Saturday, September 29, 2012

New champion, new Cup holders, new members of First Division. Down in the Second layer the season ended with champions too. The newly promoted clubs were exactly new: Tatran (Presov) and Dukla (Banska Bystrica) often played in First Division. They were often relegated as well, especially Tatran. As for Dukla, they knew better days in the past, but as an Army club, they suffered double handicap – on one hand, the 'smaller brother' of Dukla (Prague) was hardly in a position to build great team, for inevitably the most gifted players would be taken to Prague. On the other hand, as a hated Communist-created club, their power diminished during the 'Czech Spring' and recovery was slow to come, just like the case of Dukla (Prague). Yet, it came... 'Big brother' winning the title and 'small brother' returning to First Division.

Tatran were relegated in 1974, along with Lokomotiva (Kosice), but unlike the fresh Cup winners, they were slower to return. But return they did. Typically for Second Division clubs, they had no famous players in he squad.

Coming back to top division was a long ordeal for Dukla – they suffered second division football since 1969. At last their desires prevailed and good for them! They were also in a better position to recruit stronger players than Tatran – a call for military service was able to get them whoever they wanted, as far as Dukla (Prague) did not desire the same player, of course. Hence, Dukla got European Champion for the next season – Jaroslav Pollak. Very likely Pollak was quite happy to be called for 'military duty' - his former club, VSS Kosice, was relegated, but he was to stay in First Division.

As far as shift of power was concerned, the newcomers to top flight negated the notion of Slovak decline, for both hail from Slovakia. But even with Pollak the newly promoted were not seen as a potential threat – they were quite a weak teams, destined to the lower half of the league, fighting for survival, and if lucky, escaping return to Second Division. Movers and shakers they were not; they had nice kits.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Changes are changes, but how definite they can be in football? Nothing is clear cut and especially in 1976-77, when changes were rather taking shape and far from obvious. Czech football was clearly not strong enough for complete domination. There was not a single club head and shoulders above the rest. Slovak football was not dead either. It was transitional time really. The Cup supports a view of transition, not a finality: a second division club won it in 1976. In 1976-77 edition the finalists were small fry so to say: Lokomotiva (Kosice) and SKLO Union (Teplice). Of course Cup tournaments escape logic or have their own logic, but it is interesting to contemplate the fact that none of the big clubs managed to reach the final. Since Czechoslovak Cup was unusual competition – separate Cup tournaments were held in Czechia and Slovakia and the winners met at a grand final contesting the federal cup – the failure of the big names was strange, particularly in Slovakia where two clubs were quite above the rest, Slovan and Inter from Bratislava. Larger pool existed in Bohemia and Moravia, yet small clubs won the local cups both in Czechia and Slovakia.

Lokomotiva (Kosice) were predictably unpredictable - this year happened to be strong one for them. They finished 5th in the championship and won the Slovak Cup. Good performance, keeping Slovak football alive and competitive, but may be they benefited from the weak season of Slovan and the limited potential of Inter, unable to compete strongly on two fronts. Anyhow, Lokomotiva were to represent Slovakia at the Czechoslovak Cup final. Their opponents were even more unlikely: SKLO Union had only one strong year since their foundation in 1945 – in 1972 they finished 3rd in the championship. Normally they occupied a place in the lower half of the table, as they did in 1976-77 as well, finishing 12th. To reach cup final was a big success indeed.

SKLO Union, aiming at the Cup: standing, from left: Vitu, Zensek, Machacek, Studenik (?), Sedlacek, Novak, Melichar, Thorovsky, Vejvoda.

Sitting: Stratil, Sourek (?), Bicovsky, Rygr – coach, Fajfert – assistant coach, Zalud, Koubek, Jirousek.

Not much of a team, otherwise they would not have been 12th, but not that bad either: Premysl Bicovsky was regular national team for some years and their biggest star, although the midfielder was not in the European champions' squad. Pavel Stratil and Zdenek Koubek were also playing for the national team now and then. These three provided class and as far as the opponents were of the kind of Lokomotiva (Kosice), perhaps Teplice even had the winning edge. Just perhaps, for it was a battle of equals and Teplice lost minimally 1-2.
Lokomotiva won their first trophy ever, a fine ending of fine season for the modest club. They were also young club – founded in 1946 – and perhaps even weaker historically than Teplice, for playing in the Second Division was like second nature to them. However, they had strong season and actually were at the beginning of their best spell in their history, although nobody knew it back then. They had even fewer well known names than SKLO Union – actually, only one name: Jozef Moder, but he kind of compensated the difference with quality. Moder not only a member of the national team, but a regular in the first eleven winning the European championship. On his wings Lokomotiva soared and won the Cup. And how wonderful it was back at home in Kosice – rubbing the nose of their younger (founded in 1952), but better known city rivals VSS, who had no trophy at all and were relegated this very season.

