Saturday, July 30, 2011

Unnoticed end and unnoticed beginning – Ipswich Town finished 3rd! Once again, no big deal – the Blues had strong season. Good for them, yet, nothing particularly surprising in a league, where everybody could win and everybody can finish in the relegation zone.
Ipswich Town are one of the oldest English clubs, founded in 1878, but hardly successful one. They were champions only once – in 1962, and, generally, had very little to show in terms of trophies. By 1975 it was hardly big deal – there was not a single club able to win 10 titles so far and even a single champioship ranked strongly. However, Ipswich Town were not among the ‘heavy’ clubs; they were rather mid-table boys, more likely to fear relegation than to be among the top 5. Champions in 1962 – and dead last in 1964! Returning to 1st Division in 1968 and keeping their place since, but no more… gradually finishing at higher places until ending third with most wins in the League – 23; losing 2nd place only on goal difference, and finishing just 2 points behind the champions.
Bronze Tractor Boys: Sitting, left to right: Collard, Miller, Lambert, Johnson, Hamilton, Woods, Gates.
Middle: Lee, Osborne, Peddlety, Harper, Viljoen, Burley, Robson – manager.
Third row: Hammond, Talbot, Mills, Cooper, Sivell, Hunter, Beattie, Whymark.
At a glance, hardly a famous team – and it was not, but there were the seeds of something better sawn already. Mick Mills was included in the Englsih national team and was to stay in it for years. Others were to become reputable, solid players, if not exactly great stars: Talbot, Miller, Osborne, Beattie. Burley and Wark (not on the picture) gradually established themselves in the national team of Scotland. It was a promising squad, still in the making, but with good backbone, arounf which new talent was only to be added carefully. For which the manager was responsible – one Bobby Robson. He was not Sir Robson in 1975 – he was just noticed, and that only in England. It was only a beginning – the real fruits came a few years later and Robson gained enormous reputation. It was this year, however, marking the start of steady success. Nothing stays static in football: if 1975 was the end of Leeds, it was also the beginning of the next great team – Ipswich Town.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Chelsea’s struggle was already noticed, but another fading was not yet. Leeds United finished 9th.
Back Row: Gordon McQueen, Joe Jordan, Norman Hunter, Paul Madeley, David Stewart,
David Harvey, Allan Clarke, Eddie Gray, Paul Reaney, Terry Yorath.
Front Row: Peter Lorimer, Mick Bates, Billy Bremner, Frank Gray, Trevor Cherry, Duncan McKenzie.
The squad did not suggest mid-table performance – looked like a temporary slip, to be corrected in the next season. It was impossible to imagine anything else and there were excuses – Leeds had strong European season, efforts and attention aimed at the European Champions Cup. Besides English football was notoriously competitive and there was nothing strange top side to end relatively low. There was little to worrie about: Don Revie left in 1974 to take the English national team, but his replacement was worthy – Jimmy Armfield. At the time no attention was paid to the problem of replacing Revie – Brian Clough and Maurice Lindley were tried briefly before settling on Armfield. Something did not quite work… but it was not easy to replace a legend, so it was seen as a normal process of reajustment. Just give it a little time – with Armfield the season was shaky, but Leeds reached the European final, so it was not bad overall and surely the next year would be stronger. There was no next year – it was the beginning of a steady downfall. This was the season marking the end of great dreams and a great team.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Speaking of losers. Since Second Division was the place to be in 1975, Carlisle United and Luton Town rushed to join the excitement. No big surprise in their relegation, though – both clubs were more at home down in Second then up in First Division.
Luton Town finished 20th, just a point bellow lucky escapee Tottenham Hotspur.
Carlisle United dead last.
Both clubs were promoted in 1973-74 and lasted only a year among the best. Except for pretty kits nothing else can be said about them. Their fans may disagree with ‘nothingness’, but the final table of the season pretty much ends arguments.

Just between Luton and Carlisle was sandwiched Chelsea – 21st, second from last, and down.
