Ireland the Cups

The two Irish cups did not bring surprises.

Dundalk won the League Cup. A compensation for otherwise weak season – they finished 11th in the league. The victory was not easy at all – the final ended at 2-2 tie. The replay was exactly the same – 2-2. Penalty shoot-out clinched the victory, but perhaps the losers deserve the final word: they were Cork Alberts. The short history of the club under this name makes them successful in peculiar way – two mid-table seasons in first division and cup final. That is all… and 1977-78 is the best ever season.

The FA Cup final opposed Sligo Rovers, having a good spell at that time period, to Shamrock Rovers, a traditional powerhouse in Irish football. Both clubs were ambitious to win, especially because they had relatively weak championship.

Sligo Rovers, champions very recently, were entirely out of the race for the title this year. So, the Cup was most desireable. They fought… they lost 0-1.

One more trophy collected by Shamrock Rovers, familiar story, season finished well after all.

Happy winners, whoever they were… as every other Irish team, Shamrock Rovers had no known players. Oops, not true – Johnny Giles was there, fresh from a spell Philadeplhia Fury, USA. A really big name in the Irish league, a star player of Manchester United, Leeds United, captaining the Irish national team for years. Surely he was making a big difference… except that he was 37-years old… the Irish predicament: big names played in Ireland only at the end of their careers, if at all. Giles stayed with Shamrock Rovers until 1983, which is quite a verdict on the strength of the Irish league: elsewhere was and is absolutely unlikely a player to kick the ball in first division and for a leading club when over 40.


Republic of Ireland The Championship


Republic of Ireland – one more season barely noticed outside the country. Since there was no second division, promotion-relegation was done in a way peculiar for the British Isles: election. Others decided if and which club meets the criteria for playing top flight. Given the usual strength of second leagues everywhere, the method chosen for promotion did not really matter – lower division clubs were seldom strong addition to the best. Even when ‘the best’ were not much, as it was traditionally the case of Ireland. There was no escape from the predicament: all better Irish players went to English and Scottish clubs at early age and hardly ever came back. This season was no different The elected newcomers were Galway Rovers and Thurles Town. They promptly occupied the very bottom places in the league and settled there – Thurles finished last with 10 points, winning just a single match. Galway were 15th with 16 points. The 14th placed Cork Celtic had 22 points – the newcomers were much weaker than anybody else, giving some indirect idea how difficult was promoting teams to first division even by election: they were simply no good.

Perhaps the only interesting thing was the case of Cork Alberts – they finished 9th, but such a club had played only two years in first division. Previously they were known as Albert Rovers. Change of name often suggests trouble… the new name did not last either, changed to Cork United and the club sunk back into obscurity. The city of Cork clearly was not able to support more than one club – and Cork United disappeared entirely, after merging with Cork Celtic.

So, the season was meaningful only at the top of he league – 5 clubs scrambled in the contest for the title. Waterford finished 5th with 39 points. Shamrock Rovers, one of the traditionally stronger Irish clubs, ended 4th with 40 points and losing bronze medals on goal-difference. Drogheda United clinched 3rd place. Second were Finn Harps with 42 points.

A very young club by the standards of the British Isles – they were formed in 1954. For those speaking Celtic, the name of the club is Cumann Peile Chlairsigh na Finne, and for non-supporters – ‘yo-yo club’, for their only regularity is moving between first and second tier of Irish football. However, they became ‘yo-yo club’ after 1990, and the 1970s were more or less their glory days. 1977-78 was one of their strongest ever – they came close to a title, losing the race by 2 points. They were also the club winning most matches in the league – 19.

Here they are – the pride of County Donegal. No name rings a bell, but success is success. Especially when happens so rare and the club will soon start its long-lasting decline.

The champions were familiar and ancient – Bohemian FC (Dublin).

There is no relation, but the club is mostly known combined with the other Bohemians, from Prague. The name is attractive, hence the clubs were often mentioned together. Of course, in Celtic their name is Cumann Peile Boitheamaigh, but commonly they are called just Bohemians. Founded in 1890, as a club from this region should be. They were traditionally strong force in Irish football, winning so far 6 titles. They were good this year – lost only 3 matches, scored 74 goals – the most by far in the league, and had the second-best defensive record. They were not really dominant, though – with 44 points, they were 2 points ahead of Finn Harps and the other pursuers were close too.

