France I Division

The events in the Second Division perhaps were enjoyed at the bottom of First Division – Valenciennes survived. They finished 18th on better goal-difference. If only two clubs were relegated this season, then they were saved by the rules ; if originally three clubs were going down, then Gueugnon’s inability to join the top league saved Valenciennes. Lucky boys no matter the reason.

Standing, from left : Bas, Laitem, Wrazy, Fugalgi, Metsu, Kourichi.

Crouching : Jacques, Vézir, Milla, Piette, Hazam.

Not a team worth another look, except for a small note : the former Polish national player Wrazy is here plus a little known at the time Cameroonian, who became famous many, many years later – Roger Milla. Nothing suggesting legendary status in 1978-79, though… if there was a bit of dancing, it was just because relegation was avoided. Hardly the making of a legend. As for Jan Wrazy, born 1943 in Lvov (Ukraine today), his best days were over long time ago – his last match for Poland was in 1972. The veteran was good enough for the lowly French club, though – he played five years for Valenciennes.

FC Paris were the unlucky club – they finished behind Valenciennes on worse goal-diference and took 19th place in the final table. Relegation…

Standing, from left : Justier, Eo, Huck, Beltramini, Lachi, Bensoussan.

First row : Amorfini, Zlataric, Lech, Mariot, Smereki.

This was perhaps the last effort of FC Paris to keep place among the top French clubs – the administrative troubles lead to the split into two clubs at the beginning of the 1970s. Paris Saint Germain were fine, but FC Paris had no chance. They tried… but small club in a city not exactly crazy about football did not have bright future. Lech was not enough to keep FC Paris in the premier league, Zlataric was an empty promise… tough luck at the end… and FC Paris sealed its fate : to play minor rôle in French football, mostly in third and second division.

The absolute outsider this season was Stade Reims. It was not unusual a club with name and reputation to go down in France, but the downfall was quite interesting anyhow : the great days of Reims ended long ago – practically from the early 1960s the club was declining. By the beginning of the 1970s they were no favorites at all, but one of the mid-table clubs. However slow, the decline continued steadily, finally ending with relegation. Not only Reims finished last, but hopelessly last – they won only 3 matches this season and earned a total of 17 points. FC Paris and Valenciennes finished with 28…

Standing: Buisset, Michelberger, Masclaux, Durand, Garceran, Laudu.

Crouching: Santamaria, Perignon, Polaniok, Gérard, Mathou.

The squad is a testimony of the state of Reims – not a single player of real quality.

The German Franz Michelberger, although young hardly ever played top league football – apart from this singular season in France, he achieved a grand total of 4 Bundesliga matches, all for Bayern (Munich), between 1974 and 1976. The Argentine Jose Santiago Santamaria was a bit better – he arrived in 1974, when he was only 22 years old, and scored quite a lot of goals for Reims – 52 in 170 matches for the club – but he was not a leading player on larger scale. The relegation was enough for him and he returned to Argentina after the end the season. Unlike Michelberger, ‘El Cucurucho’ achieved some fame after leaving France – he played a bit for Argentina, including at the 1982 World Cup. With a team like that Reims was really good only for second division football – too bad a club so great in the past fell into such terrible situtaion, but sentimental laments cannot change reality.

Two other clubs were in decline : OGC Nice and Olympique Marseille. Nice was declining slowly since 1972 ; Marseille – more recently. To a point, Nice was repeating the fate of Reims – a strong club once upon a time unable to adjust to new realities, largely financial realities. Marseille was more puzzling, for they had large support and generally had no problems generating money.

Nice finished 15th – and it was not surprising, judging by the squad : aging Jean-Marc Guillou and Nenad Bjekovic were already declining. Bousdira was the only other classy player – hardly enough for strong season. And the future did not look bright… Guillou left after the end of the season to play in Switzerland ; Fares Bousdira was not going to stay long too, but he was hardly the player around whon to build a team – he played for France only once in 1976 : evidently, not a star.

Olympique Marseille perhaps lacked vision – the club tried to keep a strong team in the first half of the 1970s, but somewhat mechanically. Buying big names, but not really building a team – failures followed : Jairzinho and Paulo Cesar Lima were the most spectacular. Yet, the club stubbornly continued the same, buying one or two high-profiled players in the hope they would be enough. Meantime the French stars either retired or moved to other clubs. By 1978-79 Marseille was a strange team : Bracci and Zvunka were already declining, but the club missed the right time to replace them. The Swedish national team player Linderoth was good, but not a leader. Didier Six was the best the club had, but he was a continuation of a doomed policy – taken from elsewhere in the hope he will bring class alone. Those before him failed, though (Jairzinho, Paulo Cesar Lima, Yazalde, Beretta…). The bulk of the squad was run of the mill – and as a whole Marseille was really a mid-table team.

Standing, from left :Bracci, Zvunka, Bacconnier, Beaulier, Migeon, Fernandez

Crouching : Flores, Buigues, Boubacar, Linderoth, Six.

12th place was the right place for such a team… and it was also clear that without rapid and big changes this team was only to go further down : there was no strong core to keep it afloat.