On one hand, nothing strange – in highly competitive England everything was possible. On the other hand, it should have been alarming: Manchester United was relegated in 1974, and now – Chelsea. A momentary slip? May be… Manchester United recovered in a year. May be Chelsea were just jinxed by their unusual away kit:
Red and green – may be that’s the reason. Or may be not… Chelsea was not Manchester United. First of all, they were never really big club. Chelsea became trendy club in the 1960s, largely by location. Yet, the link between rock’n’roll, alternative culture, hippies, and football was tangental and tentative at best – apart from Pink Floyd, Rod Stewart, and Elton John, there were hardly other close relations. The new Chelsea fans supported the club more as fashionable expression: the club was in the hub of the ‘flower’ culture and was just right – not very big and representing alternative to the traditional London rivalries between West London (Arsenal, Totteham) and East London (West Ham United, representing working class somewhat). Chelsea seemed suitable for counter-culture rejecting tradition: not exactly class-representative, modest club, hardly successful, yet fun, and located right where the new culture flourished. Laid back club, entertaining, not aggressively ambitious and yet capable of winning as a underdog. However, supporters flocking because it was fashionable to do so, are not supporters who really care. Chelsea was generally middle of the road team and as the 70s marched forward, problems piled up as well.
In purely sporting terms, the team declined sharply – starting the decade with decent squad, including Peter Bonetti and Peter Osgood, the team somehow messed up… new players were, as a rule, disappointments. Big promises and expectations, but never fulfilled. Ian Hutchinson perhaps is the best example: the player, who was to start playing great the next match. Ever the next match… and never ‘this’ match… sure, he was constantly injured, but excuses eventually run out. Instead of getting better, the team was gradually getting weaker and by 1974 it was clearly lesser team than the one in 1970. In five years Chelsea went from beating Real Madrid and winning the Cup Winners Cup to finishing in the relegation zone and disappearing in the Second Division.
The other reason was financial and represented wider problem. By 1975 English clubs were accumulating dangerous debts and there was rising concern about the future. Most criticism was directed to players’ salaries and transfer fees getting out of hand. It was right criticism, but hardly suggesting way out, for at the time the major part of clubs revenue still came out of the gates receipts. Cheap tickets and declining crowds versus higher and higher salaries and transfer fees – deadly mix. Chelsea was a prime example, for it was managed exceptionally badly – so badly, that dark years to follow 1975, ending eventually with bankruptcy in the 1980s. Those were the years, summarized best by Mickey Droy:
Droy clearing the ball and looking great on picture.
Who the hell was Mickey Droy? Well, the guy, who played during the dark years… young Chelsea fans think him a hero nowadays, and to a point he was – at least he was loyal to the club. In real time, however, Droy was mediocre player and his loyalty was largely due to the simple facts of Chelsea not able to buy better players and Droy not good enough to attract better clubs. He is voted 13th in the list of the 50 worst ever footballers playing in England… Lack of money, lack of vision, lack of talent – Chelsea was going down not temporary, but for a long, long time. Hippies went down by 1975 and Chelsea went down – it may be put this way too.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

There were times when Fulham was bigger club than West Ham United – long gone. There were times when West Ham United was bigger club… wait! Were there such times? In London the Hammers were never more tham modest, eclipsing Fulham at best, and higher than QPR, and probably competing with Chelsea, but more or less constantly bellow Arsenal and Tottenham. Strong team in the 1960s, yet, never strong enough to win a title. What title… West Ham never finished even at third place during their best days. In fact, ‘best days’ amounted to mid-table. That was with Bobby Moore and Geoff Hurst! Eventually the 1960s team aged… Martin Peters moved years ago; Hurst was just a memory; and Bobby Moore had to make room for rebuilding. The Hammers finished 13th in the 1974-75 season, with 13 wins and 13 ties. Ominous numbers… but 13 may be lucky number too. It was new brew produced by ‘the Academy’ – and if modest at the League, the team revived the old days of playing better at cup tournaments. And won the FA Cup!
Revival of tradition – for Hammers’ tradition was uneven squad: few great players and the rest – run of the mill. This squad was no different: practically only Clyde Best, quickly fading by now, remained from the 1960s stars. But there were new ones: particularly Trevor Brooking, who already established himself in the national team and was seen as the brightest English midfileder. Add Billy Bonds, ever reliable and fearsome. Add up and coming talent – Frank Lampard, Pat Holland, Keith Coleman, Bobby Gould, Mervyn Day. Just wait a year or two… waiting became permanent and this year was more or less the best performance of this team. Perhaps Frank Lampard is the best example, to sum the difference between promise and actual realization: his son became really big star, not him!