7th title, but perhaps the only memorable thing about that team is the wild – or bohemian – look of Ryan. True to name.

Denmark The Cup

The Cup final was a drama rarely seen not only in Denmark. Esbjerg had really great season – second in the championship and Cup finalists. No doubt, they were eager to win something. But so were their opponents of Frem. One of the traditionally successful Danish clubs, now down on their luck… mid-table was probably hearting and in need of remedy. Good or bad, strong or weak, neither opponent was giving up. The final, played in front of 12 700-strong crowd, finished 1-1. A replay… now the audinece dropped to… 1 807 fans. One of the reasons replays were becoming increasingly unpopular was just that: people were not showing up to see a replay. As for the game, it also finished 1-1. A third match was scheduled, leaving the problem with replays wide open – the gates improved to 2 300, but this was nothing near the attendance of the first match. Drama and suspence were rether tiring for the fans… and drama it was to the very end… 6-5 after overtime and penalty shoot-out.

BK Frem won. Very old club, founded in 1886, and relatively strong in the past, but the Cup was not their forte. So far, they had won it only once – in 1956. After that year Frem went into a long dry spell, winning no trophy. At last they won again – their second Cup.

The squad is typically anonymous, but the club managed to win the dramatic final. The victory may have been important in another aspect – Frem had quite a few rivals in Copenhagen (B 1901, B 1903, B 93 played in first division as well as Frem) and success almost surely meant survival – in a long term, literally: none of those names exists today. Frem went into bankruptcy too… Yes, it looked fine at the moment – the Cup more or less ensured that the jeans makers ‘Lee Cooper’ will continue to use Frem’s jerseys for their adds, but how long even Copenhagen was able to support old-fashioned clubs with small fan base? As it was, 1978 was almost the last gasp of Frem – from the distance of time, the Cup winners should be more appreciated perhaps.

Denmark I Division

Relegated clubs were in similar position – Randers Freja ended last, quite behind everybody else with measly 16 points.

Very weak season, but was the next to be similar?

Perhaps financing was an issue – they also displayed different sponsors on their shirts, although not as many as Skovbakken: only 4. An old club, but not very successful – they won the Cup three times and that was all, but their victories were fairly recent: 1967,1968, and 1973. Now going down – a typically unpredictable Danish clubs. Every season appeared to be pretty by itself, unrelated to even to recent past and not necessarily forcasting the future. Down for the moment, distinguishing themselves with the leakiest defence in the league – they received 88 goals. The next worst ended with 59.

Koge Boldclub finished 15th with 21 points.

Another up and down, although little known club… not much of a fighter this year, but they were Danish champions in 1975. So quickly fate changed in Denmark – no consistency at all.

By the look of them, relatively better off club: only two sponsors. A female masseur – something extremely unusual in the 1970s when football was entirely male from bottom to top. But Scandinavia was different – more relaxed, or may be because the game was not so fanatical as in the rest of the world.

14th were Frederikshavn fI. They also ended with 21 points, but better goal-difference than Koge. No comfort in that – they were still 3 points short of a safe spot.

Now, Frederikshavn forenede Idrætsklubber (also known as FfI or Frederikshavn fI) were what could pass for a really modest Danish club. They rarely played in First Division – a total of 5 season scattered in the 1960s and the 1970s. Unlikely member of the top league and unlikely coming back too.

And also typical of the Danish predicament: 7 sponsors tried to keep the club afloat. Watching Danish teams perhaps was a nighmare – every player seemed to be dressed in kit hardly matching anybody else’s on the pitch. It did not look like advertising, but rather like donation from friendly firms.

The rest of the league was more or less equal – no strong favourites and no big internal divisions. Perhaps Frem (Coppenhagen) were a bit low on their luck – they finished 10th – but was it a decline or just temporary weak seasons was impoosible to tell. OB Odense, AGF Aarhus, and Esbjerg fB fought for thrid and second place, eventually losing their edge during the season and all finishing quite behind the champions. OB Odense finished 4th with 38 points – may be unlucky, may be a bit weaker than the others.

With 39 points AGF Aarhus got bronze. Much better than their city rivals Skovbakken and one of historically successful Danish clubs, but the 1970s were not their time – nothing to brag about so far. Perhaps professionalism was good for them – they seemingly improved this year, yet it remained to be seen was it just a lucky season or something more consistent.

If adds could be any reliable indicaction, top spot depended on ability to attract sponsors: unlike the weaklings above, AaB had only one sponsor.