One more club must be mentioned from the lower half of the league – Paris Saint Germain. Different from OGC Nice and Olympique Marseille case. Paris SG suffered the usual ills of young ambitious clubs – no traditions. They had money and prime location, and wanted to become one of the leading French clubs, but so far nothing worked : Paris SG continually bought big names, but somehow was unable to create competitive team. Names were impressive : French national team players – Dominique Baratelli (b. 1947), Dominique Batheney (b.1954), Jean-Muchel Larque (b. 1947), Jean-Pierre Adams (b. 1948), league stars – Francois M’Pele (Congo Brazaville, b. 1947), Jacky Laposte (b. 1952), Mustapha Dahleb (Algeria, b. 1952), Dominique Lokoli (b. 1952), bright young talent – Luis Fernandez (b. 1959), Jean-Marc Pilorget (b. 1958), big foreign names – the Argentines Carlos Bianchi (b. 1949) and Ramon Heredia (b. 1951). And Velibor Vasovic, the Yugoslavian former captain of great Ajax (Amsterdam) was coaching them. Looked like a champion squad… which did not work. Bianchi was scoring as ever, Baratelli and Bathenay were in the national team, Fernandez was already a regular, Dahleb was going to play at world cup finals… but some players were already fading away (Adams, Heredia, M’Pele) and some never became the stars they were expected to become (Laposte, Lokoli). The mix did not work, may be because all came from other clubs – it was just a big colection of names, not really a carefully made team. Perhaps hiring Vasovic was a mistake – a great name, but as a player. As a coach -not much experience, to say the least. Money were no problem, but money is not everything – Paris SG 31 players this season : astonishing number in the 1970s and thus only a testimony that team was not working. They finished 13th.

One of the not-working versions of Paris SG this season. May be expecting too much too soon, but just buying names was not the solution. So far Paris SG achieved absolutely nothing, but persisted in the wrong approach – some names were gone after the season ended, only to be replaced by other names. And so on and on.

Things worked for clubs with different approach : Monaco and Metz had strong year. Both teams were far behind the title contenders, but still well above the rest of the league. Both finished with 44 points – 4 points ahead of 6th placed Lille, but 10 points behind St. Etienne and Nantes. The two Ms were similar and different at the same time : both depended on attack and had weak defences. Both played ‘all or nothing’ and did not care much for ties. But Monaco was rising and building a strong team, whereas Metz only had a good season and clearly was not going to stay permanently among the best. FC Metz were typical mid-table club, occasionally in danger of relegation, but most often found somewhere safely in the middle of the league. Never a favorite and not in a position of becoming one – a modest club. But they played well this season and finished 5th only because of worse goal-difference.

What worked for Metz was a core of strong players – Andre Rey (b. 1948), Patrick Batiston (b. 1957), Christian Synaeghel (b. 1951), Henryk Kasperczak (Poland, b. 1946), and Wim Suurbier (Holland, b. 1946). The club was especially lucky with the foreigners – both had strong winner mentality. This group of players propelled Metz to the top. Unfortunately, the key players were dangeroulsy aging and were not enough as a group to keep the club on upward course. Also unfortunate was the predicament of the club – a modest club had no chances of keeping young stars for long. It was clear that sooner than later Suurbier, Kasperczak, and Rey will retire and Batiston will go to bigger club. Metz were one-year wonder.

Not so Monaco – their notorious ups and downs made the club unpredicatble, but at the moment it was going up with a good chance of getting better. Finishing 4th was promising better days in the future.

Like Metz, Monaco largely depended on a limited group of players : Dalger, Onnis, Emon, Nogues, Ettori and Petit. Unlike Metz, Monaco was not in danger of losing its stars – they had the money to keep them on one hand. This was important largely about the top Argentine striker Delio Onnis. On the other the stars were different than the top players of Metz. Dalger, Emon, and Petit still had at least 2-3 years to play, but in the same time they were no longer considered players at their prime and were not very interesting to other clubs. The second foreigner – actually, a dual citizen of France and Argentina – Nogues was not even considered a star. Ettori was also safe posession – a promising goalkeeper, but since others were still the top keepers in France, nobody was after him. Unlike Metz, Monaco had a core of players for the next few years and with some additions the team could be getting only stronger. And additions were badly needed, for Monaco was strong in attack (Onnis, Dalger, Emon, and Nogues), barely decent in midfield (thanks to Jean Petit), had improving goalkeeper (Ettori), but was terrible in defense. It clearly showed during this season – Monaco finished with 70:51 goal-difference : second highest scoring team in the league, but hoping to outscore their opponents was big risk.