Monday, September 24, 2012

At the end it comes to champions to somewhat emphasize the shift of power in Czechoslovakia. Dukla (Prague) had the honour.

The name is familiar, of course, and even more so in the 1970s when the memories of the 1960s were still quite intact. In the first half of the 1960s Dukla was famous. May be they were not particularly loved at home, but abroad Dukla exemplified Czechoslovakian football. Since they were Communist creation, as everywhere else in Eastern Europe the 'true proletarian' club belonged to the Army and their strength was largely due to the simple fact that the Army, even without further state favouritism, was able to take players at will from other clubs – simple call for army service did the trick. But by mid-1960s the so-called 'Czech Spring' started and Dukla lost its privileged position. It may have been not only politics the major factor of decline, yet Dukla was no longer the same as before and ten years of followed when Dukla was playing second fiddle at best. The last championship was won in 1966. By 1976 there was only one player in the team of the last champion squad – Ivo Viktor. His great teammate of those long gone days Jozef Masopust was coaching Zbrojovka (Brno) – still close to the Army, or at least to the military industry, one may argue, but nothing to do with the 'real thing', Dukla. Another familiar name was coaching Dukla – Jaroslav Vejvoda, who came back from Poland in 1975. Vejvoda, a well respected coach, is not very well known, largely because there were few others like Vaclav Jezek with greater weight outside Czechoslovakia, thanks to the European Cup in particular. As for Vejvoda, it was his third stint at the helm of Dukla after two stints with Legia (Warszawa). The novelty of it is that Vejvoda alternated military teams – Dukla at home and Legia in Poland. He was the coach of the great 1960s Dukla, winning 5 titles with them, but he was less successful with Legia. In Poland, he had tougher opposition – Gurnik (Zabrze), Stal (Mielec), and Ruch (Chrozow). Ruch was coached by Michal Vican, who also led Slovan (Bratslava) to their great victories – in a sense, Vican blocked Vejvoda both in Czechoslovakia and Poland. Anyhow, Vejvoda came back in 1975, replacing his former star Jozef Masopust and craving revenge. And revenge he got: Slovan in midtable; Dukla – champions. Good 4 points ahead of the smaller 'enemy' from Bratislava, Inter, and with the best record in the league in terms of wins (18), least lost matches (6), the most goals scored (61), and tied with Banik (Ostrava) defensively, both teams allowing the least goals in the championship, 33 each. Dukla not only won a title after 10 years of drought, but remained the most succeful Czechoslovak club – it was their 9th title. Slovan had only 7. Revenge indeed.

May be not to everybody's taste, but Dukla brought the championship title back to Prague for the first time since 1967. Dukla were strong indeed – two European champions, Nehoda and Viktor, eventually joined by a third straight from the Slovak cradle, Slovan – Jan Svehlik. Few others were also aften included in the national team – Dvorak, Samek, Gajdusek – and others were close to that as well – Bendl, Fiala, and Bilsky. But the best of all was the new generation, who was to carry the torch of Czechosloakian success in the next few years: Netolicka, Stambachr, and Vizek. Well-rounded squad, quite young, yet, blending experience and fresh talent. Hungry for success too and representing best the shift of power back to Prague: it was a bit different football than the familiar technical, mellow brand typical for the Czechoslovaks, by now exemplified largely by Slovan and Spartak (Trnava). The new crop of Dukla players were less skillful, played rather dull football, depending on physicality and collectivity. It was coming closer to total football in the West German variety: constant pressure everywhere on the pitch. Not a flamboyant team, but in excellent condition. Perhaps its 'dulness' was the shortcoming – Dukla did not look like a new great team exploding into long domination. None of the players became a really great star – Svehlik kind of faded away in Dukla, and Vizek never became as famous as Nehoda (although they played different position in attack, Vizek eventually became the 'big' Dukla player around 1980). Not having the making of 'dynastic' squad, Dukla nevertheless represented changes of way of playing, which worked. They had the new crop of players already, soon replacing the loveable European champions of 1976 in the key positions of the national team. Dukla was the future. No matter that, perhaps the happiest among the new champions represented the past – the great goalkeeper Ivo Viktor, the only one who remembered the 1960s, for he was with Dukla since 1963. This was his 4th title, sweetly coming right after he captained Czechoslovakia to winning the European Championship in 1976. However, it was more or less symbolic success for him – the 34-years old keeper did not play at all in his last season. He was part of the team, but if you look at Wikipedia, 1976 is given there for his last active year. Netolicka played between the posts in the 1976-77 and even was invited to the national team, but Viktor was not retired formally and as a member of the squad became champion in his last season as a player. Why he did not play is hard to say now – goalkeepers are not exactly old at 34. Viktor performed excellently at the European finals, so it hard to believe he suddenly lost form. Netolicka was good, no doubt, but hardly better (he never established himself in the national team, for instance). May be Viktor was injured. May be Vejvoda wanted younger keeper, more intact with the new style of the team. Whatever it was, Viktor finished his playing days true to his name – a victor. How many veterans end their careers as champions both at home and internationally? But in a sense, the retirement of Viktor clearly suggests the change of winds: new football was coming with new heroes. And new kits – Dukla abandoned their traditional reddish-brown shirts for entirely yellow uniform, with which they were to play practically ever since.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

