Wednesday, October 30, 2013

May be Koln was infavourably judged so far – their 1977-78 season was truly fantastic: not only champions, but winning the Cup as well. A double! Does not happen every day. Cup and regular championship always differ, which looks like surprise – but these are fundamentally different competitions. Underestimate, negligence, unlucky mistake, and a might team would be gone. Bayern did not even reach the ¼ finals. Borussia (Moenchengladbach) was eliminated in the ¼ finals by Werder (Bremen), a team having miserable season otherwise. Schalke 04 and Fortuna (Dusseldorf) were unable to beat each other after overtime in Gelsenkirchen and had to play a second leg in Dusseldorf – Fortuna won at home, but minimally: 1-0. Koln had it much easier... they hosted the worst team in the Northern Second Bundesliga, Schwarz-Weiss (Essen). Worst, but not in the Cup, where they heroically reached a level Bayern was not able to reach... but the team was very weak, unfortunately. Koln easily won 9-0. No mercy, just hunger. Koln had it tougher in the ½ finals - they still had lucky draw: hosts again. Werder, however, was not easy and Koln clinched 1-0 victory. Fortuna destroyed MSV Duisburg 4-1.

The final opposed two of the top German clubs this year. Similar in a way – not having exceptional cluster of big stars and depending on collective play and spirit – both were ambitious enough. Fortuna was so far climbing up for a few years and perhaps it was time to finally blossom and begin winning. Koln had enough motivation of their own. They won 2-0.
Flohe proudly lifting the Cup. Now, this was familiar... Koln won it in 1976-77 too. They just kept it in their hands.

Sad day in Dusseldorf, but still it was not a bad season for Fortuna – they finished 4th in the Bundesliga and Cup finalists. They were one of the most stable teams during the 1970s, and actually improving year after year. Not long ago Fortuna was seen as possible third great German club in making. Perhaps 1977-78 made clear they were not going to be great... by now it was very experienced team, but actually reaching the peak of their potential and most likely decline was coming, if not started yet. The club somehow did not add great new talent to already familiar for years squad – and it was clear by now that Daniel and Baltes were not going to become better players, let alone stars. Zewe, Seel, and the Austrian Hickersberger were getting too old to build a team around them. Neither was first-class star – Zewe and Seel were second-echelon: even when they played for the national team, it was clear that they were not going to be influential regulars, but replaced at the first moment younger talent was at hand. The only player for the future was Allofs – which meant that a new team had to be started. Fortuna were brave, but... no more.

Koln had perhaps their best ever year. A double! May be they were also a great team? 2 Cups and 1 title in two years – hard to be dismissed. Hard to ignore.

Cup winners! What a season for the Billy Goats! What a year for a club very young by German standards – 1. FC Koln was found in 1948, as a merger of two hardly remembered local clubs – Kolner Ballspiel-Club 1901 and SpVgg Sulz 07. The 'baby club' quickly started winning and distinguished itself as the first Bundesliga champions – hence, the constant hopes and longing for another title. Finally wish came true and who was the prime mover and shaker? Who was the reason for the great success? Hennes IV the Great, of course! To enemies it was a joke, for it sounded as a joke... back in 1950 the owner of a circus brought a gift to the club during Koln's Carnival – a goat. It was presented to Hennes Weisweiler, a star player of the club and very young coach. Hard to tell who was more surprised – the man or the goat: the animal immediately urinated on the shirt of Weisweiler, trying to keep him in his hug. This was seen as significant omen and the goat was named Hennes. He became the live mascot of the club, always present at games and traveling with the squad to away games. The goat was incorporated in the club's logo, rather strangely stepping on the Koln's famous cathedral. The club was nicknamed 'the Billy Goats'. But it was not just a fancy whim... the goat had luxurious life by goat standards, but he was expected to work. To influence and win games and trophies. The pressure was big . Goat life is short. By 1977 already the forth Hennes was reigning.

Hennes IV was honest – he worked hard and delivered. He won the Cup in 1976-77. Now he aimed higher – and produced a double. No other Hennes managed so much – immediately Hennes IV became Hennes IV the Great. Certainly he had the look and appearance of greatness. Forget Hennes Weisweiler and players – it was Hennes IV the Great who led the club to a double. He won it. But it was tough and difficult life with such responsibility: Hennes IV the Great did his best, worked hard... until his heart burst from the pressure. Hennes IV the Great died from cardiac arrest a few years after his great success. He is fondly remembered and set as an example to every new Hennes. Later ones also perished from heart attacks, alas, without victories. The greatest of all goats set very high standards indeed.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Lucky title for 1.FC Koln, but not undeserved. At home, it was great success, waited for since 1964, when Koln distinguished themselves as the very first Bundesliga champions. The club remained strong, but not a title contender – strong enough to end among top 8 teams, that was all. But in 1976 Hennes Weisweiler returned to the club, where he was a legend long before the world knew of him, and immediately got results: Koln won the German Cup in 1976-77. Of course, the fans wanted more... which was not likely to happen, judging by the transfers between the old and the new season: Overath retired. Along with him, another great veteran quit – Wolfgang Weber. Not a single impressive name arrived and, on the surface, Koln appeared weaker than the previous year. Overath out and some obscure guy from Japan in... did not look good at all. The beginning of the season proved skeptics right – Koln lost 1-5 their first match of the season. But skeptics were quickly refuted: Koln became a leader, leaving everybody else except Borussia (Moenchengladbach) far behind. The fascinating race kept everybody on tiptoes to the very end of the championship. Koln needed a victory in the last round and got it with style: 5-0 was a precaution against possible crooked victory of Borussia by more than 11 goals, but nevertheless was impressive, categorical ending of the campaign. It was great for long suffering fans to see their club at the top. It was great and significant victory in another, larger aspect, as well: it was the first time since 1968 West Germany had champion not called Bayern or Borussia (Moenchengladbach). It was the end of long – and getting boring – duopoly. It did not matter that Koln won only on better goal-difference: the reality of German football was redefined at last.