Perhaps the key to this season was the state of most French clubs – some in decline, others good only for one year, few promissing, but still not ready and fully made. Fate depended on few good players, not on solid squad. And that perhaps determined the race for the title : three clubs competed. Two were more than familiar – St. Eitenne and FC Nantes defined French club football in the 1970s. Both were getting old and tired, however. The third was a club playing in the second division very recently, but, by itself, sudden soaring of a team was not surprising : ups and downs were perhaps more common in France than any other country. The race was tight and was won by seemingly the most conservative team of the trio – the one, which scored least, but minded their own net. The one,which did not rush to win matches, but carefully collected points from ties. St. Etienne won most matches this season – 24. They also scored a lot – 77 goals. But they lost 8 matches and at the end had 54 points. Far ahead of the 4th placed team – 10 points ahead – and tied with FC Nantes. Nantes scored much more goals than St. Etienne, leaving them with bronze medals. Warning signs were detected since 1975 – St. Etienne was strong, had deep squad, new players popped in, but esentially it was the same team for many years. As a team they reached their peak between 1974 and 1976, and were getting old as a whole. Small changes were not the solution – and the signal was clear this year : they were able to stay amnog the best, but now even a pedestrian team was able to oppose them. And bump them aside. There was need of new leaders able to shake and revitalize the team. The club and the coach Robert Herbin got the message : Michel Platini and Johnny Rep were bought after the season ended.

FC Nantes was similar, but a step ahead of St. Etienne : they also felt decline coming with the aging of the squad and started rebuilding around 1976. Like St. Etienne so far, it was not radical change, but gradual. By now few of the squad of the early 1970s were around, but the new team was not fully matured yet : it still depended on Henry Michel (b. 1947) and Hugo Bargas (b. 1946). The veterans were at the end of their playing days, but the new squad was almost ready – almost, but not ripe yet. A team competing for the title, but not able to win it.

Standing, from left : Jean-Paul Bertrand-Demanes, Patrice Rio, Maxime Bossis, Omar Sahnoun, Henri Michel, Thierry Tusseau.

Crouching : Oscar Muller, Victor Trossero, Eric Pécout, Gilles Rampillon, Loïc Amisse.

Not bad at all : seven former, current, and future French national team players, two sturdy, experienced, but still young professionals (Pecout and Rampillon), two new talented Argentinians – midfielder Oscar Muller (b. 1957) and striker Oscar Trossero (b.1953). Their compatriot Bargas was moved to the bench, where more talent was waiting – Michel Bibard (b. 1958), Bruno Baronchelli (b. 1957), Guy Lacombe (b. 1955). Silver medals this year, but it was a team ready for the future.

The present was not theirs, though. The present belonged to those able to get advantage from the shaky season and problems of the favorites. Small problems, but they made the favorites not better than a team playing bravely. And the surprise happened : Racing Club Strasbourg finished 2 points ahead of St. Etienne and Nantes. Unlikely team… so far, RC Strasbourg had little success. They won the Cup twice – in 1951 and 1966. Never the title and normally were not among potential champions. Two years ago they were in second division. And compared to the favorites, their squad was pitiful. Perhaps they underestimated by the others – it looked very unlikely such a team would stay among the best for long. Perhaps a good run for awhile, but inevitably the lack of strong sqaud would bring them down. But Strasbourg stayed on top, earned point after point, until the season ended with them on top. 22 wins, 12 ties, 4 losses, 68:28 goal-difference, 56 points. Two more than their famous competition.

Brand new champion is always great. Especially a club never winning title before. Particulary a club playing in the lower league just yesterday. But… it was not a spectacular team. It was rather made of experienced second-raters. Some of the players were acquared recently – Raymond Domenech (b. 1952) in 1977, along with two players from Paris SG – Francis Piasecki (b. 1951) and Jacky Novi (b. 1946). In 1978 a former teammate of Novi arrived from OGC Nice – Roger Jouve (b. 1949). The other newcomer was also born in 1949, but hardly ever played top league football – one Arsene Wenger was acquired from the other – and very lowly – club from Strasbourg : Pierrots Vauban. A single foreign player taken from Bordeaux – Tokomon Nambatingue (b. 1952), originally from Chad. The new arrivals did not look even a match for those who departed – Ivica Osim retired and Heinz Schilcher went back to his native Austria to play for Sturm (Graz). Strasbourg had a few more good players – Dominque Dropsy (b. 1951), Leonard Specht (b.1954), and Albert Gemmrich (b. 1955), but as a whole – not a single leading player on national scale. This was not a team coming even close to the squads Nantes and St. Etienne had, but a squad generally for the lower half of the table, unless getting brief inspiration and finishing somewhere between 5th and 10th place. However, another man arrived in the summer of 1978 – the greatest star Strasbourg ever had and one of the best French footballers of the 1960s.

Gilbert Gress was one of the few French players to play abroad back in the 1960s and early 1970s, playing for years in West Germany. When he retired, he went to coaching job in Switzerland, taking the reigns of Xamax. Over there he took also Swiss citizenship and coached well – Strasbourg took him back and he made them champions. He was young and not very experienced, but perhaps that was really his advantage – Herbin was coaching St. Etienne for almost 10 years already. Nantes had a coach from different era – Jean Vincent. Gress was fresh and up to date in football matters. He inspired the team and apparently made the best of the players at hand – none was individually great, but all were competent. Strasbourg was not outstanding team. They were no revelation. They largely took advantage of shaky opponents, making mistakes here and there. A great victory, but clearly it was not a team to stay on top. It was a middle-of-the-road team, a surprise victors, and nothing else. And – so far – this season stands alone as the greatest ever for the club : Strasbourg did not win another title. One time wonder. But it was nice to see them win for a change and what a lesson it was for a club like Paris SG – buying stars one after another, and yet unable to get even a medal. The pedestrian Strasbourg meantime won the championship.