However, the Czechs were not yet the bright future either. Down in the final table were the Cup winners of 1976 Sparta. Another old and well known club from Prague – Bohemians – was still vegetating in mid-table. They had the big hero of the European championship campaign, Antonin Panenka, fine midfielder, who scored the decisive penalty kick against West Germany, but even he was not enough for more than 9th place. Banik (Ostrava) perhaps suffering the hangover from their title in 1976, was not a factor at all - 8th place. Much better was another club: Zbrojovka (Brno) – they finished 4th, just a point less than the bronze medalists, which was a pity, for Zbrojovka had better goal difference and if they got one more point, the bronze medals would have been theirs.

Zbrojovka, having name very familiar to people interested in weapons, belonged to the rifle factory – hence, the name. The factory provided 'the means of existence', but Brno is old strong football centre anyway. The club performed well and consistently was among the upper layer of Czechoslovak football in the 1970s. Similar to Banik (Ostrava) in that, and steadily getting better. They had only one player called to the national – Karel Kroupa – but the rest of the squad was experienced, well-rounded, and improving. The great star of the 1960s Jozef Masopust was coachimg them, apparently well. Zbrojovka was coming near maturity, meantime representing the increasing power of Czech clubs.

Slavia (Prague) finished third, more or less the best the 'sufferers' were able – or allowed - during Communism. Their climb to the top was not exactly steady, but Slavia had good team and pushed Slovak teams back as well. Three players – Biros, Dusan Herda, and Frantisek Vesely – were members of European champions, although only the veteran Vesely played at the finals. The team was more than those three, though – Peter Herda, Klimes, and Starek were also candidates for the national team. The rest were dependable, well reputed players. Perhaps Slavia had not a team really up to winning the title, but they were close and certainly better team than most of the Slovaks.

Bronze medals for these guys and well deserved too. Standing from left: Jan Luza, Robert Segmuller, Jan Mares, Miroslav Starek, Zdenek Klimes, Pavol Biros.

Crouching: Jiri Grospic, Dusan Herda, Peter Herda, Josef Bouska, Frantisek Vesely.

Slavia contributed to restoration of Prague's leading place in Czechoslvakian football with their third place. Well over thirty, Frantisek Vesely was not thinking of retirement – he was to play abroad yet in a rather bizarre deal.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Slovan and Spartak (Trnava) exemplified the decline of Slovak football, but it was not sudden collapse – the shift of power was slowly developing, it was not definite at all. Banik (Ostrava), the first Czech club to win the championship after ten years of Slovak champions, also slipped in 1976-77 – the champions of 1975-76 finished 7th. Apparently, they were not strong enough team to stay permanently on top, although they were consistently among the better Czechoslovakian clubs during the 1970s. Sparta (Prague) were still weak – they won the Cup in 1976, still playing in the Second Division, which they won as well, but back in First, Sparta only struggled to escape relegation, finishing 13th, only 2 points ahead of Spartak (Trnava). Neither the champion, not the Cup winner of 1976 suggested Czech domination and Slovak football still had some teeth left. Lokomotiva (Kosice) was 5th in the championship and did better in the Cup.

Inter (Bratislava) was second – two more lost games were the whole difference between them and the new champions. But both strong Slovak clubs this season only showed the relative decline: Lokomotiva were bizarre club: one season among the best, the next barely escaping relegation, going from one extreme to the opposite, and no strangers to Second Division either. Inter (Bratislava) were strong and consistent during the 1970s, having nice squad, led by fine national team players – Petras and Jurkemik, both European champions in 1976 – but let's face it: with Slovan across town as neighbour and rival, Inter never stand a chance of becoming really great team. Yes, they were strong and good, but even during weak years of Slovan the best players preferred its sky-blue kit to the yellow-black one of Inter. Inter, at best, were able to stay among the top five clubs in the league, getting silver or bronze now and then, but championship title was beyond their reach.

