Saturday, December 28, 2013
Lyon was the opposite case – their solid team of the first half of the 1970s inevitably aged, key players were retiring one after another, but the club missed the right moment for rebuilding and was hit hard as a result. A new team was practically started in 1977 and the jump-start was rather lame.
The third club to drop significantly down was Saint Etienne. Surprisingly, they finished 7th. Not a factor in the championship, although the team still won 18 of their 38 fixtures. They lost 14,though. A crisis? It was inevitable – the great squad of Robert Herbin was old as a squad. Same players for years, hardly going to become stronger if the future, very familiar to every other club in France, may be tired. Herbin made small, well thought changes, but the team reached its peak in 1975 and it was time for radical change. The problem was classical – individually, the players were old, save for a few, they were well tuned to each other, there was no reason to touch a winning team with reserves, who had played for France. No reason, as long as they were winning... but they were not winning, the signal was clear, and it was just a matter of coach's vision and bravery.
Three clubs went the opposite direction – Strasbourg, Monaco, and Bastia. Ascending fast. Which one was the most surprising is difficult to distinguish. The first two no long ago played in the second division. Bastia was no stranger to second level football and when playing in first division was unimpressive squad, living dangerously near the relegation zone. But they made the biggest French transfer in the summer of 1977, getting one of the top world stars Johnny Rep from Spanish Valencia. His impact was immediately felt as if the not-so bad team was spurred.
Wednesday, December 25, 2013
Monday, December 23, 2013
Some league members were hardly known even at the time and disappeared from sight long ago. Big league was good for such tiny clubs – it was the highest achievement, possible only because of the structure. However, it was more than questionable how much the country's football benefits from large league full of small small clubs, often not able to sustain professional teams for long.
Similar was the situation in Group B: AS Poissy (16th), US Noeux-les-Mines (17th), and Stade Malherbe Caen (18th) were relegated, but all of them gave up long ago. FC Limoges was securely sitting on 15th place with 5 points more than AS Poissy. Up to 6th place there was relative comfort without earning many points, yet, among the sedentary clubs was Stade Rennes, at 12th place, just relegated from First Division. Clubs like Rennes were perhaps more representative than the unknown little clubs: a rather large group of 'unsettled' clubs, moving up and down frequently. Unlike other countries, where the 'unsettled' are typically too strong for second division, but too weak for the first, the French clubs moved up and down differently: a club may finish high in the table one year, but suddenly perish the next. Then jump up again. Rennes played well only few years back, now it had difficulty competing with clubs like AS Poissy. At the same time recent members of second division were at the opposite end, deciding the French title. Yet, recently relegated clubs lived quite comfortably in second division – the competition was too weak to put them in real trouble. Dispersed in two groups, they had little competition and were inevitably bound to return to top flight. Thus, Group A gave the appearance of a race between three clubs, but SC Angers, just relegated, easily won.
Angers earned 49 points from 21 wins and 7 ties. They lost 6 games. Not exactly overwhelming winners, but it was enough – they finished 3 points ahead of the next pursuer.
Crouching : Brucato, Guillon, Felci, Augustin, Cassan, Gonfalone.
Angers slipped down, but were up again after a single season – they did not even change their squad, depending on two Yugoslavians – Vili Amersek, who came from Olimpija (Ljubljana) in 1976, and Miroslav Boskovic (not on the picture), who arrived from Partizan (belgrade) in 1975. Normally, Yugoslavian professionals were good and reliable, but those two were not exactly stars – yes, they helped Angers, but were getting old, and were not the kind of players able to elevate their club much higher. Angers was returning to top flight, but the possibility of coming back to second level was more than a possibility.
Second finished RCFC Besancon – three points behind Angers, but also three points ahead of 4th placed SC Toulon.
Now, for Besancon this was a success – unlike Angers, they were not regular first division club. Having a chance of going up was like a dream come true, but it was just a dream...
Crouching : Masson, Dralet, Sanchez, Bedouet, Martinez.
