Saturday, May 14, 2011

Shakhter (Donetzk) finished with silver medals. To a point, it was perfect structural example – Ukraine comfirming her dominance; the ‘first’ Ukrainian club finishing first, and the ‘second’ – second. In the same time it was also surprising, for in pyramid structures governed by one political party there is little left for the ‘provinces’, whose role is to support the centre. Provincial Shakhter were, but not without clout – Dynamo was free to snatch whoever they wished from anybody, including Donetzk, in Ukraine, but Shakhter was free to snatch whoever they wanted after Kiev was satisfied. Thus, they had good team, which after returning to First Division was playing increasingly well. Apart from having clout, Donetzk was paying well – rumors of ‘5000 rubles a month’ salaries circulated , fantastic money at the time. Good money made the club attractive for players and they stayed – there was something good about been ‘second best’: as long as recruiting good players, but not so good to be taken by the big shark, a city can keep a strong squad for years. Which was Shakhter’s case so far – the core of the team was still the same group of players, which won promotion to First Division in 1972. Oleg Bazilevich was coaching them back in 1972, now he was in Dynamo (Kiev), but his former pupils stayed in Donetzk – it was perhaps their specific qualities, which made them unattractive to Kiev. Shakhter played different, more traditional football than Dynamo, making the players unsuitable for experiments. By 1975 there was new coach – well respected one, Salkov.
Silver medallists: Top, left to right: V. Shevlyuk, V. Chanov, V. Safonov, V. Salkov – coach, V. Zvyagintzev, V. Onisko – assistant coach, Yu. Degtyarev, Yu. Dudinsky, V. Starukhin, V. Gorbunov.
Bottom: Yu. Vankevich, V. Kondratov, M. Sokolovsky, V. Yaremchenko, V. Pyanykh, V. Rogovsky, Yu. Reznik, A. Vassin.
Zvyagintzev was one of the best central defensemen in 1975 and already playing for the national team, but both goalkeepers reached the national team as well. The rest were mostly well reputed players – Dudinsky, Sokolovsky, Starukhin – and younger talent like Reznik and Pyanykh. None was really a great star to attract big predators, or luckily for Shakther, played position where the big clubs had strong enough players – the case of both goalkeepers and Zvyagintzev (although Chanov and Zvyagintzev eventually moved to other clubs). To my mind, the most important player was Vitaly Starukhin – high scoring classic centre-forward. He had no chance of playing for the national team – before 1975 there was stronger competition for the post; after that – Lobanovsky didn’t care for classic strikers and preferred Dynamo Kiev players anyway; even later – Starukhin was already too old. But young or old, he kept on scoring goals and to a point shaped Shakhter’s brand of football – it was organized around him. Along with him, the rest of the core players were also blessed with longevity – Degtyarev and Sokolovsky, for instance. Based on them, the club managed not only to preserve competitive team, but to better it in the following years. A double blessing: since Shakhter played football based on the veterans with others to support them, no other club became viciously interested and Shakhter was left to develop in peace. Apparently, nobody needed ‘support players’.