And a curiosuity: the young striker Yilmaz Orhan was a member of the squad. Born 1955 in Nicosia, Cyprus, which makes him a foreign player at time when England was not interested in imports. Well, almost an import, or barely so – most likely Orhan was a refugee: he was ethnic Turk from a city, which became Greek after the violent division of the island. Most likely Orhan grew up in London and was a naturalized British citizen. Yet, probably a victim of the traditional British bias against foreign footballers: Orhan played only 8 matches for the Hammers and in 1977 moved to NASL (Team Hawaii).
No matter – West Ham United lifted the FA Cup and hugged their former captain Bobby Moore, now a loser.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

And the triumphal Second Division run continued: Fulham reached the FA Cup final! Three Second Division clubs played at the cups finals! Fulham, once upon a time one of the strongest clubs in London, was long forgotten by now – relegated from First Division in 1968, they had no chance of returning, becoming mid-table Second Division staple, after visiting Third Division as well. They were 9th in the 1974-75 season, but there was ambition – in 1974 Fulham got Allan Mullery and Bobby Moore. Both aging, it was true, but still: Bobby Moore! He was still considered a national team player, not to mention his aura and reputation. Fulham was not able to compete for promotion, but with the old stars they reached the FA Cup final.
Ironically, Fulham met West Ham United at Wembley – and lost 0-2. Bobby Moore lost to his former teammates. If he stayed, he was to collect a Cup… if he stayed with the Hammers, he was to captain winners, not losers. His former teammates sympathetically hugged him after the match, but the Cup was theirs, not his. Anyway, it was big success for Fulham to play at the final.
And it was not to stop at that, at least it was not intended to stop at that: in the summer of 1975 Fulham signed Rodney Marsh and George Best. Clearly, the aim was First Division – the team was getting heavy.
Alas… heavy in entirely different sense: in the pub. George Best and Bobby Moore went right there, good drinking buddies as they were. Drinking or not, Moore was professional to boot; erratic and moody Best and Marsh were the opposite… the big names did not propel Fulham to greatness. Best did not last at all. Marsh lasted a little longer. Even Moore did not last… all moved to greener pastures in the USA; Fulham stayed in Second Division. A momentary spark in 1974-75 and nothing else.

Monday, July 18, 2011

To a point, 1974-75 season was the Second Division season – perhaps the most successful ever season for those not at the top. Manchester United won the first place and returned to First Division after one year of exile. It was just return: the squad, pretty much the same as the one relegated in 1973-74, was too good to play lower league football. Tommy Docherty finally managed the team right after the original disaster, but still it was difficult to judge this squad on its own merit. How good it really was? Certainly not as good as the glorious team of 1968 – of which only Alex Stepney still played. Giants like Bobby Charlton, Nobby Stiles, George Best, Denis Law casted too big a shadow – no matter what Steve Coppell, Sammy McIlroy, etc, did, they were unable to measure up to the recent past. And it was the young brooms, who went down to Second Division for the first time since 1938! The shame of it!
Yet, it was not a bad team – by talent and depth, it was a squad strong enough to be among among top ten English clubs. Going down was a momentary slip, but who can forgive a food team playing mediocre football? At least they managed to come back quickly.
It was clearly non-English team: 7 Scots – Arthur Albiston, Martin Buchan, Alex Forsyth, Jim Holton, Stewart Houston, Lou Macari, Willie Morgan; 3 Irish – Gerry Daly, Mick Martin, Paddy Roche; 3 Northern Irish – Jimmy Nicholl, David McCreery, Sammy McIlroy; 1 Welsh – Ron Davies; and only 2 English players – Alex Stepney and Steve Coppell. Managed by Docherty, one more Scot – Manchester United, traditionally having strong Celtic flavour, looked like going entirely Celt and Scot. Most of the players were also regulars in their respective national teams – hardly ever a Second Division team had so many players from so many national teams. And after winning promotion, United fortified itself for the new challenge by getting two additional strong players: Brian Greenhoff and Gordon Hill – both English and no strangers to the national squad. Looked like the boys were alright.
Bellow Manchester United, yet still winning promotions to First Division were Aston Villa and Norwich City. But they did better than Manchester United, reaching the League Cup final! Norwich were hardly great, so this season were more or less one of their best ever seasons – finishing 3rd in Second Division and going to the League Cup final.
Hardly a famous squad, except for local fans, and good enough to put a fight, but at the end Norwich lost the final 0-1.