Anonimous, typically second-division squad, unable to really challenge Angers, let alone something stronger. At the end, Besancon did not get promotion, which was disappointing for their fans, but made FC Toulouse very happy: Besancon staying in the group meant only two clubs were relegated, not three. Besancon missed, Toulouse survived.
Group B was tougher: three clubs competed for promotion – Lille, relegated in 1976-77. and two Parisian clubs, eager to return to first division – Red Star and Paris FC. Four points divided success and failure at the end. Red Star failed – their relative weakness was largely in attack: they scored 58 goals during the season, but the competition scored over 70.
Paris FC finished second, missing direct promotion, but still having a chance.
Paris FC was relegated from First Divison in 1973 and finally were strong enough to try a return. If 'return' is the right word... for the young club with strange history, leading to scandals and a split, giving birth of Paris Saint Germain, probably lost even hatred for Paris SG, taking 'their' place among the best French clubs by now. Paris FC only hoped to establish themselves at top level and may be then they would think of some real development. So far, they failed in their first attempt. It was their second chance, which they did not miss – at the expense of Besancon. Going up... the club was hoping, but in vein. Hope was strong at the end of 1977-78 season.
Saturday, December 21, 2013
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
KSV Cercle Brugge took the 17th place with 16 points. Normally, they were stable first-leagers, occasionally coming close to peril, but relegation was not exactly expected from them. Very poor season they played and had to accept the blow: safety was 8 points out of their reach at the end. Relegated clubs are pitied only by their own fans and nobody else, yet, it was a bit sad to see a city derby gone – Cercle Brugge was no longer a match for their neighbours, FC Brugge, but still a loss.
A large group of weak, but untroubled clubs, more or less waited for something better in the future – untroubled by fears of relegation, but having no squads for anything better than lounging in the lower half of the table. Five clubs, the lowest, KV Kortrijk, with 24 points, and highest, Charleroi, with 29 points at 12th place.
Another group occupied the real comfort zone between 11th and 5th place. SK Beveren was 5th with 40 points and KSV Waregem was 11th with 32 points. Rather equal clubs, not really able to do anything else than bumping into and edging each other. Such clubs exist anywhere and perhaps the Belgian 'bulk' was typical – clubs with few either fading or rising stars. Both suppliers and receivers of the top clubs.
First row: Giba, M. Devolder, R. Haleydt, H. Delesie, A. Koudizer.
Anonymous squads, having an occasional good player – Luc Millecamps, for instance. Talent was hard to keep, but Luc Millecamps became internationally famous playing for Waregem. For new recruits second division was the likelier source. Giba exemplifies that: he also played for KAA Gent and captained it, which brings the question of reliability of pictorial material: KAA Gent above is from 1977-78 – Zoltan Varga did not play anymore after this season. Waregem's photo is also labeled 1977-78... unless Giba changed clubs in mid-season, something rare and even unlikely at the time, one of the pictures is wrong.
Perhaps the Belgian league was just too large for a small country with small pool of talent – 14 out of 18 first league clubs were entirely out of the race for the title. But it was exciting race – normally, two or three clubs really competed. This years they were four and the race was tight to the very end. And this was the big optimistic change. Anderlecht and FC Brugge were in top form, successful in Europe, and a fair match of the biggest European clubs. Standard (Liege) spent most of the 1970s in decline, but now had a new bright team and was back in the race. And K. Lierse SK, usually a modest club, had a splendid season. These four clubs left the rest in league far behind – the 5th placed was 7 points behind the 4th – but the difference between the champions and the 4th was only 4 points. The quartet played attacking and high-scoring football. The highest number of wins in the rest of the league was 15 – the lowest of the top 4 had 20. The lowest number of goals scored of the top four was 69 – the highest in the rest of the league was 59. Surely, these four clubs outclassed the rest, but in the same time they appeared very up to date clubs, playing open football, not scheming and fearing anybody. Pleasure to watch.
Lierse finished 4th with 47 points. Certainly their squad was short on big talent and may be enthusiasm carried them that far, but it was not a bad team at all.
