We have been here before, of course. England v Poland at Wembley for a decisive World Cup qualifier in October. Forty years ago England were dramatically thwarted by a heroic Jan Tomaszewski and missed out on the finals. This time they face a different proposition altogether, but that does not mean it is going to be any easier. Less clown but more in form is probably the best way to describe the current Polish No1, Artur Boruc.
Roy Hodgson will not like the stats. The Southampton goalkeeper has had an extraordinary start to the campaign with five clean sheets in seven league games, one of them at Anfield against high-flying Liverpool. In September he did not concede a single goal for his club and has not been beaten in 382 minutes for the Saints. True, Ukraine scored a goal against the 33-year-old on Friday night as Poland lost 1-0 in Kharkiv but that does not change the fact that he is in the form of his life (even scoring with a remarkable scissor-kick volley in training for Poland, a goal that has been watched over two million times in the last week).
The result against Ukraine means Poland are unable to qualify for the World Cup in Brazil but that does not mean they will roll over on Tuesday night. "Britain is like a second home to me," he said recently, "although playing against England at Wembley won't be easy. I'm counting on the Polish fans' support. Do I want to become second Jan Tomaszewski? No. I am Artur Boruc."
The fact that Boruc will evenline up for Poland on Tuesday night is remarkable considering the numerous ups and downs he has experienced during his career. Nine lives? More like 20. Boruc made his international debut back in 2004 but has been dropped and reinstated several times since then. In August 2008, after a successful Euro 2008 tournament, he was suspended by the national coach, Leo Beenhakker, for a breach of discipline after a night out with two team-mates, Dariusz Dudka and Radoslaw Majewski.
He regained his place quickly but was then dropped in March 2009 after a horror show against Northern Ireland in Belfast when Poland lost 3-2, Beenhakker saying: "He was very affected by what happened on Saturday and especially by his role in the match. I informed Artur honestly and openly that I will not use him in the match with San Marino."
And so it carried on. In 2010 he managed to fall out with the next Poland coach, Franciszek Smuda, again for disciplinary reasons, and then added to the ill feeling between the pair by calling the 62-year-old manager "Dyzma" in an interview. It did not go down well. Nikodem Dyzma is a Polish fictional character who moves from a small town to Warsaw and makes it all the way to the top – pretty much by accident. By now you know the story, Boruc lost his place in the squad and, this time, lost out on playing for Poland in their home tournament, Euro 2012.
It has been a similar story for his clubs. At Celtic, whom he joined from Legia Warsaw in 2005, he was brilliant in one match, less so in the next. The fans, however, liked him, partly for his habit of blessing himself before the start of every game.
He was given the nickname 'The Holy Goalie' and loved to wind up the Rangers fans. In August 2006 he was cautioned for breach of the peace for "three separate" hand gestures made to them in an Old Firm match in February. Two years later he courted further controversy by displaying a T-shirt with the words "God bless the Pope" with a picture of the late Pope John Paul II after a game against Rangers.
Boruc left Celtic in 2010 and joined Fiorentina for two mainly successful seasons before moving to Southampton on a free transfer in September 2012. Even at Southampton it has not been straightforward – he lost his place and the club had to launch an investigation after he threw a water bottle into the home fans' section behind his goal at St Mary's, later saying he had been racially abused – a month after joining the club.
John Hartson, who played with Boruc at Celtic, said while appearing on MOTD2 last weekend, that "well, he's Polish" about the goalkeeper, seemingly suggesting that Boruc is not averse to the odd late night out. It would, however, be unfair even to suggest that Boruc is unprofessional. "I work very hard and for that to be noticed is very nice," he said after becoming in September the first Pole to be nominated for the Premier League Player of the Month.
Boruc clearly cares about doing a good job and has admitted that he is proud of being the second most selected goalkeeper in the official Premier League fantasy league competition, behind Simon Mignolet. Having a settled private life, which he has now with his fianceé Sara Mannei, also helps.
The Southampton manager, Mauricio Pochettino, called his goalkeeper "incredible" after the win over Swansea and in Poland they adore Boruc. Before the game against Ukraine the Polish sports daily Przeglad Sportowy printed a picture, above, of Boruc in the shape of Leonardo Da Vinci's The Vitruvian Man but with 10 arms instead of four. The headline read "Boruc has 10 hands again – the goalkeeper is in the form of his life and is ruling the British Isles once again."
Roy Hodgson, for one, will hope that Boruc's rule comes to an abrupt end on Tuesday night.