And happy they were – for ever to remember.


France II Division

France had curious 1978-79 season, like many other countries. Not so much in the lower leagues, of course. Six clubs were promoted from third division US Noeux-les-Mines, AC Le Havre, UES Montmorillon, SFC Thionville, US Tavaux Damparis, and CS Thonon. Small, insignificant clubs, which played occasionally in the second division, but did not even dream of playing in the top league. Of the 6 winners only Le Havre was of some importance. Typical third division clubs of any country – hardly noticeable outside their hometowns.

UES Montmorillon – proud winners of 3rd national division, group Centre-West. Next year they were to play in Second Division, Group A. Good luck!

The third division winners were going to take the places of the relegated from second division: SA Epinal, AS Troyes, AC Arles, from group A, and US Boulogne, US Melun, and AC Amiens, from group B – small clubs going down, as usual. Perhaps only the relegation of Troyes is worth mentioning – they were in first division only the previous season, but relegated and continued their downfall with yet another relegation. Second division is interesting only as far as promotions go. Three clubs going up from 2 second division leagues, 18 clubs each. Winners directly promoted and the 2nd placed fighting for the third lucky spot in a play-off. Something like that…

In Group A three clubs should be mentioned:

AJ Auxerre was climbing up – they finished 4th with 42 points. Four points behind the best two teams. Auxerre was slowly rising and although unable to run for promotion yet, was making its first marks on the French football map – already among the favorites in their second division league and even better performing if the cup competition.

For the first place competed two teams – Olympique Avignon and FC Gueugnon. Both finished with 46 points, 3 points ahead of AS Beziers.

Standing, from left: Gallina (captain), Laffont, Bouze, Contesti, Laraignée, Rizzo

Crouching: Razic, “El Toro” Martínez, Ropero, Lanthier, Lendo.

Avignon was perhaps expected favorite – clubs, recently playing top division, usually are considered favorites in the lower one. Of course, Avignon was not much of a team, but nothing strange about it – second division squads are never famous.

Avignon was bested on goal-difference by amusing club – FC Gueugnon.

‘Le Forgerons’ (the Blacksmiths) were formed in 1940 by a merger. Not the best time for starting a club with strong working class roots, but the German invasion was still in the future. Gueugnon enjoyed strong support from the local steelworks area and although modest club they climbed to second division. In 1974 they almost reached the first : lost the promotional play-off to Rouen. And this time there was no mistake- they were first, if only on better goal-difference. It was their best season indeed –apart from the successful championship, they eliminated no other but Saint Etienne in the Cup tournament.

Blacksmiths of course : beating down St. Etienne. And ending as champions :

Here are the champions : true working class heroes. Which was their undoing… FC Gueugnon was amasing club because they were non-professional club. No wonder the players above are unknown – they were amateurs. Amateurs, besting professionals and going up to the top league – but no. The French rules stipulated that first division clubs must have professional status. It was discovered quickly that FC Gueugnon is inable to gain professional status by the start of 1979-80 season. They were not allowed to play in first division… May be both club and supporters were not really unhappy – they wanted the club to stay non-professional and it was ironic event which at last forced FC Gueugnon to get professional status : the steel crisis in the 1980s.

No such problems in Group B. Stade Brestois and freshly relegated Racing Club Lens were above the rest of the league, but heir duel was not as dramatic as the battle for first place in Group A – Stade Brest finished 3 points ahead of RC Lens.

Standing, from left : Guy Boutier, Ambroise Kédié, Yvon Le Roux, Jean-Pierre Guennal, Alain De Martigny, Daniel Bernard.

Sitting : Loulou Floc’h, Denis Goavec, Willem Letemahulu, Patrick Martet, Serge Lenoir, Richard Honorine.

Not exactly strangers to top flight football, bot small and unsuccessful. Going up was just great. Staying in first division was bigger challenge, but still for the future.

As for RC Lens, they seemingly had one more chance to return to first division – the French frequently changed promotional rules : some times only two clubs were relegated-promoted, but some times three clubs moved up and down. Seemingly, three clubs should have changed leagues at the end of this season, so the 2nd placed in the two second division groups were to compete against each other for the third promotion. But… FC Gueugnon was not permitted to join first division. In such occasions usually the second-placed team gets the spot. If three teams were promoted, then there was no need for any play-off : Lens was automatically the third team. They were promoted allright… it is only unclear why and how : only two teams were relegated from first division. This meant Brest as winners and Avignon taking the place of disqualified Gueugnon. Lens was staying in second division, right ? Wrong ! For whatever reason Avignon did not get promotion, so no club from Group A went up. The top two clubs of Group B were promoted instead. Strange, but that happened.



As a squad, RC Lens were the most impressive of the best 4 teams of the two second division groups. Solid professionals like Arghirudis, Krawczyk, Joly , young and promising Zlataric, the member of the exciting 1974 World Cup Polish squad Joachim Marx, and burly looking defender Daniel Leclercq… if names alone win games, Lens must have been champions. In reality they were simply lucky to get promotion. Not very deserving, but going back to first division.

