Thursday, October 30, 2014

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Monday, October 27, 2014

Thursday, October 23, 2014

USSR II Division:
Another heavily criticized season in USSR. A big fiasco of the national team perhaps was the bitterest reason, but there was more. Strange too. During the 1970s almost every season had new formula and 1979 was no exception. Two things were new – the first was increase of first and second divisions. The top league went from 16 to 18 clubs and the second – from 20 to 24. Why? On the surface, a huge country had the resources of supporting bigger leagues – sheer size demanded it. USSR had huge leagues before, but they were reduced because they were not competitive enough and the differences between clubs were so big, there were no benefits. Nobody saw anything positive after the 1979 ended and rightly saw. The number of quality players was limited and even USSR had bright and promising young generation – junior teams played very successfully at the newly introduced junior world championship – it was not translating into stronger clubs. Just the opposite: most teams, speaking for the premier league only, were in poor shape. Even mighty clubs like CSKA and Dinamo Moscow had poor squads. As for the second division, the reason was the Spartakiad – the domestic Olympics, which USSR organized long time ago and continued to stage as the highest show of Soviet sport – an all-sports affair, in which the republics of the union competed. But times changed and the Spartakiad was no longer what it was, especially in collective sports – national team players were not involved and many classy players were not invited to the republican selections. It was becoming more of a tournament for youthful teams. However, the political clout of the tournament was big and two republics successfully argued that their clubs should play in second division in order of better preparation for the Spartakiad – Turkmenia (Turkmenistan today) and Kyrgizia (Kyrgizstan today) won and the division was increased. That meant that only one club was relegated from top flight – Dnepr (Dnepropetrovsk). Lokomotiv (Moscow) got a lucky break and stayed in first division. The first three of second division were promoted. Thus second division was left with 18 clubs. None was relegated, perhaps because the last in the league was Kolkhozchi (Ashkhabad) from Turkmenia. The 6 winners of the third division zones were all promoted: Traktor (Pavlodar), Alga (Frunze), Fakel (Voronezh), Metallist (Kharkov), and Spartak (Nalchik). Only one was from a republic wanting to prepare itself better for the Spartakiad – Alga represented Kyrgizia. If the reason was truly the case argued by Turkmenia and Kyrgizia, the results were quite strange: only two clubs of these republics appeared in second division – one was dead last the previous season and should have been relegated, the other played a bit second division before and was not up to the challenge. Because of two very weak clubs the league was enlarged to 24 teams – so it seems... More games was thought helpful, but in the same time weak teams struggled financially and bigger number also brought better opportunity for unambitious mid-table clubs to keep mediocre teams and not to worry a bit. As a whole, the 6 newcomers were not thought to increase the quality of the league – at least three of them were clearly inferior and did not belong. But this was the new format and it was to stay for the next season – the bottom 6 were to be relegated and the 6 zone winners – promoted.
The second change was still about the ties – the very reason rules were changed practically every season during the 1970s. Now it was to be a limit – only 8 ties brought points. Above that limit – no points. That was for top flight. In the second division the limit was 12 ties. So far, nothing worked and the new rule was also doubted. However, the problem was huge, that any new try was rather accepted than criticized in advance. The clubs did not like it as they did not like any previous innovation – ties were bread and butter for most clubs: sure points and no trouble. Of course, there were diminishing crowds, for who wants to watch two teams leisurely walking on the pitch without the slightest effort to attack and score, but as long as a club stayed in the league – happiness prevailed. Meantime the whole system developed big ills, side effects of the 'secure' living. Perhaps the biggest side effect was neglect of development of players and almost complete breakage of inter-leagues relations. Every league was almost entirely independent universe, existing on its own, without any interest in the other universes. Problems were usually articulated in post-season analysis and reviews.
As for the new rule, it was cautiously considered helpful: still 12 of the 18 first division clubs exceeded the limit, but only 4 in the second division. However, it was different than before: not team ended with half of their seasonal matches tied. Scoring slightly increased. A small positive step was made, but the negatives were more.