Of course, the new champions were full of famous names: Lohr, Flohe, Cullmann, Dieter Muller, Schumacher, the Belgian striker van Gool. Respectable names like Konopka, Zimmermann, Gerber, Strack, Glowacz. A new Danish player called Preben Elkjaer-Larsen... familiar names, but largely from the distance of the time. In real time, the team was rather strange mix of few current national team players – Flohe, Cullmann, and Dieter Muller – one respectable foreign player at his peak – Roger van Gool – and bunch of promising, yet not exceptional players. One relic from the 1960s was still here: Hennes (or Hannes) Lohr, but he was no longer influential key player. It may be right to attribute the victory to Hennes Weisweiler: he managed to motivate and use whatever players he had at hand. The exotic Yasuhiko Okudera was great discovery: the Japanese became a regular. Perhaps the other right decision was trusting Tony Schumacher – only two years ago Schumacher was generally a flop, sharing goalkeeping duties with similarly unstable Slobodan Topalovic. Topalovic was considered more promising of the two... Weisweiler however chose Schumacher and made him firm starter. Topalovic was dismissed in the summer of 1977, which left Schumacher without competition – apparently, it was better for his confidence, for the rise of the great goalkeeper really started in 1977-78. Yet, Weisweiler had few choices – the attack was reduced to two-men line, something rare in the 1970s: Dieter Muller played 33 matches and scored 24 goals. Van Gool played 32 games, scoring 12 times. Lohr, already 35-years old, appeared only 8 times and scored a single goal. Elkjaer-Larsen did not appear even once! The defense, depending of standpoint, was either very reliable or there were no options: Harald Konopka (31/3), Roland Gerber (34/2), Gerhard Strack (32/2), and Herbert Zimmermann (32/2). A mid-table club's line really... competent, hearty, but lacking a pillar like retired Woldgang Weber. Midfield, in a way similar to Bayern, carried the season: Heinz Flohe, the star player and captain now, and Herbert Neumann did not miss a single match – Flohe was replacing Overath and was the playmaker, but although he had strong season and scored 14 goals, he was not very imaginative player. Certainly not a second Overath... Okudera played 20 matches and scored 4 goals – good debut, but more was to be expected from him next season perhaps. Heinz Simmet, hardly a big talent, appeared in 23 games. Another unknown – Dieter Prestin – played 14 matches. Holger Willmer – 11. Jurgen Glowacz, either because of injuries, or bad form, appeared in only 5 games – and he was likelier choice than anonymous Willmer, Prestin, and Simmet. In part, lack of enough quality players led to high rotation. In part, short defense and attack inevitably was compensated by midfielders. To a point the second 1974 World champion in the team – Bernhard Cullmann – was used as an emergency player, plugging holes in other lines. Nominally a defender, Cullmann was used in 'emergency' roles in the national team – he was reliable and versatile enough, if not particularly bright and creative player. Cullmann played 27 games, scoring 6 goals. Not bad for a defender... yet, he was not the key defender of the team. With such limited squad, the best solution was disciplined collective play – and Weisweiler achieved precisely that. Koln was not a team praised for exciting football, nor it was found innovative – to a point, it was over-achieving team. And given its limitations, nobody saw Koln as building a dynasty: it was quite sure that another title was unlikely. But this was evaluation of potential – for the moment, Koln won the title – a fantastic success.

A success, deserving a second look, especially because on the first picture Okudera is missing – here he is with samurai-like mustache. And equally priceless is the pose of Schumacher behind the Bundesliga shield – the much criticized hopeless flop from two years back now a champion.

If there was a player going to be a superstar and giving hope for a strong future, that was Dieter Muller.

He was the top goal-scorer of the league with 24 goals – second year in a row. This time he shared most goals with Gerd Muller.

Both Mullers on top was in a way symbolic: apparently, a successor of the old Gerd was found. With the same name -what could be better? May be great team could be shaped around Dieter and Koln would actually become constant, not accidental, force? It was not to be, unfortunately... Dieter Muller climbed quickly to the top and equally quickly faded.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

If Stuttgart were somewhat ignored, it was easy to understand why – West Germany witnessed perhaps the most exciting ever fight for the title. Two clubs tried to edge each other to the very end – the championship was decided in the very last round of the championship. And it was decided by goal-difference. May be the football played this season was not great, may be many clubs were declining or underperforming, but the thrill of the endless duel compensated for everything. There was more to it: if the battle between coaches was very familiar, even tired by now – Lattek vs Weisweiler – but it was not the old Bayern vs Borussia duel. Borussia (Moenchengladbach) participated alright, but their foe this time was 1.FC Koln. Nothing suggested such development back in September 1977, when the championship started – 1. FC Koln visited Fortuna and was destroyed 1-5 in Dusseldorf in the opening round. Borussia suffered less – they lost only 6 matches. Koln lost eight, but they compensated with more wins. And before the 34th and last round both teams had 46 points each. Koln had much better goal-difference: Borussia was 74:44 vs Koln's 81:41. Borussia had easy match at home, hosting Borussia (Dortmund), but the away match of Koln was not difficult either – the visited already relegated St. Pauli in Hamburg. Calculations were peculiar – there was no doubt Borussia will win against the other Borussia. If the match in Hamburg ended in a tie or with St. Pauli's victory, Borussia were champions – but it was unrealistic outcome: Koln was expected to win. St. Pauli were the weakest club through the whole season and did not have anything to play for for a long, long time.Thus, it was practically sure thing the title will be decided by goal-difference – the only chance of Bortussia to win the title was huge victory. What is huge? A victory by 12 goals, as a minimum... As a bare minimum, working only if Koln won with one goal difference in Hamburg. Borussia achieved the minimum, no matter how impossible it looked like:

The final score was fantastic, perfect for legends, bizarre and... suspicious. As for the strange name of the stadium – Borussia was used to playing in Dusseldorf, for their own stadium was small. Thus, they practically never really hosted important matches – but players and fans were familiar with and adjusted to the situation. Borussia did everything what depended on them, but Koln was not to be outdone – they won 5-0 in Hamburg.

A big Japanese smile and happy hugs from teammates – Okudera scored 2 goals in Hamburg.

The race was finally over, exciting to the very last whistle. May be because of the unusual nature of the pursuit, doubts about the results of the last matches were hardly ever raised. Borussia (Dortmund) and St. Pauli had no interest - for both clubs the season was already finished. Koln scored a lot of goals, but how often even a great team wins by 12-0? Moreover, how often a team wins 12-0 when it needs a 12-0 win? Nobody should doubt the motivation of both Borussia and Koln – and also the lack of motivation of their opponents, but the results were strange. A little friendly help perhaps? No questions were really asked – the results were taken as real and fair. It was fascinating race to the very end by two clubs leaving the rest far behind – the third finisher, Hertha was 8 points behind. Shoulder to shoulder, Koln and Borussia, Weisweiler and Lattek, Flohe and Vogts, battled to the last minute. Borussia did everything possible – and perhaps the impossible too – to reduce the goal-difference advantage of their adversary: in the 33rd round they won in Hamburg, but against Hamburger SV, not against the weak St. Pauli, 6-2. Then scored 12 goals, trying to beat the odds. At the end, the record is incredibly tied – both teams with 48 points and same number of scored goals – 86 each. Their defensive records really decided the championship – Borussia allowed 44 goals, Koln – 41. Borussia finished second.