And just to complete confusion, a reshuffling of second division was announced : a group of teams playing in Group A were moved to Group B and the same number from Group B to Group A. That is how it sounds… in reality only two clubs stayed in the leagues they played in 1978-79 : FC Mulhouse remained in Group B and RCFC Besancon in Group A. What was need and the wisdom triggering such massive change of… league names really, is unknown. Hardly geographical precision – it was just Group A named Group B and Group B – Group A, but presented as moving of clubs from one league to another. Ah, enough of that already.

Yugoslavia The Cup

The Cup final was worthy too – none of the championship leaders reached the final. Instead, NK Rijeka, the winners in 1977-78, and Partizan Belgrade met at the final. Lowly clubs this season, more or less equal. For Partizan, it was the chance to save the season – the disgraceful season would be wiped clean by winning the cup. Technically, they had the age – history and reputation were on their side. Wounded pride was sufficient spur, especially against pedestrian opponent.

Partizan 1978-79 – having a chance to win the cup and put some real smiles on their faces. But they still had to win… NK Rijeka had ambition of its own. Partizan was no better team, although more difficult foe than the club they overcome the previous year at the final – Trepca (Kosovska Mitrovica). The opportunity to win the cup for a second time was tempting. It was also tempting to beat hated team from Belgrade – it was a traditional clash between Serbians and Croatians. The schedule did not favoured Rijeka, unfortunately – it was two-leg final and they hosted the opening match. Which they won 2-1. Not a comfortable margin. Looked like Partizan will win the trophy… the first match was played on April 16th, and the next was almost a month later – on May 24th. Plenty of time to get ready, but Rijeka was determined to keep their lead and Partizan was more a name than real force. Names alone do not win trophies – the Croatians managed a 0-0 draw and won the cup. The disastrous year of Partizan was completed.

As for the happy winners, it was significant success: not only they won a second trophy, but did it in two consecutive years – rarely small clubs, even more successful than Rijeka, are able to repeat victory the next year.

Posing with the Cup for a second time.

And a picture for posterity – this is a legendary team, at least at home. No other squad of NK Rijeka came even close to this one – the only winning squad the club ever had. No famous players here, but may be it is even better there were not – a triumph of the small boys with big hearts. It was fantastic back home near the Adriatic sea.

At the end, Croatian teams won everything this season – a triumph over Belgrade. Particularly in the cup tournaments, no club from Belgrade won since 1971 – it was Croatian possession: first Hajduk won it repeatedly until 1978. Then – Rijeka twice. Partizan probably was not even able to remember when they won the Cup… as for Crvena zvezda – they won it in 1971, but had to wait more than 10 years for another cup victory.


Yugoslavia I Division

At the bottom of the Yugoslavian first division some surprises occurred – dead last and the absolute outsider this season was OFK Beograd. It was not a sudden collapse, but one of the longest declines in the world – OFK Beograd lost its leading position by the end of the 1950s, along with its original name. Reduced to the third major club in Belgrade, it was no longer a match for Crvena zvezda and Partizan, but maintained relatively strong upper-mid-table position in the 1960s. The 1970s were steady downhill, ending with relegation at last. 20 years of going downhill… perhaps even the club’s fans were not very upset – they saw it coming and got used to bad news. 22 points were 6 points less than the 17th placed NK Zagreb.

The smaller club of Zagreb was in and out of first division, so their relegation was hardly surprising. It did reduce the strong Croatian presence in the league from 5 to 4 clubs, but nothing else – the Croatian rivalry was between Dinamo and Hajduk, the Zagreb derby was not all that important. NK Zagreb, unlike OFK Beograd, put a fight – they ended with 28 points: the teams all the way to 6th place were not very much ahead and five clubs finished with just a point more, but it was this single point difference plummeting NK Zagreb down to second division.

Seven points were the difference between 7th and 17th – between respectful mid-table and relegation. Radnicki (Nis) ended 7th. With 35 points, they were 3 points ahead of Sloboda (Tuzla) and at the top of vast group of teams closer to relegation zone than medals. Perhaps it was a good season for Radnicki – they were often near the bottom. Sloboda (Tuzla) and FK Sarajevo (Sarajevo) took the next two spots with equal points – 32.

Not a famous squad – rather typical for Sloboda. They edged Zeljeznicar (Sarajevo) on better goal-difference. Bellow were clubs normally dwelling there:

NK Rijeka was 10th.

Borac (Banja Luka) was 11th. And bellow them – the group of 5 clubs, barely escaping relegation with 29 points each. Here were the surprises of the season – two clubs were expected to appear in the lower half of the table, close to relegation zone, but the other three were not supposed to be in this region at all.

NK Osijek – 13th – was not a surprise. Nor Napredak (Krusevac) right under Osijek. Vojvodina (Novi Sad) was leading the group at 12th place, but this was not a club usually finishing that low.

Vojvodina is one of the better known Yugoslavian clubs, traditionally considered one of the favorites. But there was fading during the 1970s – slowly, almost unnoticed, Volvodina transformed into second-rate club. May be decline similar to the long convulsions of OFK Beograd was taking place. May be just temporary decline until better team was built – but 12th place and escaping relegation by a single point did not spell anything good.