Standard finished with bronze – they ended with 2 points more than Lierse, a point short of second place, and two points short of the title. Historically, this was hardly remarkable year for Standard, but it was a great sign of recovery. The 1970s were bad years for the club – it suffered from long decline, was late to rebuild the aging squad with which they entered the decade, and lost their position as one of the two best Belgian clubs. Given the weakness of the rest of the league, Standard never sunk low, but struggled and not a factor in championship race. This year was entirely different and most importantly – the new young team was shaped and it was clear that these boys were to be going up and up.
Anderlecht finished with silver, thanks to their 50 points. One point better than Standard, one point behind FC Brugge. Anderlecht was flying high – excellent team, carefully adjusted every year, great coach – Raymond Goetals – and great stars.
FC Brugge had it and clinched the title at the end of the exciting race between three great clubs and three great coaches. Lierse was tough opposition too, only not all that famous, so the success of FC Brugge has to be really appreciated – Ernst Hapel was pressured by the Dutch federation to start training Holland for the World Cup. Meantime, FC Brugge had two tournaments to win – the European Champions Cup and the Belgian championship. They lost the European cup, but not in disgrace, and still outfoxed the domestic enemies. It was dramatic victory by a point – Anderlecht had much better goal-difference and equal points were to leave FC Brugge second. The champion's defense left much to be desired – they allowed 48 goals in the 34 season's matches, the worst record among the title contenders. Anderlecht allowed exactly ½ less – only 24. Eleven clubs had equal or better defensive record than the champions – telling only that FC Brugge was shaky in its own half. But they had the best scoring record in the league – 73 goals. An anomaly, when compared to their European performance, clearly marked by tough defense and almost Italian approach: defensive football, waiting for occasional counter-attack. They scored little and hardly allowed any goals in their net. May be that was all because of Hapel – his team had two faces, depending on the opposition. Credit to the great tactician, but the players were to be credited too – for understanding and executing very different tactics, changing from one to the other in a single weak. Worthy champions of wonderful and dramatic race. And more – it was their third consecutive title. Belgium was theirs.
Crouching: Soerensen, Cools, Lambert, Sanders, Courant.
Another team no needing much introduction, but deserving perhaps one more look:
Monday, December 16, 2013
Saturday, December 14, 2013
Barcelona triumphed at the enemy's den. It was the last hurray for Cruyff.
There was one more thing about the squad: a strange black player, called Bio. By sight, a third foreigner... but Bio was listed as Spaniard. Still worth a note, for there were hardly any black Spanish players at the time. Even if he was a genuine Spaniard, still Barca had too many foreigners in the squad above: Rafael Zuviria was an Argentine. So, oriundi again... with two Dutch players, may be Bio, like Zuviria, was also with Spanish blood? No. He was naturalized Spaniard. The 26-years old striker with real name Williams Silvio Modesto Verisimo was Brazilian by birth. Bio had no Brazilian fame and came to play in Europe very young – at first he played in Portugal, then moved to the Spanish second division club Terrasa. Maried Spanish woman and became Spanish citizen by marriage. Barcelona took him from Terrasa, but most likely in mid-season, for he was not listed at all as Barcelona player in 1977-78. But he played at the cup final, in April 1978. Obviously, Barcelona counted on him for the future, but... Bio played a total of 9 matches for Barca and that in 1978-79 season. Scored 3 goals, not a bad percentage, but that was all. A curiousity really, not a new star. For him, winning the cup in April 1978 was to be the highest career achievement. For Barcelona – just a small episode.
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Monday, December 9, 2013
Not did anybody else. Elche and Real Betis joined Cadiz.
Ten foreigners were unable to save Elche from relegation. They fought to the end, but lost the battle for survival – ended with 27 points, 5 more than Cadiz, but still three points behind the nearest escapee. For Elche a whole period ended this year – their perhaps most successful period, stretching from 1959 to 1978. Elche never won anything, but played constantly in the first division and back in the 1960s were among the strongest clubs, finishing among the best 8. But the club was gradually slipping down in the 1970s, reaching the sad and fearful stage of small clubs concerned only with escaping relegation. The inevitable happened this year.