Inter in a way showed the secondary position Slovak football was slowly taking. ZVL Zilina was more representative club of the Slovak case – old (founded 1908), but never strong team, their best was midtable position. They finished 10th this year, nothing surprising.

ZVL Zilina: sitting, from left: Tomanek, Sulgan, Beles, Knapec, Rusnak, Chobot.

Middle row: Kral, Ilavsky, Sepesi (?), Staskovan, Fric, Murarik.

Third row: Smehil (?), Dubek (?), Vojtek (?), Mintal, Galvanek.

It was not their final place in the table surprising, but the fact that some Zilina players were included in the Czechoslvoak B-national team. On the surface, it looked like Slovak football was still carrying the torch of the future, especially when the low place of the club was taken into account. Yet, B-national teams rarely supply real national teams with players and such teams play sporadically, never attracting much attention. Often they provide a brake for A-team players, partly trying promising candidates, but also in part providing some pseudo-international chance to veterans and good, but second-rate guys. As it turned out, no one of this Zilina squad made it to the A-national team and abroad the names mean nothing. In Czechoslovakia these boys meant nothing too, I am afraid. The Slovaks were not the future of Czechoslovak football.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The real sign were the very clubs ruling Czechoslovak football for almost ten years: Slovan (Bratislava) and Spartak (Trnava). Spartak (Trnava) was already fading away for at least two years. Their attack was the worst in the league - the only club scoring less than a goal per game, to a miserable total of 26. They still finished with only 3 points less than Slovan, but only 3 points was the difference between Spartak and Frydek-Mistek. They avoided relegation, ending at 14th place, however, with worse goal difference than unfortunate Frydek-Mistek. The end of Spartak (Trnava) was official: in the special issue of sportmagazine 'Start' (Bratislava), presenting the league in the summer of 1976 Spartak was called 'team with great past':

About present and future – nothing. And symbolic were the white kit they used... entirely white. True, Spartak are nicknamed 'white angels', but during their best years they played with red-black striped shirts. The white kit looked like surrender.

The story of Spartak's fall is eternal and therefore familiar one: a small provincial club makes a strong team and suddenly rises to the top. As years go by, players age and one after another retire. The club is unable to replace them with neither young local talent or players from other clubs: local pool is too small to consistently produce quality youngsters and for outside players, the club has nothing to attract them. The club keeps their now old stars as long as possible, but they are no longer any help and the decline is rapid. By now only Masrna, Geryk, Dobias, Kuna, Kabat, and Adamec remained from the original great squad. Only Karol Dobias was called to the national team (he was European champion in 1976), but even he was already 29 years old at the beginning of the season. The rest was nearing retirement and pale shadows of the players they were not long ago. Jozef Geryk was rather symbolic member of the team, for he practically did not play . The only good player Spartak produced, the goalkeeper Dusan Keketi, was no longer with the club – another clear sign of the end... players leaving, not coming. Dobias was going to jump ship as well in the next few years.

Since Spartak was one of the two key clubs representing the Slovak domination, their fall was a sign of major shift in Czechoslovak football. It was aggravated by the weak season of Slovan (Bratislava) – they finished 8th, in midtable, and just a place bellow the champions of 1975-76, Banik (Ostrava). It was a bit puzzling, for Slovan had 7 players in the Czechoslovak European champion squad and 5 of them were regulars. With so many continental champions, it did not look like the team was going to vegetate in mid-table, but to be prime contender for the title, as usual. On top of it Michal Vican came back from Poland to coach them – and he was not only successful coach, but the very maker of the strong Slovan's team. He knew the boys well, he was not a newcomer unfamilar and strange to the players. Yet, Slovan were poor show and far away from the top of the table.
From left, standing: Vican – coach, Jan Capkovic, Jozef Capkovic, Pekarik, Matula, Ondrus, Vencel, Haraslin, Nemec, Kristof, Hrdlicka – assistant coach.

