Monday, November 5, 2012

When compared to the Northern league, the Southern appeared to be one-horse race: only Chernomoretz (Bourgas) was seen as a candidate for promotion. There was no relegated club from the South, and there was no relatively big club eager to go up. Chernomoretz are old club, but traditionally modest. 'Success' is not in their vocabulary – the best for them was to occupy some mid-table position in First Division. Relegation was constant headache, but their presence in Second Division was not because of relegation... After the end of 1972-73 season two clubs – Dunav (Rousse) and Chernomoretz (Bourgas) – were expelled from top flight for corruption. Chernomoretz were found guilty of similar 'irregularities' the previous season as well, but in 1971-72 they were penalized differently: 2 points were deducted from their totals, and they survived, unlike the other culprit, Chardafon-Orlovetz (Gabrovo), who was penalized with 6-point deduction and relegated as a result. As almost everywhere in he world, small fry was found guilty when corrupt practices were rampant. I am not to say Chernomoretz and the other clubs mentioned were innocent , but in the Communist world there were peculiar sides of corruption: one was paying players. Legally, they were amateurs – in reality: professionals. Clubs belonging to the Army and the Police had an easy way around – they made their players officers. On paper. And on paper everything was fine. Smaller clubs had to pay under the table and make fake accounts to excuse the spending – and this was a crime. Nobody was able to find evidence of match fixing between two Army or Police clubs – small fry had to pay bribes, not to issue orders over the phone – and that was a crime. Chernomoretz did what every clubs was doing, but they paid the prize... and First Division was a mirage for quite some time. They were considered favourites at the beginning of every season, but on the pitch they were not. May be one reason was financial: after they were caught red-handed , very likely they were careful and no 'imaginative' accounting was possible for awhile – which automatically reduced the players pay, and made them unmotivated. This is may be, unlike another problem, which was quite clear: Chernomoretz went through change of generations and rebuilding. It was slow and painful process and the club simply struggled, erred, and lacked competitive team. At first they committed the typical mistake of which Etar and Cherno more suffered: reserves replaced former starters and dubious 'stars' were brought from elsewhere. The results were no so great, to say the least. And before the start of 1976-77 season optimism was based mostly on the fact that there was no real competition in the Southern B Group. Chernomoretz were expected to win largely because of that...

Chernomoretz at the beginning of the season: crouching, from left: G. Ubinov, N. Ganev, Kr. Dimitrov, Tz. Mutafchiev, R. Gochev, M. Atanassov, Iv. Kotzev, P. Nikolov.

Standing: P. Kostov – assistant coach, Dr. Stoyanov, T. Dremsizov, D. Yanakiev, N. Madzharov, St. Stoyanov, G. Madzharov, V. Deliminkov, R. Christov, D. Papazov, V. Zhelev – coach.

A whole bunch of local youngsters, lacking experience and at best perspective, but generally unknown quality, plus the experienced, but hardly leaders Madzharov brothers, one player who evidently reached his maximum a few years back and no longer improved, for which he was freed from his former club Trakia (Plovdiv) – the striker Georgy Ubinov – and three veterans – Totko Dremsizov, Peyu Nikolov, and Drazho Stoyanov. Curiously, all three played for CSKA some years before, when they were considered very promising, but... Drazho Stoyanov hardly ever played for CSKA, a perpetual reserve. Nikolov played a bit, but did not establish himself and CSKA freed him quite quickly. Both were 'false promises' , unlikely to become any better by now. Totko Dremsizov was another story: a Levsky fan, he did not want to play for CSKA at all and did not try to shine when there. Practically, he wasted a season, but he was good centre-forward, although not exactly among the top three in the country. He was perhaps the biggest star of Chernomoretz ever and therefore unlucky to play for weak and troubled team – by 1976 he was coming dangerously close to retiring age. The team was not convincing – and the hope was based solely on the lack of competition. Which was quite true... the rest of the league was made from teams like Velbazhd (Kyustendil).

Velbazhd (Kyustendil), one of the better teams, which once upon a time played a season in top flight. It was in 1954... after that Velbazhd became one of the 'eternals', not looking for anything else and not troubling anyone. Mid-table spot was everything they wanted – and naturally they finished 3rd, a good 5 points behind the second placed. The rest of former First Division members were also of the 'eternal' ilk and finished down the scale, but out of trouble – Dimitrovgrad (Dimitrovgrad) – 12th, H. Laskov (Yambol) – 14th, and Maritza (Plovdiv) – 15th. The rest of the league were even smaller clubs, which even in a strong season were not really able to fight for promotion. And in this environment Chernomoretz clinched first place only with better goal-difference... and they were challenged by a team from nowhere: Rozova dolina (Kazanlak), a club more familiar with Thrid Division football.

Almost going to First Division nobodies: standing, from left: Spiro Debarsky – coach, Zlaty Nikolov, Petar Peshev, Totyo Totev, Valery Stankov, Toshko Atanassov, Christo Popov, Kircho Kiryakov, Kiril Sergeev – assistant coach.

