Saturday, February 18, 2012

Better, worse – evaluations are questionable. Very likely the 1975-76 season was the turning point for the French football – the dreadful years of insignificance, if not decline, ended. The tide turned for better. But positive changes do not bring immediate results. Besides, if someone is climbing up, there is another sliding down, which makes overall estimation shaky. On one hand, the mid-70 were the years of reforms, introduced with the hope of revitalize football. USSR, Scotland, Austria, Switzerland were the best known examples, but France introduced changes as well: the major concerns were low scores, stiff tactics, and increasingly smaller gates. The French approach was giving an extra point to a team winning by more 3 or more goals difference in the First Division (introduced in 1973-74) and in the Second Division – an extra point for every win by 2 goals difference. Was the new scheme helping or not is perhaps debatable, but there was no big fuss in France at the time: scoring was not exactly affected by the encouragement – Metz, 6th placed at the finals table, produced the best record of 72 goals. This is less than 2 goals per game average. As for extra points, the best number was 7, achieved by three clubs – Nice, Metz, and Nancy. Note, that the champions of the year did not lead in scoring and big wins, but had the best defense. Best, but kind of leaky… 39 goals allowed in 38 matches. Numbers alone hardly suggest general improvement. On the other hand, there was young generation of exciting players coming into maturity and a French club played at the European Champions Cup final. Sounds good… but some familiar clubs were either struggling or outright declining and there was no new name establishing itself as a major force.
At the bottom of the table finished clubs supporting critical views: Monaco, Strasbourg, and Avignon were relegated.
Avignon finished last in their first season in First Division. There is no surprise seeing absolute beginners going down immediately, but at the same time it was clear that Second Division was not producing teams able to handle top flight, let alone shaking the status quo.
Bottom, from left: Leroy, Jean, Castellan, Chazaretta, Pech.
Top: Hoffmann, Gilles, Joly, Palermini, Herbet, Louis.
The aging Argentine star Chazaretta, brought in 1975 especially to add class to the team, was not enough… and Avignon sunk back to Second Division, never to emerge again.
Strasbourg finished 19th and Monaco – 18th. Different story, although not a positive one – well known and respected clubs both, but given to wide and wild amplitudes. Unpredictable, at best… one year among the contenders and struggling to avoid relegation the next. Both clubs were joining Second Division for the second time since 1970. Strasbourg, infamously 19th: Bottom, from left: Lehmann, Wagner, Tonnel, Gemmrich, Dugueperoux.
Top: Dropsy, Specht, Zamojski, Spiegel, Deutschmann, Erlacher.
May be not much of a team, yet, having players like Gemmrich and Specht, who suggested something better than relegation. Hard to imagine goalkeeper going to play Second Division to become national team player, but… it will come soon. Back, left to right: Petit, Chauveau, Pleimelding, Vanucci, Feuillerat, Burkle
Front: Dalger, Guignedoux, Onnis, Pastoriza, Lechantre
Does it look like Second Division team? With well known players like Pleimelding, Vanucci, Petit; national team prospects – Chauveau; national team regular – Dalger; and two Argentine stars – Onnis and Pastoriza. Delio Onnis was the top goalscorer of France in 1975 – and now going to Second!
Monaco and Starsbourg are interesting case: both clubs were to be French champions very, very soon. Impossible to imagine in the summer of 1976, when the best prediction one would have made was that Monaco and Strasbourg were most likely joining the ranks of the clubs in limbo, constantly moving between First and Second Division. The freshly promoted clubs were typical of those: Rennes, Angers, and, to a point, Laval. Too strong for Second; too weak for First… Rennes and Angers were returning after short absence, but were not expected to be major improvement of the First Division. Their predicament was to struggle for survival; to play a season or two, and face relegation again. Looked like Monaco and Strasbourg were rapidly becoming similarly insignificant unsettled clubs.