The League Cup went to Aston Villa.
Ian Ross and Chico Hamilton with the League Cup. Happy boys.
For the old club from Birmingham the season was great – going to First Division and collecting a cup as well… end of suffering. And how they suffered! Aston Villa went down in 1967 and not only stayed down, but plummeted to Third Division! Finally, almost ten years later, one of the original founders of the Premier League returned to their historic place.
Top, left to right: Frank Pimblett (?), Sammy Morgan, Chris Nicholl, John Findley, Keith Leonard, Jim Cumbes, Leighton Phillips, Frank Carrodus, Bonny MacDonald (?), Roy McLaughlin (?) – coach.
Bottom: Charlie Aitken, John Gidman, Ian ‘Chico’ Hamilton, Ron Saunders – manager, Ian Ross, John Robson, Brian Little, Ray Graydon.
Not as great as Manchester United – more likely a strong Second Division squad. Eventually some players acquired fame – Chris Nicholl, for instance – but mostly local heroes: Aitken, Ross, Hamilton, Carrodus. Brian Little today is better known as a coach, rather than as a player. Carrodus recently complained that contemporary players care only for themselves, not for the club. He may be right – he stayed with Villa many years. Also he may be not right – he was never a big star tempted with fat transfers. Yet, pretty much unknown in 1975, these Villa players became the backbone of the team which eventually moved up – much higher than First Division. It was due to the manager Ron Saunders: he built eventually a great team, starting with this relatively modest squad. No wonder Saunders is a Villa legend – and rightly so! So far – promotion and League Cup! Imagine the future! From the lean 1970-71 season only Aitken and Hamilton remained – certainly the team was getting stronger and stronger, wiping up the bitter memories of Third Division.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Illusions don’t end, but neither tough luck ends in football. Except in England? By 1975 in England too – hard financial times were more and more noticeable. It was perhaps the first time English championships were no longer considered best in the world, but still England was the only country where lower divisions attracted considerable interest both at home and abroad. Down there sad celebration accured: Blackburn Rovers won the Third Division.
In a way, it was great – the club celebrated its 100 years since foundation with a title. Third division title, though… not much to brag about, if you are supporter of once upon a time glorius club. After all, Blackburn Rovers is one of only three founders of both the Football League and the Premier League (along with Aston Villa and Everton). That was in the 19th century – it was quite some time since Rovers did not know the taste of First Division football: they were relegated in 1966 and at the beginning of 1974-75 season the big dream was promotion to Second Division. Apparaantly, ‘arte’ was gone and only ‘labore’ remained… luckily enough for moving a bit up the tough English scale at their centenary year.
Third row, left to right: John Kenton, Graham Hawkins, Tim Parkin, Roger Jones, Don Martin, Kevin Hird, Mick Wood.
Middle: Andy Burgin, Mick Hickman, Ken Beamish, Graham Oates, Don Fazackerley, Phil Ashworth.
Bottom row: Jimmy Mullen, Pat Hilton, Mick Heaton, Stuart Metcalfe, Bobby Hoy, Mick Higgins.
Naturally, third division clubs have no stars and Blackburn was no exception. May be Derek Fazackerley – named wrongly in my original source as Don – is a club legend of a kind, but even he is better known as a coach, not as a player. They moved up a notch, yet there were 16 more years before Rovers returned to First Division.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

It was all Real Madrid this season. Evidently, the influx of Leftists improved the Rightist club – Miljanic was from the dictatorial school of football coaches, but it was familiar approach to his pupils anyway, so nobody complained. He was very good coach too – he moved Breitner permanently to midfield, a brilliant decision, not only enforcing the weaker line of Real, but also utilizing fully the capacity of the player. And Breitner himself was willing, so the potential clash of strong heads was avoided. In fact, Breitner hardly lived up to his quarrelsome reputation in Spain – Maoist he may had been, but he was firstly German and discipline run strongly in his veins. Breitner on the pitch was the opposite of Breitner outside the pitch: on the pitch, he followed orders and tactical schemes. To a point, he proved more valuable than Neeskens, for he had bigger role and covered larger field, playing everything – attacking when attack was needed; defending when extra leg was needed in defense; and dispatching balls to teammates at all time. Netzer was quieter, if that is the world, but he never played to his full ability in Spain – partly, it was his aging. Yet, he was dangerous to ignore and still gave 40-metre long deadly passes at unexpected moments. His very presernce required attention… taking a man from the opposite team out of the game pretty much: keeping an eye on Netzer was idle, but full time job. Real Madrid was taking full advantage of reduced opposition, of course, and ended the season with a double!