Sitting: Yanaky Stanoev, Nikolay Dimitrov, Dimitar Nedev, Dinko Stoyanov, Nedelcho Radev, Kralyo Orozov, Georgy Georgiev, Smail Smailov, Mustafa Ahmedov.

The club hails from a region famous for production of rose oil – hence the name, which means 'Valley Of Roses'. Kazanlak is relatively small city, not capable of providing strong team, roses or no roses. Traditionally, Rozova dolina plays more often in Third Division then in the Second, so they were absolutely unexpected candidates for top spot. Their squad did not suggest high place either
: by far the most famous name was their coach – Spiro Debarsky was great star of Lokomotiv (sofia) and the Bulgarian national team in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The deadly striker did not transform into great coach, though... the very reason he was working in Kazanlak. Most of his squad did not mean much even in Second Division – mostly local boys, among whom the central defender Kralyo Orozov was the best and perhaps the all-time best player of the club. Recruits from other places were few: Dinko Stoyanov played for awhile for Broe (Stara Zagora), but he was generally a reserve. Valery Stankov was briefly included in the men's squad of Lokomotiv (Sofia), after showing some promise in the junior team. He was still very young, but most likely Debarsky included him in him in his team more out of desperation. Nedelcho Radev was the biggest name brought to Kazanlak – technical, but somewhat fragile centre-forward, he was playing in the good Akademik (Sofia) team. It may have been his fragility the reason Akademik decided to dismiss him, for he was playing quite well, and if not exactly shining, he was reliable player and scored enough goals. But Akademik reached European stage, got better striker, and it was clear that Radev was not going to develop further – and instead of playing in Europe, Radev found himself in the Second Division. As far as names go, Rozova dolina was very modest even for second-division club. They had one very talented youngster, though – Toshko Atanassov, an attacking midfielder, eventually interested CSKA. Atanassov was unable to satisfy his new club and moved to Cherno more (Varna), where he was a key player for years. But all that lays in the future – he impressed in 1976-77, but with or without him Rozova dolina was painfully short of talent. Short, but good enough for strong season in a weak league and at the end they ended with most wins – 22. They also amassed 50 points, which was the maximum Chernomoretz got. Just like in the Northern league , goal difference decided who was to win in the South – Chernomoretz had classier strikers, scoring 60 goals. They also had better defense , allowing 30 goals . Kralyo Orozov was not able to match that – Rozova dolina allowed 34 goals. Lone Nedelcho Radev was also not enough for plenty of goals – Rozova dolina ended with 51, 9 less then Chernomoretz's. By hook or crook Chernomoretz won the championship and was promoted to the top flight. The heroic 'Roses' (as Rozova dolina are nicknamed) missed the boat by a hair, having to console themselves with their best ever place. Well, they were yet to better this surprising achievement, but for now it was Chernomoretz's lucky hour.
Ending 5 years of exile: crouching, from left: Valery Ivanov, Ivan Ilchev, Tzvyatko Mutafchiev, Gospodin Pavlov, Konstantin Demirev, Ivan Yovchev.

Sitting: Doyno Yanakiev, Georgy Madzharov, Peyu Nikolov, Milcho Atanassov, Ivaylo Kotzev, Roussy Gochev, Nikolay Ganev.

Standing: Panayot Kostov – assistant coach, Drazho Stoyanov, Georgy Ubinov, Nikolay Madzharov, Roumen Christov, Valentin Deliminkov, Krassimir Dimitrov, Totko Dremsizov, Dimitar Papazov, Vassil Zhelev- coach.

Chernomoretz were so unconvincing, that people were quite certain they were going to be relegated right away. Cherno more appeared strong team when compared to the promoted from the South, but how wrong everybody was. In those years there were very little differences between a team at the start and he end of the season, but there was important one between the two pictures of Chernomoretz – Ivan Ilchev appeared at some later time, one more youngster. He did not make any decisive change by himself – he was part of fundamental change in the club, which became evident not in 1976-77, but in 1977-78. Vassil Zhelev, the coach, radically changed the usual concept of bettering unsuccessful squad – he introduced whole bunch of local youngsters from the junior team. They struggled at first, but with little more time and experience... which came in the fall of 1977, when the 'hopeless' Chernomoret was a big and pleasant surprise. Zhelev moved back Totko Dremsizov – it was and is unusual idea to make centre-forward a sweeper, but the veteran was great in his new place, bringing stability to the defensive line and confidence to his very young teammates Ivan Ilchev, right full-back, Valentin Deliminkov, stopper, and Ivan Yovchev, left full-back or defensive midfielder. Papazov, another youngster, also bloomed behind good defense, and entirely replaced Drazho Stoyanov between the goalposts. The move of Dremsizov opened space for Roussy Gochev, who immediately started scoring goal after goal. The core of the new Chernomoretz was already in place, just needed a little time to get confident and grow. And among those still unknown and 'unconvincing' winners of second-division was on of the best Bulgarian strikers of the 1980s: Roussy Gochev. Unknown second-division player he was in the spring of 1977 – and in the fall of the same year everything was different: he was to score goals for Levski (Sofia) and the national team. For many years.