Olimpija (Ljubljana) were only slightly similar to Vojvodina – they had ups and downs, but generally were solid mid-table club. Lesser rank than Vojvodina, but not exactly outsiders.

This season they finished 16th, just a place above relegation and with the worst record of the group of 5. Like Vojvodina, they seemingly suffered from inability to build decent team. Their resources were limited – perhaps not money, but quality players. They were more likely to be relegated than Vojvodina in the long run.

And the real big disaster – Partizan (Belgrade) was 15th. This is a season fans prefer not to remember – arguably, the worst season ever. Almost relegated, lucky to stay in the league. A bitter slap in the face – Partizan never finished so low. It was even worse, because the arch-enemy Crvena zvezda had remarkable European season. It was almost unthinkable: Partizan struggling to escape relegation. The only question, of course, was what about the next season? Was it some deep crisis, or it would be enough just to get a few new players and may be a new coach? Presently, it was only shame.

The upper part of the league divided in two distinct groups during the season – 4 teams fighting for third place and two for the title. 3 points were the difference between the 6th and the 3rd at the end. Surprisingly good season for Buducnost (Titograd) – 15 wins, 8 ties,and 11 losses.

Normally lower half dwellers, the boys from Montenegro suddenly went up. Yet, they were not better team than most of the clubs, and their rise was accidental. Just an unexpected stronger than usual year – close they came to medals, but at the end proved they really did not belong to the favorites: ending 6th, because of worse goal-difference. The worst among top six clubs – negative: 33-36. They also scored almost twice less goals than the other top clubs. In fact, 14 of the 18 first league clubs outscored them. Their defense was not good either – 5 teams had better record, including 10th placed Rijeka. As for their home – the city is Podgorica today, the capital of independent Montenegro.

Except Buducnost, the rest of the top group were no accident: Velez (Mostar) finished 5th , thanks to better goal-difference.

Velez were consistently strong during the 1970s. They never had a team able to run for the title, but maintained themselves among the best. They missed bronze medals by 2 points this year, but the future was looking bright: so far they managed to avoid decline – top players left, but talented newcomers took their place. Enver Maric returned from West Germany – he and Vladic were the formidable veterans from the team of the first half of the 1970s. Vukoje, Hadziabdic, Vukicevic, and Okuka were more than respectable players. But the future was guaranteed by two rapidly rising young stars: Sliskovic and Halilhodzic. Velez belonged to the top clubs and was to stay among them.

With a point more, FK Sarajevo finished 4th. Now, this was rising club. It is risky to say with certainty which club representing Sarajevo was the bigger one: the Bosnian rivalry was tricky – Zeljeznicar was more popular, it seems, but both clubs had spotty history: both were occasional champions, but also both clubs had mediocre periods. As a rule of thumb, when one of the rivals was strong, the other was quite weak. Zeljeznicar was better in the first half of the 1970s, now it was other way around.

Sarajevo did not have a team ready to claim the title, but they were going up – Musemic, Hadzic, Pasic, Hodzic, Hadzibegic were strong group. The key man was Safet Susic – rapidly rising major star, may be the best of his generation. The team still needed additional help, a bit of shaping, more experience, it was not yet at its peak. But clearly going up. Sarajevo was perhaps the most promising team at the moment and arguably the best news of the season. The team aimed at winning, their manner was a bit hazardous – depending on attack, and not caring much for defense. It was risky approach – Sarajevo received 53 goals (only three clubs had equal or worse defensive record), but scored only three goals more than received – 56. They needed to improve.

How good or bad Crvena zvezda was in 1978-79 is a matter of opinion. On one hand, this vintage is legendary – they reached the UEFA Cup final. On the other hand Crvena zvezda was not a contender – they were lucky to get bronze medals, besting Sarajevo by 2 points, but did not participate in the race for the title. And when Crvena zvezda is not a contender, it is bad season, even a disaster – only titles count for anything at ‘Mala Maracana’.

Standing, from left: Keri, Stojanovic, Jelikic, Muslin, Krmpotic, Jovin.

Crouching: V. Petrovic, Blagojevic, Borovnica, Sestic, Milosavljevic.

There were few more impressive players – Savic, Jurisic, Jovanovic, Milovanovic. Most of the team were also national team players, pretty much defining the Yugoslavian national team at the time. Crvena zvezda successfully changed generations – only Vladimir Petrovic remained from the strong squad of the early 1970s – and build their next formidable team. But… compared to this very early 70s team, lead by Dragan Dzajic (not to mention older formations), the new squad came short. Yet, they became legends this very season – for the first time in their history Crvena zvezda reached European club final. Swell, but they were not a factor in the championship – perhaps they concentrated on Europe, but finished the season empty-handed… Thus, this vintage became a legend as a team, not as individual players. Sure, Sestic and Savic rank high – but no as high as many other ‘zvezdasi’. Vladimir Petrovic – ‘Pizon’ – remains the greatest star, but he established himself already with the previous vintage. The ‘legends’ finished 9 points behind the top 2 teams this year.