Above them competition was vicious. All teams from the 10th placed down (if not even from the 5th placed down) spent the season running away from the spectre of Second Division. Six points divided Atletico Madrid at the 5th final place from the relegated 16th, but the bitter struggle was between the clubs spread from 10th to 16th place. Rayo Vallecano and Real Sociedad at the end finished 10th and 11th with 33 points each. Burgos and Racing Santader ended just bellow them with 31 points. Three clubs finished with 30 points each. Two survived – Espanol (Barcelona) and Hercules (Alikante). The third did not. What was the decisive factor? Hard to tell, for there was no particular consistency in the rules deciding the places of clubs with equal points: up the table, goal-difference was seemingly the factor. So it appears, looking at the goal-difference Valencia (4th) and Sporting Gijon (5th). But only between these two clubs appears so – all other clubs with equal points were seemingly positioned not by goal-difference, but on the accumulated results of their head to head matches. Real Betis had rather good goal-difference – certainly better one than not only Hercules' and Espanol's, but better than a total of 9 clubs: 51:52. Did not matter.
16th and relegated... Real Betis won the Spanish Cup in 1976-77 and were relegated the next season. Strange, yet not so strange – after all, Real Zaragoza were relegated not very long after winning the cup. Looked like a curse for smaller clubs – winning the cup exhausting them to death. Real Betis did not look all that on paper, but in reality Gerrie Muhren and Atilla Ladinsky were fading rapidly. Both were mostly reserves this season. The club hardly had strong core players and they went down. Sadly, with their relegation the number of local derbies in the league were reduced to two cities – Madrid and Barcelona. May be the fans of Sevilla FC were happy to see their neighbours down and out, but still it was sad to see a local derby gone to the dogs. Real Betis may have been unlucky, but such is football. Others were lucky:
Rayo Vallecano finished 19th, which may be considered a success for the modest club from Madrid. Playing in first division was a success, indeed – with neighbours like Real and Atletico, a chance of another club attracting fans and money was next to impossible. Once upon a time there were few clubs competing more or less on equal footing in Madrid, but by the 1970s the two giants dwarfed whatever other clubs existed. It is even questionable whether Real and Atletico considered the matches against Rayo Vallecano as a derby. Cleraly, the smaller club was unable to compete with the big clubs, but still it was great to have them in the league. Madrid was the only Spanish city with three first-division clubs, at least for the moment. Rayo Vallecano could not even dream of winning anything or even building relatively strong squad. Playing in Primera Division was their success.
Standing, from left: Alcazar, Anero, Uceda, Nieto, Tanco, Rial
First rwo: Francisco, Landaburu, Salazar, Fermin, Alvanito.
Not a single recognizable player here, if those are the right names. And if the names correspond to players' positions on the picture... but lovely kit. And something else about their kit – small Spanish clubs used the 'orthodox' production of Adidas and Puma. The big clubs – no. These were still early years for the new kits, advertizing more the maker than the club, in Spain. The change was coming with clubs like Rayo Vallecano, the small fry.