Of course,the Borussia camp was more than disappointed – they not only lost in the last minute,but were unable to continue their successful run of three consecutive titles. A record forth slipped out of their hands. Udo Lattek took revenge on Bayern,by winning with Borussia, but lost the battle with the very maker of great Borussia, Hennes Weisweiler. Yet, Borussia was still running strong – may be because they were always short of money, there was no mental stagnation in Moenchengldabach and they changed easily their squad: there was no hesitation when a star had to be sold – so unlike Bayern. Back in 1973 they sold Netzer to Real (Madrid). Before the start of 1977-78 season Uli Stielike went to Madrid too – from aside, it was more than risky selling the best players, but there was huge benefit as well: Borussia smoothly transitioned from one generation to another, new stars were rising, the team staying strong. Some of the stars were aging – Vogts, Wimmer, Heynckes – but others were at their prime – Bonhof and Simonsen. The squad was balanced, experienced, and deep – Kleff, Wittkamp, Danner, Kulik, Hannes, Kneib, Del'Haye, Klinkhammer, Ringels, Wohlers. Younger recruits were solid, if not exactly with big star potential – Lienen, Schafer, Gores. The club continued to import Danish players – so far, it was successful and effective policy: Le Fevre, Henning Jensen, Simonsen. Now they had 22-years old Carsten Nielsen. A good blend in every sense and excellent coach. It was clear by now that Borussia was unable to conquer Europe, but in West Germany was the strongest club. Second place this year was really unlucky occasion.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Bad, bad, bad... who was good, then? 6 clubs fought for the bronze medals, at the end 4 points divided the 3rd from the 8th placed. Eintracht (Frankfurt) finished 8th with 36 points – worse goal-diffrence placed them lower than 1. FC Kaiserslautern, also with 36 points. Given the players in the squad, Eintracht should have been higher: Grabowski, Hoelzenbein, Korbel, Stepanovic, Trinklein, Nickel, Wenzel. Add the promising former East Germans Pahl and Nachtweih. Not so long ago Eintracht was seen becoming the third great German club, but by now the expectations faded. It was still strong team, but it was sensed that the squad already reached its peak and decline was about to start. Eintracht was running on inertia – and still among the best. At the bottom of the best, though... For the fans and the club bosses, the season was disappointment and there was somebody to pay for it: the coach. Gyula Lorant was swapped for Dettmar Cramer in the winter break; Cramer was fired at the end of he season. Unfortunately, the downhill roll may be started a year or two ago and there was no stop to it. No stop, because it was very slow, hardly noticeable. Nothing at all, when compared to the major slump of Hamburger SV and the collapse of Bayern.

1. FC Kaiserslautern finished 7th – typical for the unpredictable club. The squad was not much of an indication, for Kaiserslautern was equally capable of finishing very high or very low. Yet, it was not a bad team:

Hellstrom, Geye, Wendt still solid, steadily rising Toppmoller, promising Groh, who eventually became a part of much more famous squad, and young great talent at the beginning of his career – Has-Peter Briegel. Interesting squad, but perhaps the most important name was their coach – Erich Ribbeck. Still young coach making his way up, already noticed, a coach for the future.

MSV Duisburg finished 6th – the club was still enjoying their strong years. Not candidates for top places, but regularly finishing in the upper half of the table. Solid performance, based on experience. Relatively modest squad, depending on the solid left full back Dietz, soon to captain the national team, aging, but reliable Austrian Kurt Jara, moving to midfield by now, and the good striker Worm, who was tried in the national time for awhile. Modest team really, perhaps overperforming a bit, but deserving its place. No surprise.

The contenders for third place were no surprise either – Fortuna (Dusseldorf) had no great squad, but carefully made on, which performed steadily for few years already and still rising. The team was quietly adding good players – they already had Zewe, Seel, the young talent Allofs, got the Austrian national team midfielder Hickersberger. There were hopes that may be Fortuna was to become another great German club, but so far it was not the case. To a point, the team did not reach its peak, still rising, not ready to really run for the title. They were 1 point short of third place.

Hertha got the bronze. Shaky in the past, the West Berliners somewhat stabilized their performance and enjoyed strong few years. They appeared still at building stage, nobody really considered them potential greats, but if they continued on the same road for a few more years – may be. Not presently, though. 1977-78 looked like true beginning of serious project: the coach Klotzer came from Hamburger SV; Nigbur was between the goalposts, Beer in attack was still in the national team, solid third-stringers (on nation-wide level) Granitza, Sidka, Kliemann, Gersdorff, the reliable Danish player Rasmussen. A new Danish striker came in the summer of 1977 – Jorgen Kristensen from Feyenoord (Rotterdam). Hertha delivered one more solid season and clinched 3rd place with 40 points.

For Hertha third place was great success. It was not a surprise, though – Hertha was expected to play well and finish in the upper parts of the table. What they were not considered of was a run for the title – and they did not.

The big surprise came from VfB Stuttgart. They were promoted from second division in 1976-77. It looked like Stuttgart would be just happy to back in the Bundesliga, concerned with escaping relegation – they were insignificant for many years, eventually relegated. Instead of fighting for survival, Stuttgart stunned with very strong performance. They finished 5th with 17 wins, 5 ties, and 12 losses. Their defense was second best this year, allowing 40 goals – only Fortuna (Dusseldorf) did better, 36 goals. Stuttgart scored well, although not very high – 58 goals. Eight clubs, including miserable Bayern scored more. It was excellent season, especially for the long suffering club's fans.

Not only the team played well, but more importantly it was entirely different squad from any other in the Bundesliga. Strong performance usually depended on a group of more or less famous players – famous for some time already. Stuttgart had some of the kind – the Austrian national team player Hattenberger, the former Yugoslavian national team player Holcer, Ottmar Hitzfeld to some extend, Hadewicz, who played for Bayern not long ago, one of the many unable to establish themselves in the great club strikers. So far, nothing special – the usual bunch of veterans nearing the end and players unable to make it elsewhere: the making of a team perhaps capable of staying just above relegation. But the experienced bunch was not exactly moving and shaking Stuttgart – there was another group doing that and it was a nice skeleton of young and rising stars: the goalkeeper Roleder, the central defender Forster, midfielder Hansi Muller, and two strikers – Dieter Hoeness and Ohlicher. Yound, eager, talented, rising fast, and playing at all key positions. Some were already noticed: Forster and H. Muller. Hoeness and Ohlicher came to note this year. Roleder never became great, but a stable and reliable goalkeeper. Karl-Heinz Forster was only 19 years old, debuting in the Bundesliga after only one professionals season, in which he was instrumental for Stuttgart's promotion, playing in every match and scoring 5 goals. He did better than his older brother Bernd, who failed to impress Bayern (8 matches in two seasons, 1974-76) and ended relegated with Saarbrucken this very season. The younger brother of Uli Hoeness, Dieter, was with Stuttgart since 1975, which meant playing second division football so far. Now he had very good season in the Bundesliga and impressed observers – ironically, at the time when Uli was practically finishing his career. Dieter made impact fairly late – at 24 – especially when compared to his brother, who was European champion at 20 and World champion at 22 , but the strong, forceful centre-forward was clearly coming up. Hansi Muller, only 20 years of age, was brilliant in midfield and climbing up the ladder of the national teams - he already played for the amateur formation, was member of the B-team, and before the season ended was invited to the Bundesteam and played in all games of Germany at the 1978 World Cup. These players were the motor for the strong year Stuttgart enjoyed. Specialists were careful, however, and reacted with reservations – given the recent history of Stuttgart, most likely the club would climb down to its familiar low position the next year. May be it was just enthusiastic season – after all, the new leaders were just too young and inexperienced, the veterans were getting too old, and the rest were run of the mill. But it was not so: Stuttgart had young skeleton to build around formidable team. They had the players who really shaped the next years of German football. In retrospect, Stuttgart became one of the best German teams in the 1980s. The climb to to the top was steady and really started in 1977-78. They came back strong and determined to stay strong. It was just a beginning of exciting decade for Stuttgart.