Unlike many countries, Yugoslavia was blessed – or cursed – with various rivalries and derbies. Crvena zvezda vs Partizan is one thing, but there was another almost equal rivalry: Belgrade vs Croatia. And the internal Croatian derby was equal to the other two: Zagreb vs Split, the capital vs the provincials. Long history, no love, explosive atmosphere, yet, not as combustible and full of aggressive hatred as it was in the late 1980s. With Belgrade clubs out of the way, the battle for the title was all Croatian and it was incredibly exciting duel, lasting to the very end of the championship. Hajduk and Dinamo. Both teams finished with 50 points. Dinamo won most games – 21. Hajduk lost the least – 4. Dinamo scored most goals in the league – 67, but Hajduk allowed the least in their net – 28. Goal-difference decided the title – Dinamo lost on that.

Dinamo, the only Yugoslavian club with an European trophy, was in decline in the first half of the 1970s, when Hajduk was winning championships and cups. After 1975 Dinamo was finally coming back to the top of Yugoslavian football – lead by the respected coach Markovic, they had a strong group of players at last: experienced veterans like Mustedanagic and Senzen supported rapidly rising youngsters – Mlinaric, Ivkovic, Kuze, and particularly Zajec. Even younger talent was pushing forward – Krajncar. And a reliable player came from the arch-rivals: Dzoni, a former national team player, originally playing for Hajduk. Dinamo had young, but already experienced squad, ready for the title. They fought for it to the end and did not really lose it – they were equal to Hajduk on everything, except goal-difference. Devastated fans… losing the title on so little and to the hated provincials too. But Dinamo was not accident – they arrived, they were to stay, they were going to win. Soon.

Difficult, but sweet victory for Hajduk – edging the enemy from Zagreb at the very end. Still the best club in the country of the 1970s. One more title.

It was not an easy season, but it ended wonderfully. Hajduk were prime contenders anyway: Tomislav Ivic came back from successful spell with Ajax (Amsterdam) to coach them. One of the top ranking coaches in Europe already, he knew how to win. And he made his name with Hajduk anyway – most players started under him, they knew him well. The club continued its policy of selling players when they had reliable replacement at hand – the change of generations was smooth, Hajduk had a great mixture of established stars at their prime and young talent, rapidly becoming famous. Surjak, Muzinic, and Peruzovic were the prime movers and shakers, helped by two other reliable veterans of the team of the early 1970s – Rozic and Salov. Ivkovic, Cop, Zlatko and Zoran Vujovic were already included in the national team. Gudelj was perhaps the biggest talent, considered the next great star of Yugoslavian football. Those were also the base ensuring strong future of the club – it was clear that Surjak, Muzinic, and Peruzovic were to be sold abroad soon, but the new leaders were already present. Good enough, if not for the big scandal – Slavisa Zungul, technically belonging to the previous great squad, but only 24 old and one of the current top scorers of Yugoslavia, suddenly defected. Given his age, Zungul was not yet for sale. He was rarely called to play for the national team. He was unpaid for months and consequently his relations with the club’s president were bad. He asked to be released and was refused. He did not serve in the army yet and feared that an army call will be not opposed by his club just because they did not wish to pay his wages and once in the army, there will be new excuse, most likley permanent. That was his position. The club’s was growing irritation with his desire to play abroad – they needed him, his time was up yet, he had to follow established rules. Surjak waited patiently, why not Zungul, the lesser star? Zungul went to USA in December 1978 and did not return: he already signed contract not telling anybody. Since the move was illegal, it was not a club from NASL, but form indoor league outside FIFA. Because of the complication with his army service, Zungul had only one option – to defect, a very rare case for Yugoslavian footballers. There was no other way – FIFA rules prevented him from playing in a legal league anywhere. As a consequence, Zungul was lost to big football and did not become the star he was certainly to become if staying out of trouble in Split – he had enormous talent. Yes, he became a legend – but indoor football legend, ‘the Lord of indoors’, as he was called in USA, where he was no longer Slavisa, but Steve. A legend of rogue league of little known variety of football in North America. Lost the world’s game for ever. His defection was troublesome for Hajduk, of course – the club lost a key player in mid-season, and the scandal probably did not stay well in the dressing room, for others wanted to play abroad too and had to wait for years, may be even missing the best opportunities. Zungul showed interesting option… which the club had to stifle quickly… and keep the squad focused and competitive in the same time. Difficult moment, but Hajduk played well without Zungul and won the title at the end. Troubles over. Hajduk was unstoppable.

Exciting season with so close race for the title between two great rivals. A rare occasion.


Yugoslavia II Division


Yugoslavia was still in transition, but the next generation was becoming more affirmative. Yet, it was a season equally disturbing and encouraging – international success on club level, but the national team was shaky. Some clubs on the rise or maintaining position, others plunging down. Of course, Yugoslavian football was never short of talent, but it looked like the new stars were not as great as their predecessors. The lower levels were largely unknown outside the country – naturally, the best was concentrated in the first division and the rest was mere footnote. Mass of small clubs hardly ever heard of – like Rusanda (Melenci).

Standing, from left: Petrović, Nemčev, Stankov, Ćuluman, M. Radišić, Gazibarić, Batanjski.

