Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Supercup continued to be troubled 'mega-cup' – UEFA made it official in 1976, but the challenge still had no real place in the calendar. It was to be played near the end of 1977 – difficult to attract fans, for the end of November, although the same year, did not belong to the same season. It was not a culmination of the past season and had nothing to do with the new one either, for it was mid-season in terms of both domestic and international football. But there was hard to find any other time – practically the season finished with the European Champions Cup, vacation followed, the transfer period, preparation for the new season, then all-important start of season. The calendar was full already. And because of that the 'super-final' between the holders of the ECC and the Cup Winners Cup was not exactly breathlessly anticipated clash, but amusement of little interest and import. There was even an ironic twist in 1977: back in the summer Liverpool sold Kevin Keegan. The buyer was Hamburger SV, meaning Keegan was to play against his former club for the Supercup. HSV were serious to stay among the top European clubs – along with Keegan they signed Ivan Buljan from Hajduk (Split). Very serious reinforcement, but the focus in the summer was on Keegan. The case of Cruyff, moving to Barcelona in 1973 was recalled: it was the end of great Ajax. Was Liverpool making the same mistake? The other interesting aspect was the destination: clearly, West Germany was the place to be by now, not Spain – the top European player chose a German club and it was hardly because of the level of football – apparently, the Germans were able to match, if not better, Spanish salaries.
Kevin Keegan, a Hamburger SV player. English stars were moving to the Bundesliga – he was not the only one. And he was ready to score in the net of Liverpool.

Liverpool, however, made its own big news at the transfer market – Bob Paisley got Kenny Dalglish from Celtic (Glasgow). It was tough deal, narrated like a spy novel:

False names, remote hotels, secrecy, late night meetings, ushering through back doors... the point is the transfer record. English transfers were going up and up, but Liverpool had money – Keegan's money.
Kenny Dalglish joined Liverpool – he was expected to move from Celtic, and very likely to a foreign club, hence, the rush of Paisley in disguise. The journalists went berserk with speculations – 'wondering' about Dalglish's position in Liverpool. Most profoundly thought he was to replace Keegan... as if it was not obvious. Dalglish was similar to Keegan kind of striker and even the same age . One thing was certain: Liverpool was not to change tactically. Unlike Ajax a few years back, Liverpool was replacing one star with another. To a point, the whole transfer gymnastics were even stupid – same type of players shuffled, the money from Keegan's transfer spent to buy his double. Why going such troubles? The only real question in the summer was was Dalglish able to blend into Liverpool's fabric. He did. Keegan also shined in Hamburg. By November it was certain, but the Supercup challenge did not benefit greatly from that: Hamburger SV were looking for the winter break and had a number of injured players. In England – traditionally, the biggest excitement was around Christmas, the toughest period of the league championship. More or less, neither club had the Supercup as a high priority. The fans did not look forward for the 'superfinal' either – in a sense, the Supercup was already played. Back in August, Liverpool and Hamburger SV met in a friendly. It was part of the Keegan's transfer.
Nogly and Hughes shaking hands before the friendly in August, 1977. To see the same in late November was redundant. Back in August Keegan already made his own transfer – by scoring spectacular goal in the net of Ray Clemence:
What more could be seen in November? Nothing much... the opening leg in Hamburg was not well attended and the match was not great. Kargus, Nogly, Reimann, and Volkert were not on the field because of injures. For many, it was suspicious absence – looked like HSV was not interested at all, just like Bayern was thought in 1975 – going through the motions. The thrill of Keegan playing against his former club was gone as well.

Nobody's news – Keegan tackled by Neal. Memering on the left. Seen already...

The match ended 1-1 and observers grumbled: was this a final? The summer friendly was much better.

1st Leg, Volksparkstadion, Hamburg, 22 Nov 1977

Hamburger SV (1) 1 Liverpool (0) 1

29' 1-0 H: Keller

65' 1-1 L: Fairclough

Hamburger SV:Jürgen Stars, Manfred Kaltz, Hans-Jürgen Ripp, Ivan Buljan (Andreas Karow), Kurt Eigl, Klaus Zaczyk, Caspar Memering, Felix Magath (Horst Bertl), Kevin Keegan, Ferdinand Keller, Arno Steffenhagen

Liverpool:Ray Clemence, Phil Neal, Joey Jones (Tommy Smith), Phil Thompson, Ray Kennedy, Emlyn Hughes, Kenny Dalglish, Jimmy Case (David Johnson), Steve Heighway, David Fairclough, Ian Callaghan.

The second leg was no contest at all. Liverpool just scored, scored, and scored. The finishing touch was put by Dalglish – in a way, confirming how wise Paisley was in the summer. Keegan 0 – Dalglish 1. Clearly, Paisley got a better player – at least in the minds of Liverpool's fans. Keegan was dead; Dalglish was the king.

2nd Leg, Anfield Stadium, Liverpool, 6 Dec 1977

Liverpool (2) 6 Hamburger SV (0) 0

21' 1-0 L: Thompson

40' 2-0 L: McDermott

56' 3-0 L: McDermott

57' 4-0 L: McDermott

84' 5-0 L: Fairclough

88' 6-0 L: Dalglish

Liverpool: Ray Clemence, Phil Neal, Tommy Smith, Phil Thompson, Ray Kennedy, Emlyn Hughes, Kenny Dalglish, Terry McDermott, Steve Heighway (David Johnson), David Fairclough, Jimmy Case.

Hamburger SV: Rudi Kargus, Hans-Jürgen Ripp, Peter Nogly, Horst Bartl, Peter Hidien, Manfred Kaltz, Kevin Keegan,Ferdinand Keller (Arno Steffenhagen), Klaus Zaczyk (Kurt Eigl), Felix Magath, Georg Volkert.

Liverpool ended 1977 in style. With new hero as well. The Supercup remained the unloved bastard child of European football. For a third year in a row German teams showed little interest in winning the cup, which did not help in elevating the Supercup's status. At least the challenge was made official. And after two years of Cup Winners Cup winners winning the Supercup as well, this year Liverpool restored the faded glory of the European champions. It was not much of a show and great football, but Liverpool won one more cup.