Kneeling: Nezhiba (?), Elefant, Gogh, Masny, Pivarnik, Novotny, Mrva

Unlike Spartak, Slovan's problem was not the age of individual players, but rather the team's age. A great squad has about 5 years span, generally reaching its best on the third or forth year and showing signs of exhaustion on the fifth. After that decline follows, unless the team is radically rebuilt. Slovan was using the same players almost since 1969, when they won the Cup Winners Cup. Yes, Vican coached them back then. Vencel and the Capkovic brothers as well. Ondrus, Gogh, Masny, Novotny, Pivarnik, Elefant came in the dawn of the 1970s – it was the same team year after year and by 1976-77 it was a bit over the hill, its span at its last legs. Unfortunately, most players were still quite young – rather in their prime as players, between 25 and 28 years old, which was deadly: who would be crazy enough to replace players in their best years and fresh European champions on top of it? But it was tired team and the 8th place was sign not of hangover after winning European title, but sign of serious illness: this team was not to rule Czechoslovakian football any more.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Like Hungary, there was a shift of power going on in Czechoslovakia, but in opposite direction – in Hungary, it was moving from the capital to the provinces; in Czechoslovakia – from provinces to the centre, from Slovakia to Czechia-Moravia, and from Bratislava to Prague. Like the Hungarian change, the Czechoslovakian one was not in full force yet, although it was on already more advanced stage. However, given the success of 1976, when Czechoslovakia won the European Championship, the results of the following season were somewhat strange. The clubs giving the bulk of the winning squad kind of underperformed. Clubs practically without national team players dominate the national tournaments. Some losers were expected – no one thought Jednota (Trencin), ZVL Zilina, SKLO Union (Teplice), and even less VP Frydek-Mistek capable of anything higher better than 10th place. None performed a miracle and Frydek-Mistek, a rare bird in First Division, finished 15th and returned to its normal habitat, the Second Division.

VP Frydek-Mistek - their stay in First Division lasted precisely one year and was never repeated. So, this 15th place is the highest achievement of the small club.

But at least they fought and tried to prolong their stay among the best – in contrast, VSS Kosice were pathetic. They finished last, 16th, with only 14 points. Seven points less than Frydek-Mistek. Not long ago VSS Kosice inhabited the upper half of the league's table and was considered tough, steady club, part and parcel of the Slovak domination. Yet, their relegation was not the bigger sign of Slovak decline.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

No matter how good Vasas were, a general weakness of Hungarian football was still detectable: not only Vasas was unfit for a double, but the Cup went to entirely surprising team. Not even from Budapest! The Cup format was unusual as well: instead of traditional ½ finals and final, there was 4-team round robin final stage. At the end, Ferencvaros finished second-placed, one more indication that Fradi were not ready for real achievement. Above them finished DVTK.

DVTK hails from the city of Miskolc and its full name is a mouthful: “Diosgyori Vasgyarak Testgyakolro Kore” . It means “Diosgyor-Ironworks Sport Club”. As many Hungarian clubs, DVTK, or Diosgyor, as it is better known outside Hungary, is old club – founded in 1910 – and also as many other Hungarian clubs, it was working-class club. Actually, akin to the champions of the year, Vasas, founded in 1911 by members of the Hungarian Union of Iron Workers. In theory, workers clubs were to benefit once the country became 'workers paradise', but this is only theory. Unlike Vasas, DVTK was provincial club, remaining small and doomed – the fate of such clubs, no matter of the political structure, is to be robbed by the big clubs. DVTK, therefore, had modest history, dwelling in the lower regions of First Division, occasionally moving down to the Second. Success meant survival in the top league and until 1977 DVTK did not win anything. It was not expected to win this year either – they played their usual football in the championship, finishing 10th, with 7 points more than the relegated 17th finisher. The Cup was beyond their dreams as well: according to their coach, the whole ambition was to end among the last 8 clubs in the tournament. Once they advanced to the final round-robin stage, the idea of success was slightly modified: to give good fight to the big clubs, to die without shame, so to say. This was to be achieved by extra physical training. Eventually, the devil proved not to be all that scary, and DVTK managed to kill it – perhaps to their own surprise they finished first and the Cup was theirs. Their very first trophy ever! Such moments are great. May be the big clubs were not really strong, may be they were too arrogant – it doesn't matter: Diosgyor got the Cup.

Proud Cup winners. No players to speak of, but collective effort paid off. DVTK experienced their 'golden years' after 65 years of suffering. With Vasas champions, the season of 'ironworkers' was completed. With Videoton and Raba ETO steadily performing and DVTK winning the Cup, a change of status quo was detectable – the slow shift of power from Budapest to the industrial provincial towns. It came to full bloom in the first half of the 1980s, but the signs of challenge were already present.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Although MTK and Czepel were not a factor in the championship, Budapest continued to rule Hungarian football: the first four in the table were not only from Budapest, but head and shoulders above the rest of the league. Honved finished 4th, clearly far, far away from the class of their legendary team from the 1950s, but pushing ahead with a crop of new players. The squad was still too young to really challenge the dominant teams, but it was improving and restoring the 'normal' position of the Army club – among the best.

On the other hand, Ferencvaros, the champions of 1975-76, slipped down a bit, to bronze medals. Tibor Nyilasi was already a big star – perhaps the best Hungarian player already – but the team was somewhat young, unfinished, and unable yet of domination.

