Monday, July 16, 2012

Ranking, always relative and unconvincing, at the end is subjective matter. To me, French football quietly survived its crisis and after 1975 was steadily on the rise. Talented new players emerged, but since French clubs never had the kind of money Italians and Spaniards had 'big' clubs did not develop. At least not in European sense. French football continued to be pleasant and kind of unpredictable – talent was scattered, making teams fairly equal. The championship was not any other – clubs performing well this year may be relegated the next. Unlike England, where rise and fall were gradual, in France it was sudden. Yet, instability did not prevent development and by 1976 there were clear signs of general ascent. Of course, it was not obvious in real time, but seen better from a distance. Three clubs won promotion at the end of 1976-77 season. Familiar names.

AS Monaco won Group A of the Second Division. It was fairly quick return from 'exile', but Monaco were not overwhelming champions. Rather, their return was shy – their record was hardly great, having neither the best defense, nor the best strikers in Group A. They finished 3 points ahead of second placed FC Gueugnon.

Returning to First Division after two years of misery. Delio Onnis was the best scorer of Group A with 30 goals – no matter which division the Argentine played in, he scored and scored. Chauveau was reliable between the goalposts – the experienced goalkeeper, still ranked among the best in France, may have been surprised to play second division football, but he was coming back. So was the other deadly striker – Dalger. Still second division player in the first half of 1977, Dalger was going to play at the 1978 World Cup. Add the team captain Petit – the 'skeleton' of Monaco was strong, providing for building of better team around it.

RC Strasbourg won the Group B, another familiar name, returning to its 'rightful' place. Unlike Monaco , Strasbourg really dominated their league. With 84 goals they outscored by far everybody else, but their defense was no joke as well – it was also the best: only 26 goals in 34 games. Strasbourg did not have to fret – they finished confidently, 5 points ahead of nearest pursuer.

Like Monaco, Strasbourg had strong 'skeleton' of players who hardly belonged to second division: the future famous coach Ivica Osim and the former member of the great Ajax, Schilcher, were the foreigners. Dropsy between the posts, who was to go all the way from second division to the national team. Albert Gemmrich, well known name at the time, added strength to the attack – he ended as the best scorer of the league with 24 goals. Like Monaco, Strasbourg seemingly had good chance to become a force.

Second in Group B finished another familiar name – FC Rouen. They won the play-off for the third promotional spot and also returned to first division football.

Standing: Armando Bianchi, Joannes, Lemaître, Polny, Amouret, Guillolet, Bienaimé, Vitulin, Gili, Jouanne, Pancho González.
First row: Bansaye, Carrié, ???, Weiss, Poli, Bourebbou, Horlaville, Peña, Jorge Trezeguet.

Unlike Monaco and Strasbourg, Rouen did not have cluster of stars. From the distance of time, one player catches attention: Trezeguet. Familiar name? Well, this one could be only by association – he is the father of the superstar David Trezeguet. Having the father did not make Rouen stronger team – given their record, Rouen was likely to fight only for survival in the first division. As for Monaco and Strasbourg – just wait one year. Both teams were to contribute to the general improvement of French football.