Second, with 40 points, finished Esbjerg forenede Boldklubber – or Esbjerg fB.

Their birthdate is a bit misleading – 1924 is actually the year when two local rivals merged into the Esbjerg fB. One of the original clubs was founded in 1898, the other in 1911. The new amalgamation was ambitious project, or so the club historians say. Esbjerg’s golden years were in the 1960s, when they won 4 titles and one cup. All ended in 1965, but a second good spell started in mid-70s: they won the Cup in 1975 and finished 2nd in 1978. May be better days laid ahead?

The ever-present ‘may be’… based on single sponsor and the presense of the national team goalkeeper Ole Kjaer. And may be Berthelsen… may be, may be, may be… on the negative side: they were second, but not a contender even when strong.

No ‘may be’ about the champions as such: at the end of the season, they appeared really dominant, finishing 4 points away from Esbjerg. The name was also familiar – Vejle BK.

Europeans were familiar with the name in the 1970s and it looked like to be ‘the big Danish club’, but this was misconception. The club is old, indeed, but not a force until 1970. The decade was the most succesful period in the club’s history – and also the most successful Danish club at the time, winning 4 titles, including 1978. Allan Simonsen played for them before going to Borussia (Moenchengladbach) and big fame. More or less, Vejle were consistent and this very season was one of their best ever: they reached the 1/4 finals in the 1977-78 European Cup Winners Cup.

Champions again, but how trully solid was the squad? No new Simonsen there… not even a new Ulrich Le Fevre… Well, judging champions would not do – they won, others did not.

Denmark – Overview and II Division


In the history of Danish football 1978 is very important: professionalism was introduced. The effect was not immediate – it was really long-term project. The Danish Federation reluctantly realized the changes in the game: it was not longer possible to sustain even relatively high quality amateur football. The direction was clear and inevitable. The Danes already took small steps – professional players were permitted to play for the national team since 1971. But it was half-measure at best – foreign-based players were rarely and reluctantly called and they were not very eager to don the Danish jersey for they were not paid for the trouble. The national team operated still on amateur basis – even coaches had no paying contracts. But reality was biting: amateur clubs had difficulties surviving. They were not getting money for the players joining foreign clubs, or they got very small compensation. It was increasingly difficult to develop good player in amateur structure – football was full-time job for very long time already and whoever wanted results needed to organize the whole structure professionally. The Federation resisted changes to the end, perhaps with some justified motifs: Danish clubs were old and not exclusively football clubs. The fan base was small, but loyal to their clubs, meaning it was not possible to forcefully amalgamate three or more clubs in otherwise small town into bigger and financially stable one. Denmark is a small and not particularly crazy about football country, so ambitious plans of creating a few mega-clubs was entirely unrealistic. The idea was never to make Danish clubs equal to British, Italian, Spanish, and West German clubs – the point was rather stabilizing the clubs, so they would be able to continue developing young talent and eventually getting income from transfers. It was mostly a matter of survival, not success. The most immediate impact was felt by 1982 and it involved the national team: the change in 1978 helped the national team with a big sponsor – the famous brewery Carlsberg – and thanks to the cash coming from the beer makers the Federation hired in 1979 fully professional coach – the West German Sepp Pionteck. And foreign-based players became the core of the new national team: now it was easy to call them to play for the country – travel expenses and bonuses were paid. But the change was not fully based on the Federation’s good will – they were also forced on it. Voices in favour of professionalism were not new and one of the most vocal belonged to Harald Nielsen, one of the all-time greatest Danish players. A big star in the 1960s, he played in Italy for Bologna, Napoli, and Sampdoria. Injury ended his career at 29 and he returned to Denmark. Nielsen was more than advocate of professionalism – he was involved in the pirate professional league as well. It was a classic problem, although coming very late to Denmark – in most countries the split happened before 1930, inevitably forcing federations to accept professionalism. It was a battle between legal body insisting on ‘purity’ vs clubs contracting players and organizing their own ‘rogue’ championship. As a rule of thumb, the best clubs were more than willing to go to the rogues and the Federation was almost left with no choice: the rebels were more attractive to the top players and fans were quickly following. The quality was higher among professionals, it was that simple – and nobody cared that they were ‘illegal’ and banished for life from the ‘official’ body. Not every club was in favour of that, but the results were clear – the best talent was abandoning the amateur clubs. The stand off always ended with quick legalization of professionalism – Denmark was no exception. On the surface, nothing changed at first: the league remained exactly as it was. Former ‘pirate’ clubs rather disappeared. If anything, Danes were level-headed and cool – they were not looking for some immediate results, but for long-term stability and gradual improvement. No club went on shopping spree or declared sudden ambitions of becoming a mega-club. Most likely the change helped the youth systems of the clubs. Finding money was perhaps the biggest concern – sponsorship was nothing new in Denmark, but it was not very lucrative. More or less, the real concern was finding the best way of using limited resources. Nothing fancy, just a careful long-term project – Europe hardly noticed the big change and the first noticeable thing was the national team. Four years later! Stronger Danish clubs were noticed and recognized probably around 1985-86, but it was mostly healthy recognition that Danish clubs were no longer an automatically easy opponent. As for the first professional season, it was hardly different from the old amateur ones.