Third Division was judged almost entirely in negative terms in the post-season. Some problems were unavoidable because of the sheer size of USSR: the 6 third division zones were made more or less on geographic lines. The European zones, especially those consisting of Russian and Ukrainian clubs, were relatively strong – some clubs were at least at second division level. Going East was different story – quality rapidly decreased. The zonal leagues were very large – the reason went that quantity may lead to quality. 24 clubs played in Zone V, perhaps the weakest of all, where clubs of the furthest East played. It was very trying league: geographically, it covered huge portion of Siberia plus Uzbek, Kyrgiz, and Turkmen clubs. Hard to reach places – travel itself was a challenge and financial strain, not to mention the climatic differences: one day a team plays in frozen Tyumen, the next – in the scorching desert of Samarkand. Big cities like Chelyabinsk had infrastructure and perhaps even fans, but there were also barely known places hard to reach like Karshi. To remedy the inconveniences, teams played three matches at home and then three on the road, but this was interrupting training and rest without cutting down expenses. Teams spend lots of time traveling and idling in poor hotels. Many a coach felt that a zonal league should be no larger than 18 teams. Facilities were heavily criticized too – they were plain poor in most places. Sometimes it took three days just to reach the destination. There had been few changes in the members of leagues – for years they were practically the same, for very few clubs went up or down, which in turn affected the squads: same players traveled from club to club and coaches were able to tell the possible strength of the opposition just by the list of familiar from elsewhere names. No surprises at all, so there was no need to train very hard. No need for developing home-grown talent either: it was easier just to get familiar names from the vast pool. There were no facilities for training the youth anyway and any attempt for developing youth system meant only unwelcome expenses. As a result, the big clubs were not interested scouting third division – connections were already completely severed, so neither third division coaches, nor players had any ambitions: they knew all too well that no matter how they played, nobody will notice them and invite them to big club. With time, vast chasm opened between third division and the second: promoted clubs were much weaker and did not last up. Because of that, normally the zonal winners played a final tournament for three promotions – but now there were 6. Every zonal winner was going up. Which brought to attention the internal differences in the third division itself: normally, there were no more than three relatively strong and ambitious clubs in a single zone. The analysis of the season sadly concluded that there was nothing new at all – 10 clubs competed for 6 promotional places. The rest did not play a role at all... as ever. No wonder it was estimated that 75% of the matches were played in practically empty stadiums.
Third division splendor: Tekstilshtik (Ivanovo) scores against Dinamo (Bryansk). The season was deemed successful for Tekstilshtik – they finished second in Zone I, one of the stronger zones. However, they ended 11 points behind the champions – one may have expected more bite from a team no long ago playing in second division. But at least the picture shows attendance and modern uniforms, at least the shorts of the unlucky goalkeeper... The pitch, however, is another – and more typical – story.
So, lets go directly to the winners, for there is hardly anything else exciting about third division.
Zone I: Iskra (Smolensk) was without competition. They lost only three matches, earned 73 points, scored 86 goals, and left Tekstilshtik (Ivanovo) 11 points behind.
Standing, from left: Genady Gorbunov, Vladimir Babenko, Valery Andreev, Andrey Abzhinov, Evgeny Martyanov, Vladimir Baytekov – administrator,Lev Platonov – coach, Evgeny Miroshnikov – team chief, Roman Padura, Vyacheslav Murashkintzev, Aleksandr Novikov.
Crouching: Genady Svitavsky, Valery Danilenko, Anatoly Kuptzov, Dzemal Silagadze, Vladimir Ermichev, Anatoly Olkhovik, Aleksandr Gordov.
They 'brought joy to the fans' , it was said... much later. True, in part... Iskra played in relatively strong Russian group and also going up was great moment. The team is of course anonymous, but they had a star – Dzemal Silagadze was well known player and once upon a time even a big promise. Certainly he had glorious days in the past, but now represented in a nutshell the third division predicament: one fading star was more or less enough for winning. An ambitious team perhaps was best recognized by such a player – recruited precisely for elevating the team above the rest. Usually it worked. This was also an old club – founded in 1937, although named differently. Named 'Iskra' (Spark) in 1964.
Not having a star player meant lowly, but secure existence. Dinamo (Bryansk) – a typical eternal third division member.
Standing, from left: A. Takranov, S. Antonov, A. Lapin, S. Troitzky, V. Lagutin, M. Baranov, A. Shagin.
Sitting: V. Sychev, S. Bystritzky, V. Babichev, V. Novikov, V. Zimin – coach, A. Khokhlov, N. Suetin – administrator.