It was better squad than the Catalunian one: it had debth. Miguel Angel edged Garcia Remon as number one goalkeepr, but even here the advantage was obvious: Barca really had one good goalie, who was dangerously old (Sadurni). Young defenders were rapidly making names for themselves and already were included in the national team: Camacho, Del Bosque, Jose Luis. Ahead, it was mixture of veterans, experienced strong players, and young talent: Velasquez, Grosso, Pirri, Aguilar. Add vastly talented Carlos Santillana, the brightest young star of Spain. Add Roberto Martinez, a deadly goalscorer. It was deep squad which Miljanic directed well. The Argentine Oscar Mas found himself a hopeless extra at the beginning of the season and returned to his home land, but his departure did not affect Real Madrid at all – the club was not looking that superior for a long, long time, and it looked like a new brilliant era was beginning. Spain first, Europe – next! Brand new great Real Madrid. And Barca – in the dust. Not even a cup final for them… Atletico Madird lost the final against Real Madrid. True, it was goalsless draw and only penalties gave the cup to Real, but – hey! For this team it was only a beginning. Just wait a year. Illusions never end…

Monday, July 11, 2011

Good old Spain was never about Second Division football… let’s oblige. According to the hype, it was about the battles of giants and superstars.
Netzer and Cruyff – the symbols of Primera. Here they are friends… which runs contrary to the fierse reputation of Spanish football and contrary to the legendary hatred between Real and Barcelona.
Well, it was between Barcelona and Madrid – in the news. Dutch or German football? Before the season started it looked like Barcelona was going to rule. Rinus Michels coaching. Cruyff and Neeskens. Lethal. Real Madrid was up to the challenge, of course, but seen slightly less strong – Miljan Miljanic, fresh from good Yugoslavian performance at the World Cup, took the reigns. Netzer and Breitner. It was exciting to speculate on how former Communist guerilla (Miljanic) and current Maoist (Breitner) will get along with Francoist Santiago Bernabeu, but in purely football terms the odds were in Barcelona’s favour. Alas, speculation is one thing; reality – quite another. Michels, Cruyff, and Neeskens were the highest priests of total football, but Barcelona did not play total football – it was more attack oriented brand of the uncromising tough fighting played in Spain. The Dutch superstars fitted surprisingly well in this envirenmont of murderous tackles and full spectrum of dirty tricks, but there was already a change: Cruyff settled in midfield and wasn’t scoring much. To my mind player like Sotil was needed permanently in attack – to score and to open space for the Flying Dutcman – but with the arrival of Neeskens, the Peruvian was permanently benched as a superfluous foreigner. Of course, Neeskens was not bought to keep the bench warm and he played well, but still he found himself playing a bit more defensive role than his familiar attacking roaming. It was not the Dutch, but the Spaniards in Barcelona – as good as they were, they not fantastic. There were problems in attack… problems in defense… the very reasons Cruyff and Neeskens took firm midfield roles and playing in a way below their own potentials. Barcelona finished third…
Just a year ago it looked like the long suffering of Barcelona came at end and new era of endless titles arrived. In 1975 it was back to normal… Barca was not even real challengers, but good only for a bronze medal. Barcelona had to wait another 10 years before becoming again champions. For Cruyff – 1974 was the single year he won the championship of Spain. Very, very little for the best player in the world. And for completion of humiliation, Real Zaragoza finished second – a distant second: 12 points behind the champions. Barcelona was even more remote.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Most of the foreign players in Spain were not international stars, but exotica – and probably the most exotic footballer belonged to Sevilla. Biri Biri. What a name! Straight from adventure novel.
Biri Biri in action.
