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.