Zone II – largely Ukrainian league, hence, one of the best third division group. Slightly tougher championship than Zone I. More or less, three teams eyed the first place, but at the end Kolos (Nikopol) left the potential rivals SKA (Kiev) 4 points behind. SKA (Lvov) dropped out earlier. Kolos was very young club – founded in 1973 and representing not the city of Nikopol, but the whole Nikopol district. This perhaps explains their success: financially, they were supported by the whole district, thus able to aim higher. Of course, they played only in the city of Nikopol.
Niva (Vinitza) was typical third-division permanent member. Down in the table this season, but out of any danger. Just most clubs...
They became better known to the world only after Ukraine became independent and Niva was included in the Ukrainian first division. Something they were unable even to dream of in the Soviet times.
Zone III – generally, mixed group of Russian and Ukrainian clubs plus some Caucasian ones. Dinamo (Stavropol) was the only favourite, ending 12 points ahead of Rotor (Volgograd). The oldest of all third division winners – founded in 1924, but not successful at all. The only club among the winners which never changed its name.
Zone IV – Georgian, Armenian, Azerbaijani, and some Russian clubs. The only competitive league – three clubs fought to the end, Guria (Lanchkhuti) prevailing by a point over Lokomotiv (Samtredia), and 3 points ahead of Karabakh (Stepanakert). Southern flair: goal-scoring was everything and to hell with defense. Guria scored 110 goals, Lokomotiv – 109. South being South, some fixing and back room deals may be took place, but Soviet football was corrupt anyway, so it could be only difference in scale. Guria was founded in 1952 under the name 'Kolmeurne' (Kolkhoznik, in Georgian). Became Guria in 1960. So far, the club meant absolutely nothing to anyone , but they were to climb much higher in the 1980s. As a bit of curious trivia: Rubin (Kazan) played in this league.
First row, from left: S. Agafonov, E. Golov – administrator, A. Mashin, S. Shilyakov, N. Daminov, O. Orlov, A. Aladin, V. Golikov.
Standing: A. Beryuchevsky – coach, A. Ivanov, I. Dolgopolov, R. Navrozov – assistant coach, V. Skiba – team doctor, R. Shagivaleev, V. Usenko, A. Semenov, I. Zagidullin, G. Vostokov – assistant coach.
Rubin finished 19th in the 24-team league. The past of nowadays Russian powerhouse... nothing to brag about.
Zone V: The Asian republics – Kazakhstan, Turkmenia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgizia played here. Plus few Siberian Russian clubs. The weakest league, most likely. No real race for the title – Buston (Dzhizak)
finished 6 points clear from the nearest pursuer, Shakhrikhanetz (Shakhrikhan), which was 7 points ahead of the third finisher Aktyubinetz (Aktyubinsk). Buston was founded in 1970 and so far managed to use four names – DSK, Trud, then in 1975 was renamed Buston, which was not final name either. In 1976 the name was Irrigator, changed back to Buston in 1978. More name changes followed – perhaps, this is the most important historic note of the club. They hailed from Uzbekistan – the Spartakiad, remember?
Zone VI – the furthest East, Siberia at the end of the world. Plus a bit of Kazakhstan and may be some other Asian republics. If there was any strength, it was located on the Pacific Ocean coast and industrial cities – Vladivostok, Khabarovsk, Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Omsk, Tomsk, Ust-Kamenogorsk. But... too far away and too much in the North for some real success. It was just hard enough to play the game in the ice and upper league would be a nightmare for all involved, because of the enormous travels. Thus, the league was a bit on its own – local heroes, unknown anywhere else. Two clubs competed head to head for the title – Shakter (Karaganda) lost by a point. SKA (Khabarovsk) clinched the first place with 59 points. Founded in 1946 army club,which followed the general line of name changes of the whole military-club system. Under the name SKA since 1960 – like all their sister clubs scattered in the USSR. Sometimes they even had good players – thanks to the relations with 'mother club' CSKA Moscow. Young talent sent East to get experience or the odd veteran generously given to the little brother when CSKA no longer needed him. But currently CSKA was in dire straits, so little help was available.
The 6 winners brought joy only at home. Outside reaction was frosty – third division reviewer spoke only of deficiencies and problems. Not a single club was mentioned as a positive example. The winners apparently like everyone else, just more persistent this year. Second division commentators were even harsher – they did not see why such clubs should be playing in second division at all. They were certain that the league will be not stronger because of the newcomers and all were expected to be relegated immediately. The just finished season proved exactly that – the clubs for which the league was enlarged ended at the bottom, going back to third division. Where they belonged, surely having nothing to do with upper level football. The newcomers were of the same ilk. No welcome for the winners at all.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Friday, October 17, 2014