Monday, October 21, 2013

If HSV slipped unexpectedly, but still had enormous potential, Bayern was clearly in crisis. They finished 7th the previous year – looked like the Bavarians could not do anything worse, for the disappointment will wake them up. But they outdid themselves in 1977-78 , finishing 12th, with 32 points. 11 wins, 10 ties, and 13 losses. 62:64 goal difference. A single point more than the 15th placed Werder, but 16 points less than the contenders for the title. Since the crisis of Bayern was seen in coming – potentially, since 1975, and really in 1976-77 – strong measures were more than expected, for if anything had not only strong organization, but also lots of money in the Bundesliga, it was Bayern. The failure deserves closer look – a case study even.

Familiar and painful problem: great stars inevitably aging. When and how to replace legendary players? Bayern seemed better prepared to deal with such thing – in theory. The richest, best organized, carefully planning, and cruelly efficient German club. Yet, they failed to address looming crisis, noticed about 1974 and presenting itself in 1975, when the team finished 10th in the Bundesliga. Bayern did not win a title since 1974. The last time they won the West German Cup was 1971. After that Bayern was unable to reach even the final. It was obvious that major changes were needed, but seemingly nothing was done. The summer of 1977 provided big opportunity for starting something new, yet the clear signal was just a signal. So far, the only big change happened in the winter of 1974-75 disastrous season – Udo Lattek was fired and Dettmar Cramer hired. Under Cramer, heavily supported by Beckenbauer, Bayern did not win anything in Germany, but saved face with 2 consecutive European Champions Cups. Moreover, the development of the squad was very strange: by 1977 the core of the team was still based on players introduced by Zlatko Cajkovski back in the 1960s. The last player with star capacity – Rummenigge – was found and introduced by Lattek in 1974. Cramer practically did not add any player to the getting increasingly old team built by Cajkovski-Lattek. He was heavily criticized for his passive management, success was clearly getting out of reach, yet Cramer was not replaced. The squad was increasingly becoming bland and depending on the form of the megastars. But in the summer of 1977 Kaiser Franz moved to Cosmos (New York) – the transfer loudly spelled out the inevitable need of younger players! A new squad! With the mightiest player gone, the moment appeared ripe, if not even overripe, for radical changes. Along with him, three foreigners departed, every one of them emphasizing the dire need of rebuilding: Torstensson, Andersson, and Seneca. The little known Dane Kjell (or Kjeld) Seneca exemplified the strange frugality of Bayern – cheap player, who was barely used. Not on the level of the club, consequently, nailed to the bench. Many like him came and went... Seneca's departure to Sturm (Graz, Austria), was practically unnoticed, for few were even aware there was such player in Bayern. Bjorn Andersson was slightly different: at the time, his transfer made lots of sense – the Swede had strong World Cup performance and appeared meaningful replacement of Breitner. But he did not adapt to Bayern and failed to establish himself as a starter. A failure, who was also getting a bit old. Now he was going back to his native country to play for Osters. The other Swede Conny Torstensson fitted well at first and became important starter – but then he missed almost a whole season because of injuries and when came back, he was never the same. Aging too. He went to Xamax (Switzerland). The new clubs of the departed clearly spelled downhill – aging, lack of form, meager talent. The only question was why waiting until 1977? But the other question – actually, more important – was who was coming in their places? The last relatively big transfer Bayern made was also in the long gone days of Udo Lattek – Jupp Kapellmann. Bayern had money, but preferred to recruit either their own juniors, or young unknown players from smaller clubs and lower leagues. The only real strike so far was Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. The summer of 1977 required different approach even if only because the departure of Beckenbauer opened a huge hole. Yet, Bayern continued its old policy. Looked like Cramer was not worried and did not insist on major purchases. The only new big name was Branko Oblak – perhaps his move from Schalke 04 to Bayern was the biggest transfer between Bundesliga clubs in 1977. The transfer, on the surface, made sense: the Yugoslavian midfielder was one of the best European playmakers. He quickly adapted to the harsh German football and established himself as star. Bayern badly needed a player to take Beckenbauer's role, organize, and conduct creatively the game – Oblak seemed the best choice. As good as the transfer appeared, it was more a temporary patch instead of starting a new great squad. Oblak was already 30 years old. His peak seemingly was between 1974-76. He suffered from injuries – often! At the end, he was not really the answer of the complex problems Bayern was facing – a wonderful playmaker, but midfield was the most crowded line of Bayern. The rest of the new recruits hardly meant anything... of them only three deserve mentioning: two came from just relegated Karlsruher SC – the 22-years old defender Kurt Niedermayer and the 27-years old striker Norbert Janzon. Strange decision, to say the least... Bayern chose to fortify its weakened squad with players from weak club. Janzon was fairly familiar name, considered potential national team player – but this was four-five years ago. He moved from one small club to another, not a great career. By 1977 it was very clear he was not going to be the next big star. Niedermayer was much more promising, yet Bayern needed something much better than him – Beckenbauer was World Cup star at the same age, when the new talent so far distinguished himself by helping his former club to relegation. The last player was 19-years old, coming from the lowly Viktoria (Hamburg). He was the only one recruited just in case, just because he may be needed in the future, for Kurt Junghans was goalkeeper. Clearly, he was not going to play, and his future depended not only on his talent and ambition, but mainly on Sepp Maier. Depended on how long the great goalie was going to play... for many years nobody paid any attention to the reserve goalkeepers of Bayern: they were just making the numbers and after a year or two were gone. Junghans, however, was lucky and played - but not in 1977-78. As a whole, facing deep crisis, Bayern still made their typical frugal and insignificant transfers. Which automatically meant that the remains of the old great team will be the main players this year too.

