Monday, October 8, 2012

Yet, who can honestly claim there is no drama in second division football?

What a great save! Practically unknown goalkeeper of Spartak (Ivano-Frankovsk) T. Beley heroically kept his net clean against Dinamo (Minsk).

And here the 'small boys' even for Second Division, Zvezda (Perm) are quite a problem for the players of Spartak (Moscow). Evgeny Lovchev, Valery Glushakov, and Victor Nozdrin (#2), in dark shirts, were supposed to walk over such an opposition.

And who would say there are no stars in second division?

Captain Alexander Prokhorov leads Spartak (Moscow) to the pitch. He was national team regular in 1976.

Evgeny Lovchev (Spartak Moscow) attacks Torpedo (Kutaisi). One of the best Soviet players in the 1970s, playing for the national team since 1970 and still part of it in 1977.
Georgy Yartzev, the new lethal striker of Spartak (Moscow). The defender of Metalurg (Zaporozhye) clearly unable to stop him. Coming from nowhere and leaving second division behind in a flash.

Looks good? Well... two second division players played for the national team in 1977 – E. Lovchev (Spartak Moscow) and V. Fedorov (Pakhtakor Tashkent). Second-division national team players are rarity everywhere, but as far as know, it was unprecedented in USSR, where the normal practice was to use largely the current champions for the bulk of the national team. So, it was not that much recognition of second-division football, but acknowledging general lack of good players. Sign of crisis rather than sign of improvement. Playing in second division was not a complement to begin with, but Fedorov on top of everything did not have particularly strong season. True, he suffered injuries and missed about two months of the season, yet, his team captain described the star's contribution as 'he helped'. Not really a compliment... and nevertheless Fedorov played for USSR. Think about the competition... Lovchev had much better season, the end of it, when his captain Prokhorov talked about his teammates, he did not mention at all the biggest star of Spartak. Everybody else contributed this and that, everybody is named – except Lovchev, as if he was not in the squad. Internal tensions or something else, may be Lovchev did not play well this year? Who knows... Prokhorov himself tried to move to Dinamo (Kiev) in 1976, precisely because he wanted to keep his place in the national team. Down in second division, predictably he was never called – but Lovchev was. Fedorov as well. One can speculate to the end of the world why and what, but it was obvious that Soviet football lacked enough good players in 1977.

And the best in Second Divison were not exactly bringing hope.

Pakhtakor (Tashkent) finished second, securing promotion. They were relegated in 1975, so, predictably they went up again, been one of the constant movers up and down. During the season Pakhtakor was steady, even leading the table for awhile, but at the end settled for second place. Three points ahead of third-placed Tavria, least lost matches in the league – only 5, best defense, allowing only 28 goals. That is all... not much really. There as apparently no more to brag about – after the season Pakhtakor's captain sounded rather pessimistic, criticizing his teammates more than praising them.

Pakhtakor (Tashkent), winning second place and promotion: bottom, from left: V. Chumakov – team doctor, M. An, O. Eremeev, Yu. Basov, T. Isakov, V. Churkin, V. Fedorov, V. Kurnev, D. Roman.

Second row: N. Lyubartzev – administrator, A. Ashirov, A. Kochetkov – coach, A. Mogilny, K. Bakanov, Yu. Zagumennykh, O. Chechetin, S. Pokotilov, B. Serostanov, N. Kulikov, A. Korchenov, I. Tazetdinov – assistant coach, D. Shegay – assistant coach.

Not a great team, but sturdy and experienced enough to overcome second division opposition. A. Korchenov, the team's captain, quite frankly admitted they played 'rational' football, careful not to lose points. Apparently, not a fun team, but they squirreled points and prevailed at the end. Yet, not much to say about the players: the team largely depended on M. An and V. Fedorov, the highly talented attacking midfielders, who were very well known since 1972 and often considered national team material. Fedorov did play for USSR in 1977, but his contribution to Pakhtakor was dubious, judging by the words of Korchenov. An was almost openly criticized by the captain – most of the season An lacked will power. In other words, plain lazy. Neither star had a great season, it seems, but their great talent was enough to make difference. Two more players were also known – the veteran Mogilny and Zagumennykh. They added experienced, but both knew better days. In the past. Aging Mogilny was over the hill for sure. However, four classy players and collective effort were enough for promotion. As for surviving in First Division... it was to be seen. One thing was clear: Pakhtakor was not great addition to top division, but were once again to join the club of those fighting for mere survival.