Bronze medals were not exactly satisfying demanding fans, asking for nothing but titles. To a point, lost season for the Fradi, who came close, but lost both championship and Cup. Well respected Jenő Dalnoki coached bright squad, somewhat short of great: along with Nyilasi, a host of national team players here – Pusztai, Rab, Hajdu, Ebedli, Megyesi, Balint, Mucha, Onhausz, Martos. But somehow they lacked something, except Balint. Perhaps the veterans were revealing the slight weakness of the squad: Vepi and Mucha were hardly noticeable players in the days when Florian Albert, team's technical director by now, was dazzling crowds at home and abroad.

Second place went to Ujpesti Dosza – the club was already a second season without a championship, but still was prime contender. 22 wins and only 6 lost matches, 88 goals scored – quite a performance. Unfortunately, not good enough for the title.
Ujpesti Dosza were the opposite of Ferencvaros – their familiar squad, dominant so far since the beginning of the 1970s, was getting long in the tooth. They were still strong enough to maintain top position in Hungarian football, but were not getting better anymore. It was the twilight – when Ferencvaros were coming up, the Viola was slowly going down.

Between those who were not ready yet to dominate and those declining laid an opportunity for a squad may be not really great, but strong and ripe enough, in its prime. Such was Vasas (Budapest). The best years of the club were the 1960s, the first half of the decade really, when they were the strongest force in Hungarian football. Perhaps just because of its central position, Vasas never really faded into oblivion, but nevertheless reality was harsh: Hungarian football was practically concentrated in Budapest, but in the capital the competition was stiff – Ujpesti Dosza, Ferencvaros, and Honved were the mightiest clubs in every respect. Vasas was more or less second tier... along with MTK and Csepel. Higher than few others, who rarely reached First Division. Objectively, for a club like Vasas success depended largely on temporary weakness of the grands. Good team, upper half of the table, but... mid-table club. There were some minor advantages in that – unlike the rest of Communist Eastern Europe, Communist Party officials were not permitted to meddle in football. Janos Kadar, the leader of the Hungarian Communist Party, was Vasas fan and during the 1960s was often seen at the stands. Yet, he did not 'influence' the Football Federation and did not 'help' Vasas. But the same 'lack of governmental support' suffered the big clubs too, which resulted in something healthy: club like Vasas was able to keep its best players and build good squad in peace. Occasionally, such a club was able to win on its own merit. 1976-77 was Vasas' season.

It was quite a comfortable win: Vasas won 25 out of 34 championship matches, losing only 6. At the end, the champions had comfortable 3-points cushion, leaving Ujpesti Dosza well behind. Twenty-five wins suggest attacking football, but it was more than that: Vasas scored 100 goals during the season! 100 goals is something remarkable and rare in the whole football history. No matter strong or weak championship, such scoring stands out, and even more so, for Vasas did not have the best strikers in Hungary. It was fantastic for the club and its fans: the last time Vasas was champion was in the distant 1966. After ten years of grief, the title was theirs again. Perhaps it was the policy of the club – back then coaches were not changed every year, but usually worked in the same club for a long time, but even in these culture Vasas was special. Rudolf Illovszky, a former player of the club, was already a legend – it was his 5th stint at the helm of the club, the first starting in 1957. The golden years of Vasas were his management and this was already 4th title he brought home, after 1961, 1962, and 1965. And it was not just a brief return of Illovszky either: he took the team back n 1974 and carefully drove it the another title.
A good squad Illovszky built: Toeroek, Varady, Szoeke, Kovacs. Sandor Mueller developed into one the best Hungarian midfielders of the time. Perhaps the biggest star was the goalkkeper Ferenc Meszaros, a staple of the national team for many years. Vasas lacked superstars, but had dependable well-rounded team just in its prime. The victory was well deserved and the champions were delight to watch scoring goals.

One more photo of the champions – I have soft spot for Vasas kits.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Hungarian league was distinctly separated - 4 clubs way above the rest and big tight group bellow, more or less equal. Ten points divided the 4th placed Honved from the 5th, Haladas, but the difference between the 5th and relegated 17th club was 11 points. The bottom was occupied by teams normally playing hide and seek with relegation:

Dunaujvaros – 15th, 2 points safe from relegattion.

Top, from left: Andriska Vilmos segédedző, Kerekes, Judik Péter, Horváth Zoltán, Novák Dezső vezetőedző, Paizs János, Szepesi László, Boromissza Lajos, Sulia Ottó gyúró.

