Wednesday, July 28, 2010

If Scotland had some, at least tangential, claim to glory (old football plus the fame of Celtic and Rangers), Sweden had no such pretences. Traditionally, Sweden had weak domestic football and strong national team, formed around foreign based professionals. The exodus of stars provided for unpredictable championship – no club was able to establish dominance. Atvidabergs FF lost its best players, there was no one to replace them, and another club emerged in 1974 – the champions were one of the more or less constantly strong clubs: Malmo FF
For Malmo FF it was a record 10th national title, although the previous one was in 1971 – a typical case in Sweden: the titles were evenly spread from 1944 to 1974 without long consecutive runs. Unlike Atvidabergs FF, Malmo FF managed to preserve its squad – the champions of 1974 were pretty much the same players who won the title in 1971. The major change was the coach – back in 1971 the team was still coached by the Spaniard Antonio Duran. In 1974 at the helm was the very young (34 years old) Englishman Bob Houghton. Swedish clubs were unable to keep their stars at home, let alone getting foreign talent, but hiring foreign coaches was another matter – as many smaller championships, the attempt for improvement was largely based on foreign training. It was the Spanish model back in the 1960s, but British one replaced it and, if nothing else, at least Malmo FF played disciplined, physical, attacking football. The core of the team consisted of the experienced midfielder Bo Larsson, who returned to Malmo FF in 1969, after playing for VfB Stuttgart (West Germany). His importance was great: the coach of the national team said at the time that you pick Larsson first and simply add players around him. But Larsson was not alone – another national player, Staffan Tapper (who played for Malmo FF the whole of his career), was helping him in midfield. Solid Jan Moller was between the goalposts – never a first choice, but eventually selected for the national team. Former national player (part of the World Cup 1970 squad) Krister Kristensson ruled in defense, surrounded by Roy and Roland Andersson, both becoming national players in 1974. Another young player who eventually became national player in 1974 – Thomas Sjoberg – completed the midfield line. No big names in attack, but nevertheless the squad was solid, and for Swedish standards even unusual – most of the above spent years in Malmo FF, almost never going to play abroad.
The champions of 1971. Bottom, left to right: Krister Kristensson, Staffan Tapper, Nils Hult, Antonio Duran (in front with funny cap) – coach , Bo Larsson, Roy Andersson.Top: Eric Persson – club’s director, Roland Andersson, Conny Andersson, Curt Olsberg, Christer Jacobsson, Lars Grandstrom, Harry Jonsson, Egon Jonsson – administrator.
And the boys of 1974 10th title:
Front, left to right: Thomas Sjoberg, Tore Cervin, Tommy Andersson, Jan Moller, Roland Andersson, Anders Ljungberg, Tommy Larsson.
Top: Bob Houghton – coach, Claes Malmberg, Harry Jonsson, Roy Andersson, Krister Kristensson – captain, Conny Andersson, Bo Larsson, Staffan Tapper, Egon Jonsson – administrator, Eric Persson – club’s director. Europe did not know yet who these boys were, but will learn eventually… just wait a year or two. Curiously, the future was bright in Sweden – perhaps because there were no expectations and no fuss.