Before anything else, a bit of trivia, illustrating the fundamental problem Danish football was facing, professional or not: money. Shirt adds were introduced years before, but nothing changed just because the clubs were now professional. Some were unable to get sponsors. Others had to improvise. Perhaps the following picture is unique: shirt adds are uniform, right?

IK Skovbakken (Aarhus) was not able to get enough money from a single sponsor. There were at least two other clubs in the city… which is not big… so the club had to be creative.

The players are not important here: 10 firms advertise on 11 players. Looking like sponsoring individual players, not the club – and it may have been that. Air Marine is apparently the biggest sponsor, having their name on the chests of two players. ‘Ford’ equal to ‘Royal Stake House’, most likely just a local restaurant. Most likely no other club ever displayed such strange photo, but it is an acute illustration of the deep problem of Danish football: money. Hard to get… Skovbakken finished 9th… not a place making sponsors willing to invest.

But Skovbakken was at least out of relegation zone. Three clubs were going down – to be replaced by the second division winners.

AaB Aalborg – also referred to as AaB Fodbold and Aalborg BK – was an up and down club. So far, the club won the Cup twice – in 1966 and 1970 – but slipped again to second division. Professionalism sounded fine, but Danish football was really semi-professional: it was up to the individual clubs to decide when, if at all, to become fully professional. In the case of AaB – 1987.

Traditionally shaky newcomers or returnees – at least they had seemingly better sponsor, judging by the uniform adds on their shirt.

The next promoted club was Ikast fS.

Another club with meaningless name outside Denmark – no trophies, no regular first division record, nothing.

Good for them going up and good luck in the new environment.

The last promotion went to club with more or less familiar name.

Hvidovre IF – a relatively young club by Danish standards, founded in 1925. Champions twice, the last time in 1973 – thanks to their brief participation in the European Champions Cup, the name was known, but like almost every Danish club a success one year did not mean stable performance later. Hvidovre were relegated and now were coming back.

There was no telling what impact Hvidovre would have on the first division – but this was true for the other promoted clubs and for the whole Danish football as well.

Turkey The Cup

The Cup final opposed Trabzonspor to Adanademirspor. The Northerners were force to reckon with already. Strong season, plenty of ambition, and classy enough. Adanademirspor were nobodies… they finished 13th with 25 points the championship. But one has to recall the great season of their city neighbours, who ended 4th. The city of Adana not only had wonderful season, but added new strength to the provincials. Was another Trabzon coming rapidly to disturb the old dominance of Istanbul?

There is a bit of confusion about the name: it is written Adanademirspor, Adana Demirspor, and Demirspor. The problem is obvious, although not well known: there are clubs with the same name in Turkey, so the name of city is included to make clear which one is meant. Relatively old club by Turkish standards – many clubs were formed in the 1960s, either new or amalgamated old and forgotten since then ones. Foundation in 1940 appears ancient in contrast, but Demirspor had more than modest existence so far. They were champions ones – in 1951, when Turkish football was still amateur. Not bad, but nothing good happened after the league was professionalized. Their nickname – Mavi Simsekler (Blue Lightning) – sounded like a joke. So far. Now they had a chance to win a real trophy.

The two-legged final started in Trabzon and Demirspor lost 0-3. Back home they managed only a scoreless tie, 0-0.

Losing finalists – yet, this team is well remembered in Adana: this is the highest ever achievement of the club.

As for the winners – 4th trophy since 1975. No doubt about them.