Strange team, full of run-of-the-mill players. Mighty names at the key positions, but old... Gerd Muller, the new team captain, was 32. Sepp Maier – 33. Franz Roth – 31. Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck – 29. Jupp Kapellmann – 28. Branko Oblak – 30. Kapellmann and Roth were already going downhill. And so was the case of three younger players – Horsmann, Weiss, and Gruber – who were already a few years in the team, unable to establish themselves. The team immediately displayed problems, unsolvable, as it turned out. The attempt to change things came late – just like in 1974-75. Cramer was forced to resign in the winter midseason break, but at the end was swapped for the Hungarian coach of Eintracht (Frankfurt) Gyula Lorant. Cramer took Eintracht and quickly disappointed his new employers, who sacked him right after the end of the season. It was too late for Lorant to save Bayern – it was not a matter of form, or motivation. The problems was fundamental and the squad was quite crooked for any meaningful reshaping. Lorant did not last, but to a point he was made a scapegoat – the problems were old, started years before Lorant arrived; the squad was not his selection and there was no way to hire new players during ongoing season. Of course, Lorant failed... 12th place counts severely against him and in any case somebody must be found guilty for the worst season ever. But Lorant had little chance anyway with a team like that. Sepp Maier had strong season – in which received 64 goals in 34 matches. Close to 2 goals per game... so many goals when the keeper is in great form points at very weak defense. Schwarzenbeck played his best football next to Beckenbauer – without him, it was not the same. Now he was the key defensive player – nobody wanted him to replace the Kaiser as a libero, yet, the leading role was not Schwarzenbeck's forte. The absence of Beckenbauer reduced the usefulness of him: in the past, his rare attacks benefited greatly Byaern, for they took the opposition by surprise – Beckenbauer was expected to go ahead and no one paid attention to Schwazenbeck. Now the surpirse element was no longer possible. And heavy-built Schwarzenbeck was getting slower and less effective at 29. The rest of the line was rag-tag... Wolfgang Rausch was the only player along with Schwarzenbeck who played in every match of the championship. As for his quilities... anybody remembering Rausch? Niedermaier played 31 matches and scored 31 goals. Promising beginning? Depends... Udo Horsmann appeared in 25 games – one more of his up-and-down seasons. By now, it looked like Horsmann was often fielded only because there was no one better. Young and unknown Klaus Augenthaler played 23 matches, scoring 2 goals. Not exactly seen as a regular, even less a potential star yet, Augenthaler points at the desperate situation in defense: so many matches a fifth defender may acquire mostly as a regular substitute. Nobody satisfied, therefore... Some hopefuls were no longer hopefuls – Peter Gruber appeared in 14 games. Josef Weiss played only once. There was no compare between this defensive line and what Bayern had in 1973: Hansen – Beckenbauer – Schwarzenbeck – Breitner.

The attack was even worse. Long-time dependence on Gerd Muller reduced the line to him and Rummenigge. The rest were not even normal reserves – just few players sitting on the bench. No matter who they were... they were not to play at all. Three players did not appear at all in the 1977-78 season. Another three played less than half of the championship matches – Rainer Kunkel had the most matches among them, 15, in which he scored 0 goals. Janzon appeared in 14 matches, scoring 3 goals. The Turkish striker Erhan Onal played in 8 games. Practically Bayern used only two strikers – Muller and Rummenigge. With Muller in front, there was no other option, but to use Rummenigge on the wings. Which was reducing him to supportive role – there was no other way. It was impossible to utilize the full potential of Rummenigge – the game was based on Muller lurking in the penalty area reserved for him. The rest of the team had to create havoc in front of the gate and in the melee the old fox eventually scored. Muller was useless anywhere else, but with him Rummenigge was more or less redundant. His style required a play focused on him, bigger role for him and more operational space – none of it was available with Muller alongside. Replacing Muller was especially tough – he was already old, but still a goal-scoring machine and there was no stop: in the terrible season, when Muller himself looked over the hill, he still finished the best goal-scorer of the Bundesliga with 24 goals. True, he shared with Dieter Muller (1. FC Koln), but first he was nevertheless. Rummenigge played 29 matches and scored 8 goals – it was not all that certain Rummenigge, already national team player and the perhaps the brightest young player in Germany, would be a starter in Bayern. As long as Muller played... imagine 5 more years... and Rummenigge's talent would be wasted for he would be coming close to 30. It was either Muller or Rummenigge – the wise thing was to bet on the younger player with his leadership potential. Muller had to go – perhaps the best time was in 1976, but the moment was missed and with that – the chance of quicker and less painful recovery and transition into a new team. It is widely recognized that Rummenigge really blossomed in 1979 - with the arrival of another Hungarian coach, Pal Csernai. Yet a small detail is missing: in 1979 Gerd Muller was no longer with Bayern. In 1977-78 Byaern's attack was high risk: only two strikers, somewhat doubling each other. At the end, it was worse than ever – the whole striking power of Bayern depended on Muller. There was no other option, no variety.

The shortages in both defense and attack placed the weight almost entirely on the midfielders. Nominally, the best and longest line Bayern had. Very experienced too, sturdy, determined, and, on the surface, providing various options. Reality was very different... Franz Roth, the iron defensive midfielder, was getting old and in decline – he played only 10 matches. Hoeness and Oblak were the obvious players to make a difference, but it was clear by now that Hoeness suffered chronic injuries. From a distance, it looked like strong season for Hoeness – he played 30 matches and scored 11 goals, second best after Muller. But he was not the excellent player of only three years ago... and couldn't be. The end was written on the wall – full recovery was impossible and this was the last full season Hoeness played. Next year he retired prematurely. It was unreasonable to place hopes on Uli Hoeness, but Oblak unfortunately was not very different: he also suffered from injuries. Perhaps his role in Byaren was not clearly defined, or he was not exactly the player able to conduct the game of the team - Oblak played only 23 matches and scored a single goal. The giant hole left by the departure of Beckenbauer remained open – both in terms of conducting the game and inspirational leadership. With troubles in every line, options were limited and, unfortunately, very familiar – Durnberger and Kapellmann filling gaps. Both never had clear regular position in the team – they were plugging holes for years. Durnberger was perfect for that, but Kapellmann had different potential once upon a time. Alas, no more... Both were fit, sturdy, reliable, universal... and no starters precisely because of their specific functions. Emergency players – in defense, midfield, attack, left, right, everywhere. A twelve player, really – a constant substitute. With time, Durnberger was the more useful, but neither was thought as a starter, even less as a potential leader. Helpers they were, not stars. The plugged holes this season too – Durnberger played 27 matches, scoring twice; Kapellmann appeared in 24, scored nothing. Midfielders were the most used this season, but it was just one emergency after another, there was no strength. Bayern was weak in every line. It was a team not even at the end of the line, but well beyond. There was no future. The alarms were on for quite some time and nothing was done. Bayern missed the moment for starting building a new team and inevitably crashed. Instead of smooth transition, it was plummeting to the bottom. Of course it was incredibly difficult to simply get rid of aging giants like Beckenbauer, Muller, etc, but the price for waiting and hesitating was huge: Bayern was coming dangerously close to the relegation zone. Bayern in second division? It was not a bad joke anymore. Bayern had nothing to start a new team with... Rummenigge was essential, but he was alone. Maier perhaps was good for one-two more years – goalkeepers are usually fine when old. May be Niedermayer and Augenthaler. May be Durnberger... but the trio was not really a possible new backbone, just support. Bayern had to start from scratch, looking around for suitably young talent, spending money. And patiently waiting for results... a few more years. By now, Bayern was not the kind of club comfortable with small role and waiting for better days. Pride had to be swallowed, unfortunately.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The bottom three were clear outsiders endangering no one else – they lagged 9 points behind the lowest of big 7-team group which had nothing to do with neither relegation fears, nor ambitions. Strange group, divided by three points. Werder ended it, 15th placed because of worse goal-difference than VfL Bochum. Werder played small role in the 1970s, so the position was no surprise. The only interesting thing about the Bremeners was their kit:

White and green are the familiar colours of Werder, but this time they played in blue. Hard to tell why, yet, not entirely unusual – back in the 1960s Werder used red and white stripes for awhile. Apart from the kit, the only other interesting thing about them was their coach Hans Tilkowski – the former great goalkeeper more or less failed as a coach. Perhaps 1977-78 was his complete undoing.

