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.