Monday, November 12, 2012

Same old, same old... Poland. In Eastern Europe only they and Eastern Germany did not have powerful clubs in the capital. Warszawa was almost the only capital city in Europe with singular club in top flight – Legia. Two more – Gwardia and Ursus – made the numbers in second division, too weak even for that league. Uniquely, Poland had no big, monopolistic clubs, concentrating the talent of the country - instead, best players were dispersed in the whole league, few here, some there, one or two somewhere else. The teams were fairly even, no one was capable of staying on top for long, and the championship was quite unpredictable because of that. As a consequence, it was practically impossible to detect any major tendency in Polish football – was it improving, or declining, it was impossible to tell, since ups and downs were frequent and normal. Industrial cities apparently ruled and there were few clubs relatively consistent, like Ruch (Chorzow) and Wisla (Krakow), but even they were not permanent contenders. The only city with two clubs in first division was Lodz – LKS and Widzew – both having fine season by Polish standards, LKS finishing 7th and Widzew – second. Both fairly well represented 'the Polish case': LKS had one star, the world famous by now goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski, and Widzew depended on 20-years old talent – Zbigniew Boniek. He was not yet the world star 'Zibi', but just a debutant in the national team.

A typical Polish team – Odra (Opole): standing, from left: Andrzej Krupa, Zbigniew Gano, Wieslaw Korek, Bogdan Haranczyk, Henryk Krawczyk, Antoni Kot.

Bottom: Krystian Kozniewski, Zbigniew Kwasniewski, Wojciech Tyc, Bogdan Masztaler, Jozef Klose.

Masztaler played – on and off – in the national team, the rest are practically nobodies. Odra, never successful anyway, finished 12th. As a novelty note, one Jozef Klose is shown – the father of the 21st century German superstar Miroslaw Klose. The father was not even noticed back in the 1970s.

Ruch (Chorzow) plummeted down to 13th place, but was not really threatened with relegation.

Wisla (Krakow) – pictured above - also finished down the table – 10th, and Legia (Warszawa), led by the great Kazimierz Deyna, was good only for mid-table 8th place. To those remembering the deadly Polish strikers from 1974, the scoring sheet of the Polish league may have been surprising: few goals were actually scored in Poland. The champions had only 38 to their credit and the record belonged to Widzew – 46. Too low scoring for championship of 30 matches, but unlike Italy and USSR, the Poles played for wins, not ties.

The champions of 1975-76, Stal (Mielec), finished 4th, confirming the tradition – a club with strong years did not win regularly, just stayed among the top 6 for a few years. Missing not only gold, but silver and bronze as well.

Top row from left: Marian Kosiński, Wojciech Niemiec, Zygmunt Kukla, Edmund Zientara - coach, Henryk Jałocha, Edward Załężny, Krzysztof Rześny, Andrzej Szarmach.

Middle row: Alfred Gazda – assistant coach, Ryszard Sekulski, Andrzej Banasik, Włodzimierz Gąsior, Henryk Kasperczak, Witold Karaś, Jerzy Krawczyk, Mirosław Tryba, Edward Oratowski, Henryk Czylok – second coach.

Bottom: Marek Chamielec, Andrzej Padwiński, Ryszard Per, Grzegorz Lato, Edward  Bielewicz, Zbigniew Hnatio, Andrzej Demko, Stanisław Karaś.

Stal lost the battle for 3rd place to Gurnik (Zabrze), one of the traditionally stronger Polish clubs. Gurnik was not all that strong to challenge higher place – Widzew bested then by a point. For Widzew this year's silver was the best achievement in their history so far. At the end of the table finished clubs without any stars and relatively accidental members of top flight – GKS Tychy, 15th, and ROW Rybnik, 16h and dead last. Both relegate, they were to be replaced by the winners of the North and South Second Divisions for the next season. Zawisza (Bydgoszcz) won the Northern league thanks to better goal-difference, and Polonia (Bytom) won the Southern league leaving the next pursuer 4 points behind. Yet, Polonia won first place and promotion with 38 points from 30 matches. Goal-scoring was not the forte of second-division clubs either.