The rest of the low but safe group should have been made of clubs like Werder, but it was not so – only Bochum normally dwelt in the lower part of the league. They finished 14th. Borussia (Dortmund) ended 11th with two points more than Bochum and Werder – 33. Borussia was lowly during the 1970s and akin to Bochum and Werder, if not worse, for the best they hoped for was actually stabilizing themselves in the Bundesliga – relegation was not a mere threat quite recently.

The club had few players of good quality – some established, others young hopefuls , who started to look like a skeleton for something better than the squads of the earlier years: Geyer, Held, Kostedde, Varga, Burgsmuller, Votava. So far – nothing much, but the young coach was ambitious, yet, unknown – one Otto Rehhagel. Eintracht (Braunschweig) normally belonged to the bottom feeders playing hide and seek with relegation, but the previous season the club performed surprisingly well and before the new season started looked ambitious and trying to build on their earlier success. They had great coach – Branko Zebec – and two stars: one of the best German goalkeepers of the 1970s, Franke, and one strong foreign striker – Danilo Popivoda. Not enough for sustained strong performance, but the club acquired two new guys of high quality: the Swedish national team defender Hasse Borg plus a really huge name – Paul Breitner. Looked like a start of a big team – great coach, Breitner... neither of them was able to keep still pedestrian squad at the top. Braunschweig slipped down to their familiar environment at the bottom of the league.

One time wonder, not a club becoming constant force. Breitner surely was not a happy camper.

The rest of the group was different. Schalke 04 finished 10th, with 3 points more than the 15th.

By names, the squad looked more than solid – Fichtel, Fischer, Russmann, Helmut and Erwin Kremers, Maric, Bongartz, Abramczik, Sobieray, Lutgebohmert. Still seven players from the great 1971-72 season plus the Yugoslavian goalkeeper Maric, remembered from the 1974 World Cup, and two younger players quite recently playing for the West German national team – Bongartz and Abramczik. But the 1971 bribery scandal halted the development of what looked like a third great German club in making: on one hand, the scandal was not forgotten yet – penalties, objections, new suspensions, reduced suspensions, the whole affair lingered until 1978, affecting mostly Schalke 04 players. The club was slowly, yet steadily sinking as a result. Russmann and particularly Fischer were in excellent form, but the rest of the old squad aged and decayed. Fichtel and the Kremers brothers in particular. Others failed to develop further – Bongartz and Abramczik looked like bright new stars in 1976, but not so just a year later. Schalke 04 was going downhill.

Above them, 9th, thanks to better goal-difference, finished Hamburger SV.

Winners of the Winners Cup and the European Super Cup in 1977, HSV was ranked potential champion – the summer transfers were fantastic: three players left – the long-serving Dane Ole Bjornmose retired, Horst Blankenburg went to Xamax (Switzerland), and Uwe Mackensen – to 1.FC Kaiserslautern. But their replacement were formidable: Kevin Keegan and Ivan Buljan. Aging and going downhill players were replaced by international stars at their peak. The rest of the team looked at its prime. Kaltz was getting better every year, not even reaching the peak of his talent yet. Solid, experienced starters, long and strong line of reserves, plus a new rising talent – Felix Magath. Plus a more than noticeable coaching duo – Gutendorf and Dr. Krohn. Formidable squad, expected to compete for the title. Alas, they finished 9th, closer to the 15th placed Werder, than to the 6th – MSV Duisburg. The sudden slip perhaps was not so sudden – HSV was going through change of generations. Nogly, Volkert, Hidien, Steffenhagen, and Memering were aging – they represented the generation of the first half of the 1970s going out. There was a skeleton for a new team – Kargus, Kaltz, Buljan, Magath, and Keegan – around them other players had to be add yet. And a new coach was badly needed – Gutendorf and Krohn did last less than 4 months (from July to late October), replaced by the former Turkish goalkeeper Ozcan Arkoc. A HSV legend, young coach, but mentally belonging to his teammates of the older generation, Ozcan was not the needed coach... HSV still had a lot of building and shaping to do.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The drama of second division football paled compared to the real thing: Bundesliga. This was one of the strangest seasons of German football and quite difficult to evaluate. On one hand there was the sense of crisis approaching – there were very few exciting young players and the old heroes were retiring. A league without Beckenbauer and Overath was something new and sad. Some clubs underperformed. Bayern was clearly in crisis. All West German clubs failed in Europe. On the other hand it was terrific season – close race for the title, resolved in the very last round of the championship. New champion. Sense of rising of one more strong club. The highest attendance in the history of the league to date. The best European player arrived in Germany. West German organization and training methods were the model for every country. And no matter what ups and downs happened, there was sameness: at the end, it was one more clash between Udo Lattek and Hennes Weisweiler. As it was almost every year in the decade... Sound financial policy had negative effects as well – afraid of 'crazy spending', clubs were reluctant to make big transfers. Thus, they were late to start rebuilding and practically never did radical changes. It was conservative approach, leading unfortunately to either slow decline of great teams or half-made squads of few stars supported by run of the mill teammates year after year after year. It was clear by now that the second division did not really provide strong additions to the top level – it was becoming painfully familiar story: the newly promoted were relegated the next year. Strange season, but Bundesliga was the best in the world... it was very hard to be critical and negative.

The bottom settled early – two of the newly promoted clubs plus another one elevated the year before from second division. The only contribution of St. Pauli was the novelty of their brown kit. Well, only the shorts this year.
Third row, from left: Dietmar Demuth, Rolf Höfert, Jens-Peter Box, Niels Tune-Hansen, Søren Skov, Walter Frosch

Middle row: Trainer Diethelm Ferner, Walter Oswald, Gino Ferrin, Wolfgang Kulka, Franz Gerber, Rudi Sturz, Horst Neumann, Masseur Willi Maujokat

First row: Maik Galakos, Rolf-Peter Rosenfeld, Reinhard Rietzke, Jürgen Rynio Manfred Mannebach, Horst Feilzer

Nobody imagined a new derby emerging – the Pirates were too poor and too small for really matching Hamburger SV. They were just happy to play in the Bundesliga, but it was one-time affair. They established themselves at the last spot and kept it well – 6 wins, 6 ties, 22 losses. Their scoring was not very bad – 44 goals in 34 games – but as a rule, Bundesliga teams did better: only three clubs scored less. Defensively, St. Pauli was just a punching bag for others – they received 86 goals. Not a surprise at all – the last in the table normally is there precisely because of leaky defense. Of course, a squad like that belonged to second league – two modest Danes, Tune-Hansen and Skov, plus Maik Galakos were the only players with some kind of names. Galakos just returned from Greece, where he played for Olympiakos – no serious German club was really impressed by that and he ended in the insignificant St. Pauli.