Middle row: Mártha Sándor, Staller János, Tóth István, Kántor Sándor, Tímár Dezső, Keller, Fajt László.

Front: Németh György, Formaggini Károly, Badi Miklós, Klement András, Fajkusz László, Bartók István, Szűcs János, Majzlinger Sándor.

Kaposvari Rakoczi finished 14th thanks to better goal difference and for them it was almost a success season.

Top row, from left: Göncz István pályaedző, Németh, Ágfalvi, Zentai, Duschák, Nagy, Kiss László, Mathesz Imre vezetőedző.

In the middle: Horváth, Patyi, Márton, Kováts, Turai, Petrók, Buús.

First row: Éger, Konrád, Földesi, Mater, Varga, Máté, Kanyar.

Szeged perhaps slipped down a bit, but still in their usual zone – 12th.

Top, from left: Himmer István vezetőedző, Lancsa György, Vass Ferenc dr., Nagy István, Hágelmann Endre, Hojszák István, Pataki Tamás pályaedző.

Middle row: Kozma II György., Zámbori Mihály, Kádár Lajos, Wenner Vilmos, Birinyi István, V.Tóth Mihály, Szalay István.

Front: Gyovai Döme Lajos, Hangai ?, Kőműves Mihály, Bencze János, Egervári Sándor, Jerney István, Hegedűs Ferenc.

Zalaegerszeg TE – 11th with 'perfect' goal difference: 47-47.

Top, from left: Szőcs János vezetőedző, Déri László, Szatmári, Péter Zoltán, Mihalecz István, Molnár László, Gáspár Gyula, Bolemányi János.

Middle: Fodor József, Rácz László, Antoni János, Pusztai László, Kelemen Sándor, Kocsis II, Buti, Bognár György gyúró.

Bottom: Csepregi László, Soós István, Józsi György, Bogáti Attila, Szentes Lázár, Tóth Gyula.

MTK – once upon a time mighty club, but now rather ordinary. Not troubled by relegation fears, but nothing special either - 8th place.

The teams above were either going downhill or stayed at their usual zones. But others were going up – it was difficult to distinct them from the rest yet, but the next two were going to make their strong impact in the early 1980s. They were still in making and shaping.

Raba ETO – they were solidly in the first half of the table in the last few years. 7th in 1976-77.

Top row, from left: Baumann J., Magyar L., Gombás, Horváth F., Pásztor F., Pozsgai L., Brandisz M., Pardavi K., Csiszér F., Izsáki L.

Middle row: Füzi G., Stolc J., Horváth L., Miles S., Földes., Somogyi J., Pénzes., Varsányi T.

Bottom: Pocsai, Szokolai L., Varga J., Szabó O., Glázer R., Cs. Kovács L., Hegedüs, Horváth L.

Videoton - 6th this season and similarly to Raba ETO, on the rise and firmly in the top half by now. And another similarity: both Raba ETO and Videoton were 'factory' clubs, so to say, from provincial towns. Backed up by strong industrial complexes, they had the money and therefore able to improve. But their days did come yet – still Budapest ruled.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

It looked brighter in Hungary – quite a few highly talented players and interesting season. Surprising results at the end. Attacking football was dominant and with it – high scoring. And fans love goals, the more the better. Thirteen teams finished with at least 10 wins the 34-round championship, including relegated Salgotarian BTC. In a sharp contrast, only three clubs finished with 10 or more ties. Unfortunately, the 1976 champions Ferencvaros hold the record number of ties – 11. They also had the best defense, which allowed 42 goals, but thus rather defensive-minded strategy did not help them for anything better than 3rd place. Bronze was not all that bad, yet, it was clear that Ferencvaros was not ready to establish strong grip on the title. Once again they finished behind the arch-rival Ujpesti Dozsa, lagging by three points. Correspondingly, Fradi's attack was third best as well, scoring 78 goals. Honved was left behind, though – they finished 4th, a point behind Ferencvaros, with second best defense and 4th attack. The next behind Honved – Haladas VSE – was really behind: 10 points behind. Among the more or less equal rest of the league Videoton and Raba ETO were getting stable in the first half of the table. On the other hand MTK and Czepel were fading – once upon a time both clubs were feared, but presently success was in the distant past: MTK, or MTK-VM, as the name went after their merger with Volan (Budapest), were clearly mid-table team, finishing 8th. Czepel was in sharp decline, though: only a single point saved them relegation. 16th place was hardly a comfort. The unlucky once were Dorog, hopelessly last. They occupied the last spot pretty much the whole season, earning measly 16 points from 5 wins and 6 ties.

Dorogi Banyasz Sport Club – the dead meat of the Hungarian league.