Winning the Cup looked easy, they were certainly dominant. Their coach was instrumental and must be named: Ahmet Suat Özyazıcı.

Surely not a famous name, but he made Trabzonspor a strong and successful club. Not many win 4 trophies in three years after all.

And here are the winners, rightly nicknamed ‘Karadeniz Firtinasi’ (Black Sea Storm). They were taking Turkish football by storm. Long lasting storm.

Turkey I Division

The picture on the top was both familiar and not. Besiktas slipped to 5th place. They were entirely outside the championship race and not even competing for medals. Temporary weakness, but also telling – the provincial clubs were getting stronger.

Adanaspor (Adana) had a strong year. Not at the level of the best three, but better than Besiktas.

A good example of the new winds in Turkish football: sponsorship and dependable foreigners. Perovic was not a star in Yugoslavia, but still competent and reliable player. He was not elevating the club single-handed, but was a valuable addition with professional attitude. Adanaspor finished 4th, earning a place in the UEFA Cup. They were three points ahead of Besiktas. And most interestingly, they were not the only club from Adana excelling this season.

Galatasaray was third. With 38 points, they finished 3points ahead of Adanaspor, but also 3 points less from the silver medalists. Perhaps not the stronger season of the club, but they were failing either. Still, ‘Cimbom’ were not champions since 1973 – a rather long dry spell so far and as it turned out, there were many more years without a title ahead. This was the first season playing with sponsor’s name on the shirts and the it was Volvo – but the great name of the Swedish car makers did not help.

New winds – Volvo and foreigners. Bosko Kajganic, the goalkeeper of Crvena zvezda (Belgrade), born in 1949, arrived this season. He is considered the best goalkeeper Galatasaray ever had, but he died in tragic car accident at the end of the season.

His impact was great – here is his replacement Nihat Akbay playing with shirt displaying not Volvo, but the name of dead Yugoslavian. Meantime another Yugoslavian arrived – the 26-years old midfielder Esref Yasarevic from Sloboda (Tuzla).

Two clubs contested the title, chasing each other to the end. Trabzonspor clearly confirmed its addition to the big three of Turkish football, making them four. With a double the previous year, Trabzonspor wanted more. The title they lost by a single point, having the best defense in the league – they received only 16 goals in 30 games. They also won most matches – 18, but unfortunately lost 7. The same number as the Adanaspor, 4th, but 2 more than the record of Galatasaray and Fenerbahce. Their attack was second-best. Trabzonspor were clearly determined to stay on top – a provincial challenge to the status quo.

Standing from left: Mehmet, Şenol, Necati, Hüseyin, Güngör, Ahmet.

Crouching: Necdet, Turgay, Serdar, Yaşar, Orhan.

Successful season for Trabzonspor – second place was not a disappointment and there was still a trophy won.

Fenerbahce cliched the title by single point. 9th professional title for ‘Sari Kanaryalar’ (The Yellow Canaries) or 12th total.

Naturally, it was great to leave the arch-enemy Galatasaray in the dust, but now the real danger came from the Black Sea coast – Trabzonspor. Defeating the provincials was not easy. The duel lasted the whole season, but the Canaries were victorious at the end.

Like Galatasaray, Fenerbahce added new foreign players in 1977 – the rivalry continued in the recruit of new players: Galatasaray shopped from Crvena zvezda, Fenerbahce – from their bitter rivals Partizan (Belgrade). Cimbom bought a goalkeeper and so did Sari Kanaryalar: Radmilo Ivancevic, born 1950. Plus Radomir Antic, a defender born in 1948. Like their rivals, Fenerbahce did not buy really famous players – Ivancevic never played for Yugoslavia and Antic only once in 1973 – but solid and reliable ones. They helped, but did not stay long – Antic moved to Real Zaragoza (Spain) after the end of the season. Ivancevic returned to Yugoslavia a bit later and generally disappeared from sight. As for Antic, who would guess back in 1977 that he was to become a famous coach. Spells with both Barcelona and Real Madrid happen very rarely. But it was Turkish title in the spring of 1978.

One more look at the champions.



Slowly progressing Turkey, but progressing nevertheless. More consistent import of foreign players – not stars, but reliable ones, mostly Yugoslavians; shirt sponsorship, bringing revenue. More professionalism added to fanatical support from the stands. Of course, the big three from Istanbul dominated the scene, but it is safe to add a forth club by this time: Trabzonspor. And provincial clubs were no longer just a décor to the battles between Fenerbahce and Galatasaray. Second Division football was quite behind, of course, but had its own drama.

