Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The second 1976 championship was no fun either. The spring champions were… ‘also runs’ in the fall, finishing 6th. Once again, their attack was a disaster, scoring only 15 goals. Once again, the defense fared better, allowing only 13 goals. Once again hald the league scored same or more goals than Dinamo (Moscow). They were out of the championship race, not a contender. Ararat (Erevan), 2nd in the spring, outdid the champions, though: they finished 14th, escaping relegation with a victory in the last match of the season! Clearly, Markarov’s ‘revolution’ (defensive football) was bringing fruits… only one team received more goals than Ararat. The strong performance in the spring was an illusion – the Armenians were going into change of generations, the old mighty squad was retiring and there was not enough young talent to replace them. Plummeting into mediocrity was beginning… Shakhter (donetzk) also went down in the fall, but other clubs climbed high. In fact, only two clubs remained stable – Dinamo (Tbillisi) and Karpaty (Lvov), who ended at the same places as in the spring – 3rd and 4th, with Karpaty once again the best scoring team in the league. The fall champions were more than surprise: they came from nowhere – Torpedo (Moscow) finished 12th in the spring, with negative goal difference and appearing to be in trouble with their leaky defense and poor attack. If anything, their defense improved in the fall and Torpeado somewhat mirrored the Dinamo (Moscow) spring success – they clinched minimal wins, keeping their sheet clean (only 9 goals received – Dinamo allowed 8 in the spring) and scoring sparsely. And just like Dinamo (Moscow), 1976 was to be the last ‘great’ year for Torpedo – it was their 3rd and last title, the second won in distant 1965. Top, left to right: V. Shustikov – assistant coach, Yu. Zolotov – ‘disciplinary head coach’, G. Kamensky – administrator, Yu. Mironov, A. Zarapin, A. Degtyarev, V. Belousov, S. Prigoda, A. Elizarov, N. Khudiev, V. Buturlakin, V. Ivanov – head coach, A. Proyaev – team’s doctor, B. Alexandrov – physical coach, V. Petrov – masseur.
Bottom row: S. Grishin, V. suchilin, V. Yurin, V. Filatov, V. Sakharov, V. Kruglov, A. Belenkov, E. Hrabrostin, S. Petrenko.
The squad was less famous than Dinamo (Moscow) – just a few occasionally were invited to the national team, and as whole, were ‘second class’ players, so to say. Nothing surprising in that, for traditionally small Torpedo had no chance to recruit big names, but because of that they were traditionally tied and dependable squad. Their victory was much sweeter than the one of Dinamo – at least for me, for I like the underdog – but what if it was a normal season? Well, if spring and fall are combined (artificial combination, for the aims at the spring had nothing to do with those in the fall for many a club), strangely the only consistent clubs were to finish… 2nd and 3rd with 35 points each. Torpedo was to end 4th. Champions were to be Dinamo (Moscow) with 38 points. Such combination is telling only one thing: 1976 was very, very mediocre year for Soviet football – champions with barely 63% points out of the possible maximum! And Dinamo (Kiev) outside the top four places.
Consistency paid back in the Cup tournament: Ararat (Erevan), still riding their spring good form, reached the final, where they were meet Dinamo (Tbillisi). Since the spring was gone by the time the final was played, it became one-team show… the Georgians confidently destroyed their Armenian neighbours 3-0.
Ararat’s goalkeeper saved this ball, but he was unable to stop endless Georgian attacks.
It was triumph of attacking football and perhaps the only bright moment in 1976. Dinamo (Tbillisi) were fun. Creative, technical, entertaining, and scoring. No ‘but’ about them. First row, left to right: V. Koridze, A. Mudzhiri, V. Gutzaev, V. Kopaleyshvili, R. Chelebadze, Z. Tzereteli, D. Gogia, G. Machaidze.
Second row: N. Akhalkatzi – coach, N. Dzyapshipa – club’s chief, Sh. Hinchagashvili, D. Kipiani, N. Hizanishvili, M. Machaidze, P. Kanteladze, A. Chivadze, E. Ebralidze, M. Gogoshidze, S. Metreveli – assistant coach, E. Telia – team’s doctor, V. Chelidze.
This was the first, yet unfinished, great team built by Nodar Akhalkatzi: well known names, getting long in the tooth, along with bright youngsters. Skill was never a problem in Georgia; the problem was moodiness. The former was mainly the reason national team coaches turning their backs to Tbillisi – the fantastic winger (when mood striked him right) Gutzaev is perhaps the best example. But there was a new vintage which was to made lasting impression in USSR and Europe: Hinchagashvili, Manuchar Machaidze, Chivadze, and Kipiani. Especially David Kipiani! What a great player he was becoming. If there was hope for Soviet football, it was in the legs of the Georgians and their consistency in 1976 was a big promise for the future.