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Scotland Championship and Cup:

Saturday, October 11, 2014

With practically all outstanding players in England, Scotland had little to offer. Struggle was firmly setting in – most pronounced in the Second Division, where a handful of clubs tried to recover top flight status, but had in the same time difficulties coming in terms with new realities. Mostly financial ones... Thus, unlike the English Second Division, the Scottish one was not competitive – since the reform in 1975, two or three clubs were obviously above the rest. Pretty much was the situation at the bottom of the table. As for the leaders, they were former first division clubs – recently relegated too. Third Division – called Division 2 now – was no different: three clubs fought for 2 promotions. Falkirk lost by 2 points. Second finished Dunfermline Athletic with 52 points and the champions were Berwick Rangers with 54 points.
Up in Division 1 – the second division of Scotland – most clubs had no worries: they were not going neither up or down. At the bottom, Queen of the South and Montrose were hopeless outsiders, saving the other clubs fears of relegation. The combined record of the bottom club gave 49 points – good enough for 4th place without coming even close to the top three... The only real intrigue was about promotion: a battle between three clubs. Clydebank was relegated the previous season and wanted to climb back. Kilmarnock was relegated in 1977 and also wanted back among the best. As for Dundee FC, they were 'old-timers' – relegated in 1976. They finished 3rd two years in a row, missing promotion by a point the previous season. The most distinguished club playing second-tier football, they desperately wanted to return to the top league. But it was not easy... ambition is one thing, reality – quite another. No club had outstanding squad, so the race was tight – and exciting because of that – decided at the end of the season by tiny differences. Clydebank and Kilmarnock ended with 54 points each. Clydebank had the best strikers in the league, but leaky, if not atrocious defense. Kilmarnock had the best defense this season – and that was the whole difference: with better, much better goal-difference ( +37 to Clydebank's +28) they clinched second place and promotion.

Victory for Kilmarnock, however chancy.
The champions were no different – Dundee fretted to the end. They won 24 matches – but so did Clydebank too. Kilmarnock lost one less game than Dundee. Their attack was 5th in the league; their defense – second. Dundee did not excel in anything, but they squirreled 55 points – one more than rivals.

Champions by a single point – Dundee FC coming back to top flight after three years of second division misery. Hail the winners, but nobody saw the newcomers as sensation, going to challenge the status quo. Both Dundee FC and Kilmarnock were pretty much fodder... if they survived the next season would be just great.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Switzerland I Division and Cup:

Monday, October 6, 2014

Switzerland II Division & Promotion/Relegation:

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

First division seemingly settled into old pattern this season – the outsiders firmly took the last three places, endangering nobody else. Then 10 clubs were packed closely – 6 points was the difference between the 6th and the 15th – satisfied with easy life, and five clubs stayed on top of the pyramid. High above the bulk of the league, but also divided into three groups – three clubs scrambled for the bronze medals, then lone candidate for silver, but unable to put a fight for the title. Boring division really, but only on the surface – there were few interesting things: first of them, in the relegation zone. The last place was taken by Vasas Izzo (Budapest), modest newcomers, clearly not up to the challenge of first division footballs. No surprise... with 14 points they ended not only last, but 9 points behind the 17th placed Haladas VSE. Not much of a surprise in their relegation either – one of the modest clubs, Haladas played hide and seek with relegation almost every year. Two points better than Haladas and 16th were Csepel SC.

Now this was a news: old, strong and successful in the past, Csepel sunk to 6th place in the ranking Budapest clubs long time ago too. A real mid-table club for years and without chances for anything else – but never really weak. Nobody expected them to win a title, but nobody was expecting them to sunk either. Well, they sunk this season and badly too – it was not a matter of bad luck, losing by a point or two. Their relegation was even unpleasant news, registering a deep and may be irreversible crisis. Sad to see old revered club going to the dogs. It was not the only dangerous sign – MTK (Budapest) finished 14th. Looked like there were no enough players, or money, or both, to keep all big Budapest clubs strong – and the first victims or new reality appeared. Another club finished at lower place than their usual – Videoton ended 9th.