There were clubs better known today than in the 1970s –

Like Gazientepspor. Back then – nothing much.


Goztepe (Izmir) won promotion – a quick return to top flight of the old club, relegated the year before. Not a surprise – Goztepe more or less belonged to the best.

The second promotion was a surprise, though:

Kirikkalespor (Kirikkale), a young club founded in 1967 and not exactly from a well known hometown. Modest by all means, but they had a good season and bravely won promotion.

May be photo of the unlikely winners, may be not… There is little information about the club, however, the quad has the look of the time. Kirikkalespor never played first division football – true debutantes, bringing only one question: were they able to survive? But this was for the next year – they enjoyed the present and rightly so.

At the bottom of First Division five teams fought for survival. Two inevitably went down. One was a bit of a surprise:

Ankaragucu had good years behind them. They were a likely addition to the big trio from Istanbul – a club from the capital challenging the old guard was logical. True, Ankaragucu were not the only club in Ankara, but seemed best positioned. Yet, they finished 15th and were relegated. Instead of challenging Istanbul, Ankara was to be without any representative in top flight.

Dead last was more or less expected club.

Mersin Idmanyurdu (Mersin) had strong years, but also weak ones, and it was not surprising to see them in second division. Up and down, more likely down – 21 points they had, earned mostly by draws. Three wins was nothing, so it did not matter that Mersin did not lose more than ½ of their championship matches. 15 ties – exactly every second match they played this season – was a league record, but it also meant relegation.

Nothing good can be said about the last in the league. The only interesting point is their sponsor – a bit funny to see Opel, the giant automakers, relegated.

The bulk of mid-table teams was quite large – 7 teams, almost half of the league. Still unstable – up and down, depending on particular season.

Bursaspor, a typical example. 10th this year with 28 points, but they had better stronger year not long ago. Perhaps clubs like Bursaspor were the most important: their development meant the general improvement of Turkish football – if able to maintain stability, sooner or later they were to challenge the big clubs dominating the league. Bursaspor were perhaps a bit down this season, yet, remained among the mid-table clubs – this was perhaps most important: not to plummet to relegation after strong a season or two.

Sweden The Cup

The Cup final opposed two of the best clubs this year: Malmo FF and Kalmar FF.

Kalmar FF never won a trophy. They were quite modest for years, no strangers to second division football, and hardly the club easily coming to mind.

Now they had more than a chance – local business consortium decided to help the club with some cash and thanks to that Kalmar FF bought Lars Roger ‘Benno’ Magnusson from Hertha (West Berlin). A big transfer surely – no Swedish club was buying players from the big West European leagues. It was the other way around: Swedish clubs losing easily players to others. Magnusson, still 24 when he came back to Sweden, was one of the great youngsters who made Atvodabergs FF champions. He, like the others, quickly left to play abroad. Like Edstrom he came back to play in Sweden, and like his former teammate, it was not for his original club. There was no more great talent in the squad – perhaps only the local legend Johnny Erlandsson – but it was enough to propel Kalmar FF high. A unusually strong period for the club started – and now trophy was possible. No doubt, the club wanted to win. They had a chance and ambition, played a second consecutive strong season.

But it was not enough – Malmo FF won the final 2-0.

It may have been a case of ambition vs experience, but Malmo FF were the steadiest and most successful Swedish club in the decade. May be this year they were not good enough for a title, but ending without a trophy was not like them. It was their 9 since 1970! Five titles and now 4th Cup. There was one more motivating factor: so far Malmo FF won the Cup 9th times. A round 10 was much desired – a record, why not? They made it.

As for the squad, it was familiar recitation of names since 1970. Including the coach Bob Houghton – he was very young when he took the reins of Malmo FF. He was still young… a feature so familiar, that his age was even surprising: Houghton looked like he will retire with Malmo. Eternal coach… equals ancient coach. Houghton was only 40 in 1978. Thanks to him, another young Englishman arrived in Sweden – Houghton helped his friend, someone called Roy Hodgson, to take over Halmstads BK in 1976.

Sweden I Division

So these two were the newly promoted – they were to replace Vasteras SK and Orebro SK.

Vasteras SK were another modest club, which generally meandered between first and second division. Nothing really surprising they finished 14th – last in First Division. They were not hopeless outsiders, but still lost – 18 points was simply one point short of safety.

