First league table shows an interesting picture: 12 clubs were very close to each other – 4 points divided the 4th from the 15th placed. The last clubs were either way above or bellow the bulk of the league. It was not much different the previous years, so nothing new. Occasional slip or lucky strike seemed to be decisive factors. Fairly equal clubs, which could be easily at the top one round and in relegation zone the next. Not very strong teams, unfortunately – those at the top were not so much strong, but rather happy to survive. The outsider was unusual club:
Gornik (Zabrze) were among the favourites a couple of years ago. They were perhaps the closest to a truly dominant team Polish football ever produced – the successful squad of 1966-72. Decline settled after that, at first unnoticed, but inevitable. Aging slowly reduced the number of the stars and no new talent stepped in. Szarmach moved to Stal (Mielec) in 1976. By 1977 only Jerzy Gorgon remained from the old great squad. Still, to see Gornik at the bottom of the league was shocking – somewhat, it was sudden collapse. They earned only 23 points, winning just 6 matches. However, their goal-difference was unusual for rock bottom team: 25-30. Polish league was strange… not much goals were scored, the results were minimal and the records were similar to Gurnik’s.
Jerzy Gorgon in 1970, just getting noticed as an young talent in the very talented Gornik of that time. Top defender, national team regular, one of the few internationally known Polish players before 1974, and going to his second World Cup finals with Poland in 1978. However, unable to save his club from relegation… must have been very disappointing and frustrating season for the 28-years old star. Going to second division and the World Cup finals at the same time.
Zawisza (Bydgoszcz) took the 15th place and joined Gornik on the way down. Zawisza finishing low was no surprise – unlike Gornik, they were lowly club. Unlucky too – four clubs finished with 27 points. If goal-difference was the decisive factor, Zawisza would have been safe – Szombierki (Bytom) had the worst goal-difference in the league (25-35). But it was head-to-head record deciding the position of those with equal points. Szombierki finished 12th and Zawisza 15th.
Just above them ended surprising club – Ruch (Chorzow), one of the best Polish clubs in the 1970s. Champions or near-champions… they were expected to be among the contenders, even more so than Gornik. Instead, Ruch barely survived. Like Gornik, they were unable to find strong replacement of aging stars, who either retired or went to play abroad. Unlike Gornik, whose decline was slow and long, Ruch suddenly plunged down. Which may have been better for the club – so great a shock required urgent measures to be taken.
There was little else of great import across the league – Stal (Mielec) ended 8th with 29 points. Not really a collapse, but somewhat predictable outcome for a club which had just 6-7 really good players in their best seasons. Now they were simply like the most of the league. So were Legia (Warszawa) for few years already – nothing special, an ordinary club. Having Deyna was not making any difference… Gornik had Gorgon and still was relegated. Legia ended 5th with 31 points. Pretty good position in the final table, unless one remembers the points – Legia was only 4 points away from Zawisza (Bydgoszcz). Legia won 12 matches – the 15th placed had 11 wins. Relegation was much closer possibility for Legia than winning the title. LKS (Lodz) edged Legia, thanks to head-to-head matches, taking the 4th place, also with 31 points. Another one-man team… LKS depended on the goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski.
And three clubs were high above from the whole league. They competed for the title to the end – 2 points was the final difference, deciding who ends where. Two clubs were generally expected to be contenders – Slask (Wroclaw), the champions of the previous season, were at their peak as a team. Wisla (Krakow) were stable for years and among the best. Lech (Poznan) was the newcomer in a sense – a rising team, but still questionable one. They finished 3rd with 37 points. 12 wins, 13 ties, 5 losses. 29-25 scoring record… rather measly for high finisher. Less than a goal per game average.
The squad perhaps explains their rise: a good group of players here – Gut, Chojnacki, Mowlik, Napierala. Other clubs had one or two stars by now – Lech had more and younger ones too, just nearing at their peak. Stars, but no great stars, so the future of the club was still questionable. It did not look like great squad. The potential was strong, but still only a potential. Good season, but the more important was the next one: were they to keep developing or were they just one time wonder? Lech was in the situation of Slask (Wroclaw) of two years ago – impressive season, but the team had to prove itself in the future still.
Slask probably was fully recognized exactly this season: they already won the Cup and the championship, and finishing second was not equal to victories, but this was third strong year already, they were contenders, they remained strong – truly strong.
Yet, Slask remained relatively unknown outside Poland. The reason was the making of the squad –
A good team, well balanced, not getting old yet, but largely for domestic consumption. Only Zmuda was world class. A number of players here played for Poland, but who remembers them now? It was a good squad for that particular time, when Polish football was actually slightly weaker than a few years before. And that is why Lech (Poznan) was not immediately recognized as a strong team – they were similar to Slask. Given the strength of the league, Slask were to stay on top perhaps a few more years.
But not this one – Wisla bested all. It was not a great victory – the champions finished with 39 points. 13 wins, 13 ties – quite conservative approach. Three clubs scored the same as or more goals than the champions – Odra (Opole) was 6th (35 goals – the same as Wisla) and Pogon (Szczecin) was 11th (36 goals). That was the warning sign – the champions were better in attack than the rest of the league. They had the best defensive record, however, receiving only 23 goals.
Not an overwhelming victory, but well deserved nevertheless. Wisla were consistently strong, potential winners for some time, so finally they did what was expected and hoped of them. A good squad by Polish measures – the well known since 1974 A. Szymanowski, K. Kmiecik, and Z. Kapka, all in their prime, plus additional younger talent – Maculewicz and Nawalka. Kazimierz Kmiecik was the league top scorer of the season – he scored only 15 goals, but bested Andrzej Szarmach and Zbigniew Boniek. Wisla was perhaps the club in best position to add new quality to their team – located in big city, perhaps having more money than most clubs, and having bunch of great players who were fun to play with. Wisla was attractive club for talented players located elsewhere, so the chances of Wisla staying strong were big. As for the club, it was the end of long, long suffering – it was their 6th title, but they had to wait 27 years for it. First title since 1951… a few more victories were certainly needed to remedy the dry years. The team looked more than capable of doing just that.