Monday, September 29, 2014

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Austria - changes and II Division:

Monday, September 22, 2014

As for the best of Czechoslovakian football, it was expected and familiar group – Banik (Ostrava), Zbrojovka (Brno), and Dukla (Prague). Zbrojovka, the champions of the previous season, were expected to be among the favourites, although it was hard to see them champions again. The club was strong and steady for some time, but lacked depth. No quality players were recruited between the seasons, so it was the same squad which won the 1977-78 championship, for good or bad. They still played well, but were not contenders this time: comfortably getting 3rd place, but 6 points behind the top two. Banik was one of the strongest and most consistent clubs during the 1970s and continued to be so – once again they aimed at the title and fought bravely to the very end. However, they were similar to Zbrojovka – with some aging stars and without influx of new blood, they had shortcomings and short bench of reserves. Yet, Banik had plenty of experience and ambition too. It was especially hard to best them – Banik finished with only 5 losses this year, nobody had a better record. Scoring was not their forte, but they collected enough points – 41. Again, no one bested that... so it came to goal-difference and the superior scoring power of Dukla won. Banik ended with +22, Dukla with +41!

It looked like Dukla fully recovered and was going to be the dominant Czechoslovakian club again. They had the best squad in the league by far and more importantly, it was not based on aging stars. Dukla practically had the 'next' generation of Czechoslovakian football – as a whole, about 17 players played for the national team, but the core of them were those defining the next strong period of Czechoslovak football: 1980-1984. Vizek, Stambachr, Barmos, Berger – no longer promising youngsters, no longer in the shadow of the great players of the first half of the 1970s, but rapidly becoming the stars of the country and the key players of the national team. Vejvoda continued to lead his squad to victory. It was still a time of transition, and the old guard was strong enough to compete with the younger players of Dukla, but the future belonged to the boys in yellow. The team already had depth and no doubt new talent was to be added, given the advantage the army club had: not only located in Prague, but benefiting from the universal military service – they were able to get whoever player they wanted as soon as he had to serve in the army. Dukla perhaps was not quite ripe – they clinched the title only because of better goal-difference, but their dominance was clearly visible: every other club was more or less either over the hill, or already in decline – Dukla was the only team rising, not yet reaching its full potential.
Older feet were still running strong, though. Banik (Ostrava) reached the Cup final. The other finalist was not Dukla, but Lokomotiva (Kosice). They were perhaps the best Slovak team at the time, enjoying their peak. Which was not all that much: Lokomotiva never had more than 2-3 real stars and even in their best years – perhaps no more than 6-7 solid players. Not bad for a small club, but hardly enough for major impact. Inconsistency was the result – one year strong, not so in the next. Lokomotiva finished third in the 1977-78 championship. In 1978-79 they were down at 11th place. But a squad like theirs was better suitable for cup tournaments. Lokomotiva won the Cup in 1977 – now they were playing at the final again. To a point, they had it easier than Banik – the national cup was played between the winners of the Czech and Slovak cups, and with Slovak clubs in sharp decline, Lokomotiva had weaker opposition. But never mind, the Cup final was another matter. Lokomotiva prevailed 2-1 and won their second cup!
It was great success – how many small clubs win the national cup twice in three years? It was the best period in the history of the club: the Cup in 1977, then bronze medals from the championship in 1978, and the Cup was theirs again in 1979. Before 1977 they had only one star – Moder. Now there were more – Seman, Kozak, Josza, Biros. Pavol Biros, formerly of Inter (Bratislava), was more than valuable recruit – he was already a national team player. Yet, Lokomotiva hardly had a chance of becoming a big force in the league: it was compact team, belonging to a modest club. Not much growth was possible – which made winning the Cup even sweeter: it was against the odds.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Romania I Division and Cup:

Monday, September 15, 2014

Saturday, September 13, 2014

With the whole league in place, what about the champions. They were brand new – always exciting moment of football history. Apparently, the steady rising Dynamo (Berlin) finally matured. 
Dynamo (Berlin) never won a title before. Since 1970 they were going up, establishing themselves as the 5th big East German club, but so far were similar to Lokomotive (Leipzig): constantly strong, but not really a title contender. Yet, their squad was getting stronger and stronger and the emerging new stars tended to play for Dynamo. They were expected to win a title or two, just it was difficult to figure out when. And also it looked like they were going to clinch occasional title in a tightly contested championship. Instead, they came with a real bang – 21 wins, 4 ties, and a single loss. 75-18 goal-difference, clearly the best team, not a single weak line, overwhelming. Dynamo (Dresden) was left in the dust, 7 points behind. Explosive first title and for the moment, greeted at least from abroad as a fresh change of the familiar and becoming slightly boring parade of East German champions: Dynamo, Magdeburg, and Carl Zeiss, again, again, and again. How the new champions were seen in East Germany is another matter, but it was not all that clear that they will monopolize the championship. Not yet.
First time champions, joy for their supporters and even bigger joy for their sponsors, the Stassi. Lauck, Terletzki, and Trieloff were stars for years, but now a whole bunch of new national team players formed the team – Rudwaleit, Noack, Troppa, Ullrich, Riediger, Starsser, Netz. The future of the East German football, replacing the heroes of 1974. So, the future belonged to this team. Another very promising player was also in the squad – Lutz Eigendorf. Soon he was to defect, ending in West Germany and playing successfully in the Bundesliga. Not the first East German to run to the other side, but Eigendorf was particularly irritating case: first, because he came from the club belonging to the Stassi, the most ideologically 'correct' club... what a blow to have a player defecting. Second, Eigendorf not only run away, but was very vocal, constantly criticizing the Communist East German regime. This immediately prevented his former masters to use the traditional condemnation that an young greedy idiot was lured by money and betrayed his country purely for selfish – and foreign to Communist society – reasons. Eigendorf was ideologically motivated and therefore dangerous. He died in suspicious car accident... the case was not never solved, but ever since Stassi is considered the guilty party, staging a murder. 
 Anyhow, Dynamo were triumphant and more – they had a chance for a double. At the Cup final they faced 1.FC Magdeburg. The regular time ended scoreless and the overtime Seguin scored the single goal of the final. Unfortunately, Seguin played for Magdeburg... and Dynamo lost. Not yet ready for complete domination... for the moment, it looked like that the team was going to be a winner, but not the only one...  the lost final was prophetic – Dynamo (Berlin) was unable to win the Cup until 1988. 
Magdeburg won their 6th Cup. It was also second consecutive cup victory, won by exactly the same result as in 1978. 

The only East German so far winning European cup, still had teeth. Sparwasser, Zapf, Tyll, Pommerenke, Hoffmann, Seguin, Raugust – all Cup Winners Cup holders from the memorial triumph in 1974. Add the best-ever East German goal-scorer Joachim Streich, who was once again the league top scorer with 23 goals. New talent was also at hand. Magdeburg was still a force and looked like younger Dynamo (Berlin) was not going to dominate East Germany – at least Magdeburg, with their very experienced squad, was equally strong. So it appeared in the spring of 1979. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Monday, September 8, 2014

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Bulgaria - Championship and Cup:

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

First division offered a mixed bag of goods. Some clubs were in decline and dangerously slipping down. Others struggled to establish relatively strong teams. The leaders were familiar. Decline settled in four clubs – it was detected earlier, perhaps measures were taken to stop it, but they were not effective. Akademik (Sofia) suffered the most – the very design of the club made this possible. The 'students' club had no way of keeping players – as long as they graduated from University, they had no right to stay with the club. The great team of the mid-1970s was another danger – Akademik was constantly raided by the big clubs and the best players taken away. By 1978 practically nobody of the strong squad was still in Akademik and the new recruits, although promising, were not at the same level. Perhaps they lacked character, perhaps they saw playing for Akademik only as means for getting easy degree, perhaps the selection was altogether wrong, but the team had no chemistry, finished 15th, and was relegated. Lokomotiv (Plovdiv) came dangerously close to relegation – they ended 14th. 
From fighting for the title to struggling to escape relegation – the problems of Lokomotiv were obvious and detected a few years back: it was dangerously aging squad. There was no easy solution – the regulars were great players, lead by Christo Bonev, the best Bulgarian player of the 1970s and one of the all-time greatest Bulgarian footballers. There were also the former national team goalkeeper Stancho Bonchev, the legendary right winger Georgy Vassilev, to name but only the biggest names. Not only there was reluctance to let go legends – another problem was their form. Old, but still dangerous and much better than younger players. Thus, Lokomotiv, trying to replace other veterans, suddenly ended with strange and disfunctional squad – half of it was veterans over 30, and the other half were almost teenagers, too young and too inexperienced. The road to disaster was wide open – the strange mix did not work. Another club was going in the same direction – Pirin (Blagoevgrad), but at least for the moment they had hope for better fate: unlike Lokomotiv, they had more and better youngsters. The other club going downhill suffered from its predicament. Sliven were something like a farm club of CSKA – the 'mother' club was constantly sending young players to get experience with Sliven, but as soon as they played well, they were taken back. A few were actually shuffled a few times between the clubs. The result was constant uncertainty – Sliven was not in a position of building a strong team and sooner or later was to pay the prize for subservience. They finished 13th this year and although their luck could change in the next season, the danger remained  -  performance depended largely on what players CSKA was giving or taking away, there was no permanence. The fourth club in decline  was Botev (Vratza). Like Lokomotiv (Plovdiv), they were strong in the early 1970s, but their best players aged. Botev was slowly sinking. 
Front row, from left: R. Panov, L. Manov, Oleg Karchev, D. Efremov, N. Penkov, S. Dimitrov
Middle row: P. Kamenov – assistant coach, L. Kunovsky, V. Petkov,  M. Goranov, V. Romansky – coach, T. Mitov, V. Toshkov, An. Tzenov, G. Kamenov – assistant coach.
Top row: Ves. Petkov, P. Dimchev, S. Venkov, P . Petrov, Val. Maldzhansky, V. Krastev, T. Arsov, S. Angelov.
It was a team still depending on the veterans from the late 1960s and the early 70s: Penkov, Tzenov, Angelov, Kunovsky, all nearing retirement and no longer at the their best. Milen Goranov, who made his name with Akademik Sofia was  also in his third decade – and he was the best addition to the team! None from the promising youngsters of five-six years ago developed into a star – Toshkov and Efremov apparently reached their peak already and their best was not as great as expected. Newer recruits were not even that – the only promising additions were the goalkeeper Arsov and the central defender Maldzhansky. Arsov, although he caught the eye of CSKA and moved to the big club for a while, never lived up to expectations. Maldzhansky, not exactly a great hope at first, for he was not young at all when came from the lower leagues to Botev, was the only player who not only secured a place in the regular team, but became one of the top Bulgarian defenders of the early 1980s and eventually played in the national team. Yet, when the best new discovery is a 28 years old unknown the future does not look bright.   
 Four clubs in decline, but those rising were half the number... Trakia (Plovdiv) successfully changed generations with just a brief trouble, thanks to talented teenagers in their youth system. Almost the whole team was their own production and apparently there was no end of even younger talent – already 4 players, who just popped up, were taken by CSKA (Dzhevizov, Kalburov, and Slavkov) and Levski (Milkov), and it was not a problem – they were replaced by other fresh juniors. And the new boys were often even better than those who were introduced a year or two earlier. Trakia was expected to burst big, to become a title contender. They finished 8th this season, and the mid-table position was excused – the team was still too young and inexperienced. However, the place should have been alarming – it was already a second or third year Trakia was hailed as the next big thing and the middle of the table was hardly a success. Were they to become just another unfulfilled promise ,were they to settle for comfortable mediocrity? The danger of that was real. Meantime, the great Dinko Dermendzhiev, one of the best Bulgarian players of the 1960s and 1970s played his last season and retired. It was sad to see him gone, but in the same time the generational change was completed – not a single player of the older generation was in the squad, everything was in the feet of the young boys. 
Trakia bursting with new talent – the most promising team in Bulgaria.
 The other interesting club was Chernomoretz (Bourgas) – they returned to top flight the previous season, played well, and now – even better, ending at 5th place.  Like Trakia, they depended on talented home grown youngsters. The new boys were perhaps not so talented as Trakia's, but so far they played more seriously and successfully. Both clubs were example of an old truth: a club gets best results if building a strong youth system and producing their own stars. In a small country, with small pool of talent, this was the most efficient policy. 
 The rest of the league performed as usual. Marek finished 6th, no better and no worse than the previous two seasons – it was amazing, because the club depended still on the very 12 players as in their first great season two years before. And it was very risky... how long such a run would last with so limited resources? An injury, one or two transfers to other clubs, and... the team will be destroyed. If luckily avoiding that, then aging was inevitable – a quarter of the regulars were getting old already. 
Beroe had a strong season, but it was also typical unpredictable Beroe – one year down, the next up, no consistency.  At the bottom pf the table settled the debutant Haskovo. It was expected – they had no strong team when they won promotion and did not take strong additions. Their best efforts did not produce results – the squad was simply lacking first division quality. They earned 19 points, but were still 3 points behind the 15th place Akademik. Down they went, along with Akademik.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Bulgaria Northern Second Division: