Artur Boruc remains the ace in the Premier League pack

Southampton's Artur Boruc may have come under fire for his high-profile howler at Stoke last weekend, his importance to the Saints has been invaluable.

It's been everywhere. News reels, YouTube, Match Of The Day. You name it, Boruc's howler has been there.

When Asmir Begovic scored the quickest-ever goal by a goalkeeper from 103 yards last weekend, it's fair to say that a fair amount of eyes turned to Southampton's Polish stopper, Artur Boruc.

The madcap Pole, formerly of Celtic, fronted up to his error, taking responsibility for the post-match media obligations. Whilst Boruc had apologised to the fans twice, walking to the away fans at both half-time and full-time, with his hand on the club badge whilst raising an apologetic hand, he had little apologising to do. He even issued a bullish promise to win the fans those two points back on his own later in the season.

A Southampton cult hero, Boruc has carved himself a special place in the hearts of many a Saints fan. Since his arrival on the south coast in September 2012, following a stint with Fiorentina in Serie A, Boruc has proved invaluable for Southampton.

Despite a rocky start, where Boruc was clearly out-of-shape after enjoying his summer break too much, he quickly endeared himself to the legions of Southampton fans. His early days were marred by an incident during the visit of Tottenham Hotspur. Having conceded for a second time in the first half, Boruc was jeered by the fans behind him in the Chapel End. At this stage, he took it upon himself to 'advise' the fans to quieten down, sending a bottle in their direction. Many Saints fans aimed further outrage at Boruc, who was clearly affected by the ongoing situation. A club investigation ensued, whilst Boruc was conspicuous in his absence from Nigel Adkins' squads, as his side continued to fumble their way through games, opting to alternate their use of the experienced Kelvin Davis and the young Paulo Gazzaniga, a summer arrival from League Two side Gillingham.

Fast-forward to October 2013, and Boruc is a lynch-pin in Mauricio Pochettino's impressive outfit, who rose to prominence with their defensive record, having conceded just four goals in their opening ten games of the Premier League season.

Ask any Saints fan who they would be most concerned about losing from the side, and the answer is fairly unanimous.

Artur Boruc.

The Pole has sharpened up his act. He's lost weight, he's training harder, and most of all, he's enjoying his time on the south coast. Upon signing, he had outlined how turning out for a Premier League side had long been an ambition of his. Boruc is cited by many as a key reason for the Saints' survival in the Premier League in the 2012/13 season, as the club had continually floundered under the alternative keepers.

Boruc brought a strangely-attractive arrogance to Southampton, strolling and patrolling his area, looking as if he was totally removed from the emotion and pressure of the game. It's a fair comment to say that Artur is so laid back that you may as well strap a mattress to his back. It's his laid back yet charismatic attitude that makes him so intriguing to fans of the south coast club. Not unaccustomed to smacking himself silly for errors, cursing his luck and teasing the opposition, the 'Holy Goalie' has built up a great rapport with the fan-base, best demonstrated by their undeterred support for their #1 in the wake of last weekend's controversy.

Following Boruc's error of judgement this past weekend, which saw him misjudge the bounce and weather conditions surrounding Asmir Begovic's clearance, he headed straight to the travelling fans to apologise following the half-time whistle, when he received a loud burst of 'There's only one Artur Boruc!'. There's an acceptance amongst Saints fans, an acceptance that what they first saw was not the real Artur Boruc.

A well-regarded shot and penalty-stopper, Boruc was short-listed for FIFPro World XI Player Awards in 2008, during his Celtic spell. Boruc was one of five goalkeepers nominated for the position, alongside eventual winner Iker Casillas, as well as Petr Cech, Edwin van der Sar and Gianluigi Buffon.

Boruc had much the same reputation with the Celtic faithful. Remembered fondly by Celtic fans, Boruc rose to prominence for his show-stopping performances, pulling off jaw-dropping saves, entertaining the crowd and notably, riling their Glasgow rivals, Rangers. Boruc was fined and given police warnings on more than one occasion for blessing himself in front of the faces of the Rangers fans at Ibrox, as well as wearing a 'God Bless The Pope' shirt.

The playful yet effective Boruc has once again emerged from his rather large shadow. He's been back to his shot-stopping best, his teasing best, and he's even fought his way back into the Poland set-up, becoming the regular starting goalkeeper for his national side.

Boruc has kept six clean sheets this season, never conceding more than one solitary goal in a Premier League game so far this campaign. He boasts a staggering 100% claim success ratio when coming to catch crosses, having not fumbled a single cross in ten games this season.

He has regularly won the south coast side points on his own, most notably with a late penalty save from Grant Holt in the third minute of added time last season, ensuring the Saints walked away from Carrow Road with a point. Again, this season, Boruc earned himself the man of the match award with a stunning display as Swansea visited St. Mary's, and walked away with nothing but thoughts of what might have been.

Whilst Boruc has transformed his performances on the pitch since his darker days, the Polish maverick remains as mischievous as ever. In one notable incident last season, he attempted to throw the ball whilst being pressured by Luis Suarez.

Boruc was clearly unhappy with how close Suarez was, calling for him to move. Suarez failed to adhere to Boruc's advice, so the Southampton stopper pretended to throw the ball straight at the Uruguayan, who flinched and ducked to avoid the ball. When he realised Boruc had not actually thrown the ball, he went into the book for obstruction, which was greeted with a wink courtesy of the former Celtic man.

It's this marriage of effective performances and cheeky charisma that has made him such a stand-out character in the Saints dressing room.

Southampton currently hold the best defensive record of any Premier League side, with fans laying a large amount of the credit at the door of the lively 'keeper. So much so, that following Saturday's remarkable goal, very few fans were willing to be too critical of Boruc. Instead, they accepted that he had built up more than enough credit to excuse one mistake in blustery conditions. He may not have been one of the most high-profile signings made under the leadership of executive chairman Nicola Cortese, but he may just be one of the most important.

It may have taken some time, Artur Boruc has transformed himself from the joker in the Southampton deck to the ace in the Premier League pack.

image: © celticphotos

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