Looked like they were not going to challenge the status quo and giving up the ghost after few promising seasons. Typical provincials, one may say... but it was not really that. Videoton was only a point behind the 6th placed team and if they were not among the top, they were not really going down either – rather, taking a brake... their climb was going to continue and reach its peak in the 1980s.
Tatabanya finiched 7th – a rare strong season for uneven club.

Third row, from left: Magyar György edző, Csepecz, Dupai, Monostori Tivadar vezetőedző, Nagy I., Szabó György csapatkapitány, Dombai, Sándor Imre gyúró.
Middle row: Lakatos, Arany, Udvardi, Néder, Csapó, Gálhidi.
Bottom row: Schmidt, Zsidó, Barabás, Tamás, Kisteleki, Knapik, Hegyi.
The only interesting thing about this team was the picture itself: nice in the snow.
Honved was at 5th place.
Honved was still not capable to run for the title. It was coming back, like Dukla in Czechoslovakia, but not ready yet.
A place above finished Vasas.

A little bit of decline was sensed – Vasas was trying to keep its place, but it was mostly on inertia. Good squad, but the core players were with the team for years and getting past their peak.
Honved and Vasas fought for third place, but the winners were Diósgyőri VTK (Miskolc).
An old club, always accociated with Diosgyor Ironworks, but as most provincial clubs, winning nothing. Regular member of first division, but mid-table club. Did not give any signs of improvement in the recent years, so they were a bit of a surprise.

No stars here – second-stringers at best – but they contributed to the trend of rising provinsial clubs: proved to be at equal footing with the top clubs and players, and holded their ground. The title was out of their reach, but they edged Hoved and Vasas, taking bronze medals. 2 points ahead of Vasas, second-best defence in the league (only Raba ETO received fewer goals), and 4th best striking line. Not bad, overall, but in local terms it was something else: the best season to date was 1976-77, when DVTK won the Cup for the first time. It was their only trophy... They preserved the winning squad and the boys continued to play well. The third place was of historic proportions – it was the highest place of the club in the league. Highest ever, it turned out: DVTK never reached such hights. Thus, the team is legendary and also the season. And the coach Geza Szabo is rigthtly creditid with the success – he made the greatest team in the history of the club, guiding it to success between 1974 and 1981. Significant season in every aspect – the club scored its 1000th goal in first division; played its 800th match in the league. A season to remember.
As good as Diosgyor were, they were not a match for Ferencvaros. Yes, the obvious suspect, but also the club wnich was somewhat unable to master a great team during the 1970s.

Full of national team players, lead by Laszlo Balint and Tibor Nyilasi, younger than aging Ujpesti Dosza , but there was a little something missing... Ofr course, Fradi stayed at the top, but... not really winning. And this year they were firmly second – above the rest of the league, and bellow the arch-rivals. Quite bellow – 5 points behind at the end. Silver medals do not count for Ferencvaros.
Ujpesti Dosza won their 18th title. Easily, judging by the final standings.

It was a victory true to the club's style in the 1970s – attacking and high scoring football. It also looked like Lilak managed to avoid the dreadful slump usually coming with inevitably aging squad – since 1975 the team was clearly over the hill, and change of generations was expected to make trouble – but Ujpesti Dosza managed to stay on top and continued winning. Looked like they were dodging crisis and the critical moment was over by now. Looked like...

The champions still had 9 players of the squad reaching its peak around 1975. Some were getting old (Zambo, Rothermel, Dunai), others already had reached their potential and were no longer promising material (Kolar, Kellner, Fekete). New stars emerged and by now were top Hungarian players – Torocsik, Kerekes, Kardos – but still the team was dominated by the old guard. To a point, the case of Ujpesti Dosza illuminated the state of Hungarian football in the 1970s: talent was scarce and no matter what, the older generation was getting the upper hand at least domestically. Pal Varhidi was very good coach and managed not only to outfox the rest of the league, but to keep his boys well above anybody else. Looked like... looked like Ujpesti Dosza would be constant winner. The future had a bitter surprise for the club and its fans – this title was their last for the next 10 years.