Saturday, December 7, 2013
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
The advantages were obvious: skilful South Americans, Spanish speaking, cheap, and easy to naturalize. Cheap, because the exodus of troubled countries under heavy-handed dictatorships was massive – for both political and economic reasons. The political part benefited Spanish clubs – it was easy to naturalize exiles, especially when the old 'oriundi' rule was unchanged. Whoever wanted to look deeply quickly found a cypher: Spanish rules allowed for 2 foreign players on the field. Yet, most clubs had plenty of foreigners and more than 2 were often fielded. Real Madird had 5 in 1977-78 – Stielike (b. 1954), Jensen (b. 1949), Enrique Wolff (Argentina, b. 1949, defender, played at 1974 World Cup), Roberto Martinez (Argentina, b. 1946, forward), and Carlos Guerini (Argentina, b. 1949, forward). Stielike, Jensen, Wolff, and Roberto Martinez were often on the pitch at the same time. Barcelona had one player more than the arch-rivals: Cruyff (b. 1947), Neeskens (b.1951), Heredia (Argentina, b. 1952, midfielder), Rafael Zuviria (Argentina, b. 1951, forward), Alfredo Amarillo (Uruguay, b. 1953, defender), and at the end of the season a Brazilian striker was added – Bio (full name: Williams Silvio Modesto Verisimo, b. 1953). Bio came not from abroad, but for the second-division club Terrasa, where he played for awhile, after playing in Portugal before. And Cruyff, Neeskens, and Heredia were almost always together on the pitch. No problem adding Bio too... why? At least his case was clear – he married Spanish woman and naturalized on the strength of marriage. So he was Spanish citizen. Spanish clubs kept more foreigners than allowed from the very moment the ban on foreigners was lifted – it was 'wise' to have reserves in case the prime stars were injured, out of form, or suspended. The extras stayed unhappily on the bench most of the time... the Peruvian star Hugo Sotil was the biggest, and somewhat tragic, example. But oriundi had no problems playing – and just how many, on what criteria, and when they were considered 'oriundi', was something never discussed – at least outside Spain. Well, 'Wolff' is hardly Spanish name, but enough Spanish blood was 'found' in the former Argentinian national team defender to become 'oriundo' and play along with Stielike and Jensen, who, together, exhausted the limit of foreigners.
Yet, the big clubs were not the biggest offenders – the small fry excelled. Real Zaragoza proudly pictured their four strikers from South America:
From left, three Paraguayans, Felipe Ocampos, Carlos 'Loko' Diarte, Saturnino 'Nino' Arrua, and the Argentine Adolfo Soto. Because of them, the team was cunningly nicknamed 'Los Zaraguyaos' and thanks to them Real Zaragoza won the Spanish Cup in 1974. The big '-guayan' group confused the issue – Soto is often thought Paraguayan, but the ending is right – along with these four the Uruguayan defender (World Cup 1974) Juan Blanco (b. 1946) also played. By 1977 the group was cut down – Diarte moved to Valencia for the new season and only Blanco and Arrua (b. 1949) remained. From the 'Zaraguayos' – yes – but in general two more Paraguayans were at hand in midfield: Celso Mendieta (b. 1949) and Jorge Insfran (b. 1950). And Real Zaragoza was, in a sense, modest consumer of South American feet – Elche had 10 foreigners in 1977-78. Six Argentines, 2 Paraguyans, an Uruguayan, and one 'exotic' player from Honduras. Just because Honduras is unlikely producer of classy players – and even more so in the 1970s – his name: Gilberto Yearwood, a defender born in 1956. From the whole group the only known name is the midfielder Marcelo Trobbiani (b. 1955) – he came in 1976 from the successful Boca Juniors vintage winning left and right this year. Almost a whole team of foreigners did not help Elche a bit, but this is so far first division. How many foreigners played in the lower division would be anybody's guess. Birthdates are given here, because most of the foreigners were not very young – let say, mature players, often working already for years in Spain. This was alarming: Spanish clubs did not buy current foreign stars, but preferred the same players they got in the first rush of open doors – 1973-74. Which was not exactly a formula for improvement of the game – the bulk of oldish and not at all famous Argentines and Paraguayans were no longer trend-setters, if they were ever. Thus, Spanish football remained pretty much what had been about 10 years ago – tough, physical, and hopelessly out of touch with modern football. No wonder the Spanish clubs had zero international success.
Apart from rather inflated hype over summer transfers and unrealized foreign fears that the Spanish will rob yet another nation of her stars, there was another news – the Spanish federation introduced a new league in place of Third Division. Third Division remained , under the same name, but between it and the Second Division now a 2-group league was inserted – Segunda Division B, or Second Division B. It was made of freshly relegated second division clubs plus the highest positioned third division clubs. All together about 40 clubs, previously playing 3rd level football anyway. Hard to tell what was the reason – may be financial, for everywhere in the world there is a problem at some point of the structure – professional clubs mingling with semi-professional and outright amateur. West Germany organized her second division precisely to put together the remaining professional clubs outside the Bundesliga and thus to elevate the general level of the game. Anyway, Spain started their new league. Nothing fancy there... just for curiosity sake, a picture: