ranks at Polonia Warsaw when Boruc – who also made his name in Warsaw with Legia – was number one for Celtic and Poland.
And he smiled: “Artur Boruc was absolutely one of my idols when I was younger and, of course, I wouldn’t mind having a career like his.”
But while he always dreamed of emulating his hero, Stryjek confesses that they are very different characters; he is no Mad Max.
He laughed: “No, I used to be crazy on the pitch, not any more. That comes with maturity.
“I sometimes watch boxing and one of the phrases that stuck with me was ‘warm body, cold mind’. I took it to heart and thought: ‘Yeah, that’s how I should be’.
“Just take it slowly, be calm on the pitch and then everything will be easy for you.
“If you are stressed out and provoking people you are just getting attention from them. It is better to perform when you are calm.”
Stryjek has taken that Zen attitude into his onerous battle for a starting berth with the highly-rated McCrorie.
He added: “When you are not playing it is hard to keep yourself going, but I have been there before and I have learned how to deal with it. Robby is doing really well, I just need to prove I can play as well and take my chances when they come.”