Of course, Biri Biri is a nickname, but his real name was no less exotic: Alhaji Momodo Nije. And true to adventure books, he hailed from Africa – Gambia, to be precise. Not exactly a country known for its football, so the exotic grows larger and larger… which at the end is not fair to the man. Biri Biri played 5 years for Sevilla – 1973-78 – which is a good testament of his qualities. Perhaps he was not exceptionally gifted player, judging by his checkered career: born 1948 in Banjul, Gambia, he moved from his local club Augustians Football Club to Derby County in 1970. Did not impress Brian Clough and returned home to play for Wallidan Banjul for the next two years. In 1972 went to Denmark – B 1901. So far – nothing much. Sevilla acquired him from the Danes in 1973 and things changed. He played well in Spain and became a cult figure – a section of Sevilla fans call themselves ‘Biris Norte’ after him. In 1978, already aging, he moved again to Denmark and played three seasons for Herfolge Boldklub.
Post-Sevilla Biri Biri – older player, but with more modern kit in Herfolge.
In 1981 he quit European football, returned to Gambia, played 5 more seasons for Wallidan Banjul and finally retired to become a civil cervant. He is considered the all-time best Gambian player. By European standards, his career is less impressive – rather ups and downs, peaking during his spell with Sevilla. However, Sevilla in the 1970s was not the mighty club of nowadays – in 1974-75 Sevilla was still in the Second Division, struggling to get back to Primera after humiliating relegation in 1972.
Biri Biri or not, struggling they were. Successfully, in a way – they clinched promotion, although they did not finish first in Secunda.
The honour went to Real Oviedo.
Winners of Second Division 1974-75: top, left to right: Dujkovic, Lolin, Tensi, Jacquet, Iriarte, Milovan.
First row: Javier, Carrete, Alarcon, Galan, Cortes.
Founded in 1926, Real Oviedo has a place in Spanish football history – it is the first club from the province of Asturias to play in Primera Division: in 1933-34. Alas, historic notability and reality are not the same – Real was mostly bouncing between 1st and 2nd Divisions. Modest club, never winning anything, except Secunda Division. Which they did in the 1974-75 season, climbing again to Primera.
As a squad, more conventional than Sevilla – no Gambians arriving from Denmark here. Instead, the typical Spanish combination of foreigners and oriundi. Two Yugoslavians: Ratomir Dujkovic between the goalposts came from Crvena zvezda (Belgrade) in the summer of 1974. He played 4 matches for Yugoslavia, hardly a big star, but experienced and reliable surely. The curious thing about him is his past: he started as a handball player, eventuallt switching to football. The second is defender, listed here Spanish fashion – only first name: Milovan. This is Milovan Djoric Gvozdenja, also former Crvena zvezda player, who arrived in Oviedo one year before Dujkovic. Djoric played 1 match for Yugoslavia and finished his career immediately after winning Segunda with Oviedo this season – rather yearly retirement, for he was only 30 years old. He became a coach and resurfaced years later again: in 2001 he was the national team coach of the last incarnation of Yugoslavia. His national team spells were brief both as a player and as a coach.
The two oriundi were Paraguayans of no fame: Bravo (not on the picture) and Jacquet. The former, if I am not mistaken, is coaching the national team of Paraguay nowadays.
If there was any other player of note, it was Carrete – he later moved to Valenica and played 2 matches for Spain in 1978.
More or less, Real Oviedo were standard second division team – nothing big and really famous. Good enough to finish above Sevilla, though.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Hype is one thing, closer look – something entirely different. Cruyff, Netzer, Breitner, Neeskens… Real, Barcelona, and Atletico Madrid. Huge façade, but what was hiding beyond? Spain was getting rapidly the best players of the world, right?
Right… 65 foreign players appeared in the 1974-75 championship. Of the 18 First Division clubs, only Athletic Bilbao did not employ any foreigners – this is the peculiar policy of the club, valid to this very day: only Basques can play for Athletic. No foreigners, but no Spaniards too. The exception was amply ‘corrected’ by the foreign players employed by Second Division clubs, including some fairly big names, like the Uruguayan Ramon Esparrago, playing for Sevilla.
Esparrago – from the 1974 World Cup to Second Division.
Esparrago was not alone: the Chilean star Carlos Caszely graced Levante. Surely Spain was something else: what country could afford the luxury of employing World Cup players in the Second Division?
Speaks of overwhelming quality of football, not only of finacial strength.
But let’s make another step: who had the most foreign players? Barcelona, Elche, and Murcia – 6 foreigners each. Barca – fine, who else, if not Barca. Murcia, however, finished last in the table – so money cannot buy success? Ah, Spanish football was so competitive, that was why… But why having 6 foreigners, when under the rules only 2 can be fielded? If having Cruyff and Neeskens, why adding 4 more? What was the point, when they clearly were useless? Now the real mess begins: Spain was robbing everybody else from the best of talent, the big fear and outrage.