Orebro SK also finished with 18 points, but with better goal-difference than Vasteras SK. Did not matter… they too went down. Unlike Vasteras SK, Orebro had good reputation and it appeared a bit surprising to see them relegated. But Swedish football hardly had ‘big’ clubs and ups and downs were frequent. A decline or just temporary bad luck – it was hard to say.

Decline was the situation of another club: Atvidabergs FF. Champions in the beginning of the 1970s, having few of the brightest young stars of the time, they were too small to be able to stay on top – the stars left and the club gradually went down. Lower every next year, but still staying in First Division. They barely survived this season – 12th with 19 points – but the future was obviously dark. Relegation was easy to see coming. The stars were coming back to play in Sweden – but not for their former club.

Most of the league shuffled depending on momentary squad – ups and down were the norm.

Halmstads BK were great a few years back – now they were 8th. So was the case of most clubs – often the availability of bright player or his departure spelled the fate of a club in a particular season. Things could change the next – for better or worse – and then again after that. Halmstads BK were relatively down, but they were to play a local derby the next season. At least that.

The top competed largely for silver and bronze medals – Kalmar FF finished 4th with 31 points. Worse goal-difference left them without medals, but the club enjoyed strong period.

IFK Goteborg clinched third place. If Atvidabergs FF was clearly in decline, IFK Goteborg was rising. The 1970s were bleak years for the club – they won absolutely nothing since 1969. Now there was a sign of improvement – not just the odd good season, but long-lasting.

IFK Goteborg already had the great Bjorn Nordquist, they had a bunch of talented youngsters, and they recruited another star in 1977 – Ralf Edstrom. The club appeared ambitious and serious – they seemingly wanted to become a major force in Swedish football. They seemingly had the financial means to invest in long-term project: Edstrom was not cheap. On the surface it looked like the wonderful forward was fading away, but he was still young, still a national team player, and even he was no longer considered good enough for big European clubs, he had a lot to contribute at home. Perhaps going to IFK Goteborg revived his career, but the benefits for the clubs were obvious: the international success in the early 1980s was forged in the late 1970 – this was just the beginning. As for ending… so far, there is no sign of ending. IFK Goteborg are still the strongest Swedish club – the project started around 1978 was very good one. But it was still in its early days – and IFK Goteborg made its first move by winning bronze medals.

One point left them without silver – second place was won by Malmo FF. Remarcably long-lasting squad – almost the same players made Malmo FF the most successful Swedish club in the 1970s. Still no sign of wearing out, still a force. They were not real contender this year, but maintained their leading position nevertheless.

The champions were new – and overwhelming.

Osters IF (Vaxjo) were relatively familiar name, but not really the first coming to mind. Founded in 1930, they had a single trophy so far: Swedish champions in 1968. Ten years later they won their second title and overwhelmingly so: 6 points more than second-placed Malmo FF. They lost half the number Malmo FF had – only 3 losses, but the most wins in the league – 15. They did not have the best defense – Malmo FF had it, receiving 15 goals to Osters 20; their attack was topped by Djurgardens IF – 50 goals to Osters’ 46; but they had the best goal-difference by far: +26. The second-best, Malmo FF, was +14. Much deserving champions.

And also typically Swedish champions – no big stars here. The players are largely unfamiliar. A new striker was recruited for this season – the 25-years old national player of Island Teitur Thordarson. Foreigners were still few in Sweden and the new striker did not even come from first league football – he arrived from the second division Jonkoping. He was a national team player since 1972, but Islandic players meant nothing in the 1970s. Yet, Thordarson is significant – one of the early successful players from the island, one of those making Islandic players respectable and desired by European clubs. He helped Osters to their title, a nice addition. The other one was a debutant, whose name was even more obscure than Thordarson’s: a very young goalkeeper, named Thomas Ravelli. Only 18 years old. One perhaps would make a mistake pointed him at the photo: the known Ravelli had little hair on his head… but this is Goran Hagberg on the picture. Of course, nobody knew in 1978 that Ravelli will be the most capped Swedish player… What a great beginning of exceptionally long career – a title in its very first season. Ravelli stayed with Osters 10 years and he called it quit also in his original club in 1999. Ravelli was still years away of any possible records – he earned his first cap for Sweden in 1981. The fantastic 148 appearances would not be even a dream in the 1970s.