Goal difference decided 17th and 16th place – did not really matter, for this was still relegation zone. 1. FC Saarbrucken finished 17th – and their brief adventure in Bundesliga.

Another club without noticeable players. The Yugoslavian midfielder Jovan Acimovic was too old and fading to make a difference. The boys fought as much as they were able, but their best was a string of ties – 10 in total, the record number this season, shared with Hertha and Bayern. Whenever Saarbrucken was unable to tie a match, they lost – 18 matches. And the worst attack in the league... One very promising defender named Bernd Forster was to experience second division.

TSV 1860 Munchen finished 16th. By now, it was difficult to think that this club was stronegr than Bayern 15 years ago. Not a trace of the former glory. Not a trace even of the former derby – TSV 1860 Munchen managed to return to top flight in 1976-77, but was too weak to survive and immediately sunk.

Another team without strong players: Glavovic, Nielsen, Bierofka – if their names mean anything to anybody. Perhaps the only player deserving a note is Hartwig – apart from the rarity of 'Black German' in the 1970s, he was the only player of this squad who became famous. Not with TSV 1860 Muhchen, but with Hamburger SV and five years later. As for this year – going back to second division was the sad reality.

Two out of the three promoted in the previous season clubs were relegated. Saarbrucken lasted two years among the best – this itself was a troublesome comment on lower level football. Unlike almost any country, West Germany was not able to establish strong city derby – the closest to it was the rare appearance of two vastly uneven clubs from one city. The next year both Munchen and Hamburg were back to one representative.

Monday, October 14, 2013

It is hard to tell was football in the North better, but attendance was higher and the battle for promotion was much more competitive. So was the fierce race for avoiding relegation. There was no club like pathetic FK Pirmasens with 6 points, yet, there was clear outsider: ETB Schwarz-Weiss (Essen) ended last with 19 points. Thirteen points behind the 19th team, that is. Ten clubs fought for survival – 3 points divided the 10th from the 19th placed. Tennis Borussia, just relegated from the Bundesliga, finished 10th with 36 points, but better goal difference than another not only recent member of Bundesliga, but also participant in the UEFA Cup – Wuppertaler SV. Smaller fry followed, VfL Osnabruck clinching the last safe spot - 16th – thanks to better goal difference. SC Herford also had 33 points, but finished bellow Osnabruck – and was relegated. The newcomers from the regional leagues 1.FC Bocholt and OSC Bremerhaven took 18th and 19th places also with equal points, 32. So much for the unlucky bottom – SC Herford, 1.FC Bocholt, OSC Bremerhaven, and ETB Schwarz-Weiss were relegated. Five clubs lived without any concerns – far away from danger, but also without bigger aims. Hannover 96, FC Bayer 05 Uerdingen, and SV Bayer 04 Leverkusen were the more interesting names in this group – Hannover, because the club should have been contender. The Aspirins – mostly because their later fame; so far the clubs had no big ambitions. And above this group four clubs tried to win promotion: the first and the forth finished divided by 3 points. SC Fortuna (Koln) ended 4th with 48 points. SC Preussen (Munster) finished 3rd with 49 and a point above them was Rot-Weiss (Essen), freshly relegated from the Bundesliga. The race was won by DSC Arminia (Bielefeld) also by a point. Arminia had the best defense in the league, but Rot-Weiss the best attack.

Arminia went down in 1971-72, largely due to the great bribing scandal – they were stripped from their all points as a punishment for attempting bribery, but this did not really change anything, for they were last anyway. Since then Arminia was not able to master any strength , quite contrary to their name – the club is named after ancient local chief, Arminius, who defeated Roman legions many centuries ago. Military spirit possessed them at last in 1977-78 and they won the league.

Yet, it was not very promising victory – without strong players, Arminia did not look like a team surviving in the Bundesliga. The signs were clear that the club was joining the ranks of the 'unsettled clubs' existing in almost every country – too strong for second division and too weak for the first, eternally moving up and down. Arminia is doing exactly that up to now, but 1977-78 was good year for them. They may have been even a bit lucky, but nevertheless winners.

There was still one promotional spot left and the second placed of each second division contested it in a two-legged play-off. Rot-Weiss (Essen) against 1. FC Nurnberg. To a point, these two appeared better suited for top flight football than the directly promoted winners – they had more interesting players and also Bundesliga was familiar league.

Rot-Weiss was relegated in 1976-77 and obviously itching to return to first league football. Like Nurnberg, Rot-Weiss had their glory days back in the 1950s, but was steadily fading after that. Yet, they had some potential – the Hungarian defector Jozsef Horvath was a flop, but two other players were much brighter. Both were strikers, none was known yet. Frank Mill, born 1958, was very young talent already playing since 1976. He was still too young for anything big, but years later he was a member of the 1990 German World Cup winning team. The other was slowly getting attention – Horst Hrubesch, already 26 years old and playing for Rot-Weiss since 1975. He was the team captain and more – Hrubesch scored 41 goals in 1977-78 – exactly half of the Rot-Weiss total. This was the record number of goals scored by a player in the Second Bundesliga so far – with time, it became all-time record. It was never bettered and judging by the numbers in the last 15 years, it is unlikely it will be ever beaten.

The first match was played in Nurnberg in front of 42 000-strong crowd. Thanks to 79th minute goal by Hans Walitza, the hosts clinched victory. A week later, June 9, Nurnberg went to Essen hoping to preserve tiny lead. 32 500 spectators attended this time, but both matches were attended by unseemly for second division teams numbers – well, the stakes were high. Once again Nurnberg was the better team – Slobodan Petrovic opened the result in the 29th minute. Rot-Weiss equalized in the beginning of the second half, thanks to Peter Ehmke, in the 49th minute. Ten minutes later Hans Walitza scored again for Nurnberg. In the very next minute, 59th, Hrubesch finally scored – from a penalty. The match ended 2-2 and Nurnberg won promotion.

Nurnberg and Rot-Weiss coming out, led by their captains Slobodan Petrovic (Nurnberg, dark kit) and Horst Hrubesch on the left (Rot-Weiss, in white).

Amusing photo – Hrubesch and Petrovic shaking hands before the match starts. How strange... this is the world-famous Hrubesch, trying to win promotion against a team captained by fairly obscure Yugoslavian. And the obscure Yugoslavian wins at the end...