Europe was represented by grand total of 9 players. Four of them are already mentioned, so let us see the rest. Two Austrians – Kurt Jara (Valencia) and Tomas Parits (Granada); one more Dutch – Dick van Dijk (Murcia); one West German – Josef Elting (Murcia, goalkeeper); and one Swede – Sanny Aslund (Espanol). Some ‘robbery’… van Dijk was already over the hill. Kurt Jara was the only relatively big name, yet he was not exactly making news in Spain. From the other three, Aslund was kind of promising.
Aslund, aquired from AIK (Stockholm). He lasted only one year in Espanol. As for the ‘big foreign stars’ talk… he played a grand total of 5 matches for Sweden, scoring 2 goals.
Africa was represented by 2 players – Salif Keita (Valencia) from Mali, a major star in France, but now fading and unhappy (Keita complains from racism in Spain to this very day; he moved to Portugal eventually); and Ramos, listed as Moroccan, playing for Espanol. I think there was one more Morrocan with Spanish name in the League as well.
The rest were South Americans, yet, the distribution is suspect: only 2 Brazilians – Becerra (Atletico Madrid) and Mario Marinho Peres (Barcelona). Don’t even ask who was this Becerra guy, but Mario Marinho played at the 1974 World Cup:
Mario Marinho (number 3) for Brazil against Poland at the lost match for the third place in 1974 World Cup.
Barcelona got him after that, a transfer largely unmentioned because of the big hype over Neeskens.
Strange transger, for Mario Marinho, at a glance, looked like firm reserve… the fate of the single Peruvian in Primera – Hugo Sotil, also in Barcelona.
The rest of South Americans were Argentines, Paraguayans, and Uruguayans. Well known stars, naturally… Ayala, Heredia (Atletico Madrid); Santoro (Hercules); Carnevalli and Enrique Wolff (Las Palmas); Mazurkiewicz and Montero Castillo (Granada). Stars… do you know them? Bernardo Cos (Argentina) in Barcelona; Ortiz Aquiro (Argentina) in Espanol; Abel Perez (Paraguay) in Murcia – to give a few names. 13 Paraguayans; 4 Uruguayans; and 33 Argentines – most of them as famous as the already mentioned samples.
There is the myth that Spanish clubs bought largely midfielders and strikers – well, strangely enough 4 foreigners were goalkeepers: Mazurkiewicz, Santoro, Carnevalli, and Elting. Mazurkiewicz, one ot the top 100 goalies of 20th century, appeared only in 2 games this season and departed to South America in the summer of 1975. However, the goalies were proper foreign players and this is puzzling: contrary to mass opinion, Spanish clubs were buying goalies in fairly big numbers.
And yet for all foreign stars at hand, a typical Spanish club looked like this:
Las Palmas 1974-75: top left to right: Carnevalli (Argentina), Noly, Tonono, Roque, Felix, Castellano.
Bottom: Fernandez, Wolff (Argentina), Paez, German, Miguel Angel.
Carnevalli and Wolff played for Argentina at the World Cup 1974, and that was all… wait! Fernandez was also Argentine – three foreigners, despite the rule for fielding only two? Not quite… the mass of South Americans and the big numbers of foreigners in many a club was something else, very difficult not so much to explain, but rather to show. The Spanish Cup provides a helpful hint: no foreigners were allowed to play at this tournament at the time, yet, looking the lines at the final is interesting: no Netzer and Breitner, of course, but Real Madrid had the Argentines Roberto Martinez and Tourino on the pitch. Atletico Madrid was without Ayala and Heredia, but the Brazilian Becerra and the Paraguayan Benegas were on the pitch. And those, who appeared at the final often played along with the absentees, making the number of foreigners bigger than the ofcially permitted.
‘Oriundi’! Most of the South American import were oriundi – with proven Spanish ancestry, which gave them automatic Spanish citizenship. Such a player was domestic, not a foreigner. Oriundi played in Spain during the ban of foreign import and remained the bulk of ‘foreigners’ by 1975 as well, complicating the picture, for in today’s statistics they are most often listed by their orginal nationality. Thus, all those clubs with 5-6 foreign players legally had no more than two – at the end, the real number of foreigners in Spain was much, much smaller than thought. Some are even more complicated cases – the Morrocan born were probably not even oriundi, but repatriated families of ethic Spaniards left from the colonial days.
Looks like the ‘proper’ foreigners were the Europeans and those South Americans, who were already established national players for their country of origin. May be this is the reason why Ladislao Mazurkiewicz played only 2 games for Granada: he was a foreign extra – the club had and played Montero Castillo and Parits. The sorry fate of Hugo Sotil in Barcelona is in the same line: he was superfluous foreign player. Very likely Barcelona bought Mario Marinho with the hope that he will be transformed into oriundi – with his Spanish last name, as it was with Becerra in Atletico Madrid. May be this is the reason why Brazilians were not bought by the barrel: most of them had to remain foreign players. As a whole, the foreign legion in Spain was not at all that impressive and except for sheer numbers, aggravated by the confusing oriundi, there was nothing really to support the claim that Spain was hording all world’s talent, depleting everybody else from quality players. Just take away Cruyff, Neeskens, Netzer, and Breitner and look at the rest – West Germany had larger number of big names than Spain in 1975.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Sunny Spain. Big clubs, big money, big players, big football. What could be better? Spain was constantly in the news after lifting her ban on foreign players – a lot of hype! Not one-sided, though – Spanish football was observed with excitement, envy, and fear. Buying the best players of the world was exciting: Cruyff and Netzer in 1973; Neeskens and Breitner in 1974. It provided constant clash of the best brands of contemporary football in a way. And it was not to be long before all great players in the world concentrated in Spain – was it not the eternal dream of fans? To see the brightest stars in one championship? Of course, everybody outside Spain was envious… and critical. Big Spanish sharks combed every nation, snatching whatever talent appeared. Nobody can compete with their money – hence, they were robbing other countries. With all best players going to Spain other championships were to become poor and alienating fans. The Spanirads were killing football with their greed, not to mention their methods – who can forget the bitter saga of the possible transfer of Gerd Muller to Barcelona in 1973? Even the player complained from the unhealthy pressure. And did they not not buy Neeskens in the middle of the World Cup, thus creating undue tension if the Dutch dressing room when the team had to concentrate on the championship? The Spaniards were ruthless, shameless predators and nobody was safe. Football is not only money, critic said… but money ruled and Spain was the place players found irrestitable.
The big bang of 1973 continued with 1974 big bang: Paul Breitner went to Real Madrid. Johan Neeskens – to Barcelona.
One more flying Dutchman in Barca to confront the mean German Real.
Spain was becoming larger than the world… what better example than the testimonial of former Real Madrid defender Isidro, played in early December, 1974? Big testimonials were traditionally a game between ‘home team’ vs ‘World’s XI’. Traditionally, it was celebration of a great star, honoured by great stars coming from around the globe. Mighty Spain spat on tradition: Isidro was well known member of the great Real of the early 1960s, but hardly a big star – a journeyman, rather. To assemble world’s selection, Spain did not have to place long distance phone calls – the ‘world’ was already playing in Spain; it was enough to get a squad of foreign stars playing in Spanish clubs. Whe else was able to do that? To make a first class testimonial for second-string player, chosing world class players from those playing in the domestic championship?
What a fantastic tribute! It was also ironic and misleading.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Strong were Juventus, but not dominant yet. They won the championship in perhaps the most mediocre year of Italian football, but were no double – the Cup went to Fiorentina. Which was rather ordinary team when compared to Juventus…
Top left to right: Della Martira, Merlo, Guerini, Roggi, Beatrice, Superchi.
Bottom: Casarsa, Antognoni, Caso, Desolati, Pellegrini.
Forth Cup for Fiorentina, but hardly a great squad. Hard workers may be, tough surely, stars – no. But here is a young boy who eventually became instrumental part of the revival of Italian football and of the next generation of great stars – even without names provided, it is not difficult to spot him by following the 1970s rule of thumb: long hair signifies greatness. Giancarlo Antognoni was just a promising youngster in 1975. He was only 21 years old, but already debuted for the national team in 1974. Unfortunately, he was born on April 1 – the Fools Day… may be he will not be anything special, just another empty promise? 1975 was a skeptical year – and Savoldi was the ‘sure’ man of the future, not Antognoni. But that is why we have the Fools Day.