Third row, from left: Horváth, Pásztor, Péntek, Sándor,Kiss, Szabó, Schnitzer.

Middle: Varga edző, Gabala, Eipel, Peszeki, Engelbrecht, Ivanics vezetőedző.

Front row: Balogh, Tóth, Major, Csapó, Bartalos.

Ahead of them were Salgotarjan BTC, who at least fought to the end and had a chance to survive: with 25 points, they were not that far behind from the 13th placed Bekescsaba, who finished with 28 points.
Salgotarjan feeling the cold not only in winter: they fought to the end, but went down to Second Division.

Top, from left: OIáh Dezsö pályaedző, Miklós, Jeck, a nemrégiben kartörést szenvedett csapatkapitány, Répás, Angyal, Kmetty, Kovács II, Varga, Dávid Róbert vezetőedző.

Middle row: Szűcs, Orosházi, Cséki, Marta, Loch, Lajkó, Bolázs.

First row: Szoó, Kovács III, Tóth, Básti, Marcsok, Mohácsi.

Relegated teams rarely have any noticeable players. May be only Szoo of Salgotarjan and Csapo of Dorog.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Rangers, having the best defense, finished second, yet, the champions of the last two years were not contenders this season. 9 points behind the champions. Rangers failed in everything: they lost the F.A. Cup final. In the League Cup ½ they were destroyed 5-1 by Aberdeen. At the end – nothing.

Not so for Aberdeen. They were apparently on the rise. Bronze medals in the championship were sweet after few mediocre years. And there was even better moment: winning the League Cup, in November 1976, in front of almost 70 000 fans. Celtic was bested 2-1, thanks to goals by Jarvie and Robb. Kenny Dalglish scored from penalty, but that was all for Celtic.

Strong season for Aberdeen – a Cup and bronze in the championship. May be Scottish football was getting better suddenly?

May be not. Celtic came back with a vengeance, confidently winning the championship and then adding the F.A. Cup as well. Losing the League Cup final by a goal was perhaps not a big disappointment – strong overall season. Leaving Glasgow Rangers in the dust.

There was no question who was number one. Swell, but really... were Celtic great? They had strong enough team by Scottish standards, yet, 'standards' of that particular time. Only Kenny Dalglish had the making of big star. And it was clear that every better player, Dalglish included, will move to Englsih club as soon as possible. Unfortunately, even Celtic was not able to keep good players at home. No wonder Scottish clubs were looking abroad for talent – thus, Iceland had a champion player: Johannes Edvaldsson. However nice, even this spelled out trouble: Scottish clubs were too poor to get players from better countries – they were able to scoop talent from the periphery of the soccer universe. Let's face it: Edvaldsson was not Dalglish. Sure, 'Shuggy' was competent professional, who played already for Metz (France) and Holbaek (Denmark), but... The future was not bright.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Another reformed league, the Scottish one, failed to produce the positive change witnessed in Switzerland and Austria. It was old same, old same in misty Scotland – Celtic and Glasgow Rangers. There was heroic stunt, thanks to Dundee, but even that was mixed. Dundee, by now in Second Division – or Scottish Division 1, as it was named after the reform – finished third. It was not even missing promotional spot – Dundee were out of the race really, lagging 8 points behind second placed Clydebank. Dundee looked like favourites in the new 14-team division, but they were not. High scoring, yet, with leaky defense, promotion was not up to this squad. But they shined in the Scottish F.A. Cup, reaching ½ finals. Not bad, but hardly enough for their fans.

So-so season for Dundee.

Same for Heart of Midlothian – in the previous season they were in mid-table and F.A. Cup finalists. Cup tournaments were still up to them – they fought their way to ½ finals in both F.A. and League Cups, where they lost by the bigwigs, Celtic and Rangers. The championship was even bitterer pill to swallow: they finished second to last, at 9th place, and were relegated. Thus, Dundee was to have company in the next season. Kilmarnock, promoted in 1976, ended last and went back to second division.

The unfortunates were replaced by St. Miren and Clydebank. For Clydebank it was all the way up – they were promoted from 3rd Division in 1976 and one year later were going to the Premier league.

So much for relegation and promotion. The rest of business as usual n the mud and the rain. Aberdeen finished third, more or less expected from the nominally 'third' Scottish club. Lovely Hibernian was satisfied with mid-table position, slipping from third in 1976 to 6th in 1977.

If anything, at least their kit was pretty as ever. Unfortunately, kits don't win matches. Winning was not the forte of Hibernian this year – with only 8 wins, only the relegated clubs had less. But ties was the specialty of the Hibs – 18 out of total 36 season games. Half of the matches! Record of the league, but spelling nothing better than middle place in the final table.