Hans Walitza puts pressure on Rot-Weiss. He scored two goals in the play-off. Which perhaps was the whole difference between winning and losing: Nurnberg stars scored, but Hrubesch did not. Most likely Hurnberg's defense was able to neutralize him, but after scoring 41 goals during the season he failed in the most important matches – a single goal from a penalty and a mere equalizer. Not good enough – Nurnberg's stars delivered when mattered most.

No wonder they were the happy winners – Petrovic, Walitza and Nurnberg's President delirious after the play-off.

1. FC Nurnberg won promotion and returned to the Bundesliga. By names, may be they were the best club among the promoted – Hans Walitza was not a big star, but he was quite a famous player with clearly top-divison qualities. The imports – Slobodan Petrovic and Miodrag Zivaljevic – were not famous, but still vastly experienced and reliable. Norbert Eder was up and coming promising youngster. Manfred Muller was also reliable goalkeeper, classy enough for first, not second, division football. As a whole, Nurnberg had more strong players than any other second division team and perhaps had the best chance of surviving in the grueling Bundesliga. Of course, it was a dream fulfilled – the club returning to their rightful place after a few years of exile.

Spirits were high in Nurnberg, the city celebrated their heroes Walitza and Petrovic. Victory was not the right time for contemplation, but... Nurnberg was not to rise again to the glory of the 1950s. The team was not much compared to the best in the Bundesliga. Survival was to be the prime and only concern. But Nurnberg went up – Rot-Weiss and Horst Hrubesch remained in the second division. And may be the decline was over... poor Nurnberg suffered greatly: from champions in 1968 to relegation in 1969. Revival was beginning... at least the fans hoped that to be the case.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

When we speak of German football, it is about Bundesliga. The lower division is hardly ever considered, as every other second division, save the English one. Yet, carefully planning Germans created the Second Bundesliga with the clear aim of making the system stable and productive. The idea was to elevate the competitive level by having professional second division from which stronger clubs would be promoted and flock of new talent will come. It was not to happen by night, yet, so far Second Division was struggling and clearly did not deliver. Yes, it was competitive and tough, but there were few clubs worth playing in the top division. The promoted cubs hardly lasted longer than two seasons among the best. And pretty much the same was happening to the clubs promoted from the regional leagues to the second division. Perhaps the formula was not perfected yet – in 1977-78 there were still two second division leagues – North (Nord) and South (Sud), each consisting of 20 teams. May be too much for good quality – already a whole bunch of smaller clubs found comfortable niche in midtable, save from relegation, but not interested in aiming higher. One big concern was the steady drop of attendance – by 1977 the diminishing crowds were concern all around Europe, but the drop in the Second Bundesliga was quite telling: so far, the biggest number was achieved during the first season, perhaps because of the newness of the league. After that it was downhill, but during the 1977-78 season the numbers plunged down drastically: almost 800 000 people less attended than in 1976-77. North Division was better attended – 5041 on average vs 4591 in the South. It was 4816 average combined – the previous year the average was 5973. Going down sharply... and dangerously, when compared to rising numbers in the Bundesliga. Huge difference – Bundesliga attracted almost 5 times more people per match than the Second Bundesliga. Obviously, quality of the game was an issue – and no doubt about it, because relegated from Bundesliga teams were immediately left by most of their top players. Karlsruher SC was point in case:

This is the squad for 1977-78, when KSC joined second division thanks to relegation. The only figure capturing attention is the club official Reimold – because of his outlandish green suit. The team is entirely insignificant, even their Yugoslavian Balevski. Typical second division squad, good enough for midtable. And no wonder: in the summer of 1977 their better players – Norbert Janzon and Kurt Niedermayer – joined Bayern. Wilfried Schafer went to Borussia (Moenchengladbach). Stripped Karlsruher finished 7th in the Sud.

They were not alone – of the three relegated from Bundelsiga clubs only Rot Weiss (Essen) had strong season, finishing 2nd in the Nord. Tennis Borussia (West Berlin) ended even lower than Karlsruher - 10th in Nord. But the promoted from the regional leagues fared no better than the relegated – 4 of 7 total clubs winning promotions in 1976-77 lasted only one year, going right where they came from: 1. FC Bocholt and OSC Bremerhaven finished 18th and 19th in Nord; VfR OLI Burstadt and Kickers Wurzburg took the same places in Sud. The survivors were just that – survivors: Rot Weiss (Ludenscheid) finished 13th in Nord, the same place took Freiburger SC in Sud. VfR Wormatia (Worms) was the best newcomer - 9th in Sud. Of all newcomers, promoted and relegated, only Rot Weiss (Essen) had really strong season – and even theirs was not exactly satisfactory.

To a point, there was no race in the South Second Division: SV Darmstadt finished first 5 points ahead of 1. FC Nurnberg, who also had no real competition, for 3rd placed FC 08 Homburg was 4 points behind them. And judging by the clubs playing in the league, there was hard to imagine even the winners establishing themselves in the Bundesliga.

An old club, Darmstadt, but equally old were their triumphs. The creation of the Bundesliga was terrible for such smaller clubs, depending on regional success – they were doomed to insignificance. Second division was more or less the highest level they hoped for. Darmstadt never played in the Bundesliga, so winning a promotion was their biggest success. Good for them going up as champions of the lower league.

Top row, from left: Hahn, Weiss, Sprey, Bechtold, Lindemann, Frey, Wagner, Krumbein

Middle row: Lothar Buchmann,Masseur Zacheis, Dörenberg, Kleppinger, Cestonaro, Drexler, Westenberger, Schneider, Co-Trainer Sclappner Sitting: Weber, Pampuch, Rudolf, Seyffer, Metz, Schabacker

Good for them, but it was clear that the most this squad could hope for in the Bundesliga was escaping relegation for a year or two. The best they had were Kleppinger and Cestonaro – second division stars, no more.

1. FC Nurnberg was another victim of Bundesliga – ones upon a time, it was strong club, often champions of Germany. Perhaps the 1950s were their peak, followed by significant slump. Nurnberg won their last title in 1968 and after that they lost their place among the top German clubs, eventually sinking to second level. And not able to win even there... second place gave them still a chance for promotion, though: they were to play promotional play-off against the second-placed team in Northern group.

At the bottom the fight for survival was not very heavy either: dead last were FK Pirmasens, finishing with 6 points! 1 win and 4 ties in 38 matches, 25:120 goal difference. Kickers Wurzburg, 19th, were way above with their 17 points, yet... no fighters either, for they were also 8 points behind the 18th team, VfR OLI Burstadt. Who were doomed early too, for 8 points divided them from the 17th spot. It was this last relegation spot where clubs fought to escape from – six clubs trembled to the end. SV Eintracht (Trier) and Freiburger SC eventually finished 12th and 13th with 35 points. Three clubs finished with 34 points – FC Augsburg was 14th with curious positive goal difference 57:54, followed by FSV Frankfurt and KSB Baunatal. The unlucky one was FC Bayern (Hof). They ended with only 33 points, 17th and out of the league.