First row: Krasić, Baćan, Milivojev, Ćurčić,Kirćanski, R. Radišić, Franić.

Third division? Fourth? Who knows – most clubs were such: small, local, playing somewhere in the lower leagues, supplying talent to the big clubs. Some players even went to play abroad – Yugoslavians played in every country importing footballers and not at all only in the top divisions.

The Yugoslavian second division was no better known than the lower ones: most clubs were entirely unknown. Like Famos (Hrasnica). Or Majdanpek (Majdanpek). Clubs akin to Rusanda above – if playing in the second division, they were just happy. It was their best achievement. 32 clubs in total, divided geographically into two leagues – Eastern and Western. Former first division members usually competed for promotion. The last 4 clubs were relegated, the winner – promoted. The Eastern league was more dramatic this season: Tikves (Kavadarci) and Buducnost (Pec) were not up to the task, and ended at the very bottom, their combined points still not enough for 14th place. Which was also relegation place, but life and death battle between 10 clubs marked the season. At the end 4 points separated Sutjeska (Niksic) – 5th – from the relegated at 13th and 14th place. Some kind of scandal occurred as well – match fixing most likely – because Radnicki (Pirot) had 6 points deducted as a penalty. With full record they were to be 4th, after the deduction – 6th. Five clubs finished with 28 points and head-to-head results determined their final positions: Rad (Belgrade), familiar name nowadays, but not in the 1970s, ended at the top of this group – 10th. The unlucky ones were Jedinstvo (Bijelo Pole) and Lirija (Prizren) – relegated. Curiously, Jedinstvo, 14th in the final table, had the best goal-difference among the 5 clubs with 28 points and the 13th , Lirija – the worst. The drama at the bottom was less interesting than the drama at the top. Two clubs competed for first place and promotion – both recent members of top flight. Trepca (Kosovska Mitrovica) was just relegated, but played at the Cup final in 1978. They wanted back, of course – arguably, those were best years of the club. Vardar (Skopje) were just down on their luck – normally, they played first division. In fact, they rank 11th in the all-time Yugoslavian table – second division was not entirely new environment for them, but their normal habitat was first. They won promotion by a point. Trepca finished 2nd with 42 points, but very curious scoring record: 27-18. Apparently, defensive minded team – they rarely received goals, but just as rarely scored themselves – 27 goals in 30 matches, less than a goal per game… Vardar were the very opposite: attack and scoring was their forte: 63-29. They scored more than twice the goals their rivals scored. And prevailed at the end, returning to the top league.

Not a team to concur the first division, but certainly better one than Trepca. Grncarov, Gruevski and few others were good and experienced players. Micevski was perhaps their best – and he eventually played for the national team.

The Western league lacked drama – no penalized club, only one favorite, and even the battle for survival was decided simply on points. Merkator (Ljubljana) was the hopeless outsider.

Standing, from left: Bališek, Samatović, Oblak, Popovič, Žužek, Gašperšič, Bagarić, Poljanšek, Terčič, Magič

Crouching: Potočnik, Protić, Smiljanić, Rebić, Kolarič, Vrhovec, Drevenšek

Ten points behind the 15th placed Rudar (Ljubija). Eleven clubs were in grave danger of relegation this season, but it was a bit different than the Eastern league – Rudar ended with 27 points, like Segesta (Sisak) and Radnik (Bijeljina), but all others endangered clubs had more – may be a point or two, but more points. The three clubs with 27 points took the three relegation positions in the final table. There was no clear grouping in the league, though – most teams were fairly equal – 7 points was the difference between 15th and 2nd place. Maribor (Maribor) finished second, thanks to goal-difference better than Novi Sad’s by a single goal.

Standing from left: Simeunović, Irgolič, Dubovina, Jurišič, Samardžija, Deveskovi, Vujović, Vuksanović, Janković, Dinović, Nalbantić, Fatur, Donko.

First row: Radmanović, Mujkanović, Krempel, Pirc, Pećnić, Zolotić, Jasić.

Maribor used to play in first division, but really were second division club. Finishing second was impressive on paper, but they did not compete for promotion. It was one-horse race this year and the winners were recently relegated from top flight.

Celik (Zenica) had their occasional strong year, but normally belonged to the lower half of the first division, fighting for survival. Not always successfully, but they were too strong for second division and did not stay there for long. Confident winners with 40 points, losing only 4 matches during the campaign. No famous players here, so it was just return to the familiar effort of maintaining place among the best.

If anything, the winners followed the pattern – former members of first division coming back after short spell of bad luck. Proleter (Zrenjanin) were perhaps really down on their luck.

Top row, from left: Milimir Dubljević, Delivoje Šarenac, Zlatomir Mićanović, Vladan Dimitrić, Milan Majstorović, Radovan Golijanin, Arsen Tošić,

Middle row: Tomislav Manojlović – chief of the coaching staff, Miloš Vidović, Zoran Mišić, Žarko Soldo, Jožef Ezveđ, Jovica Glišin, Milorad Zorić, Đuro Ivančević, Dragan Vavan.

Sitting: Dragan Škorić, Radislav Dragojlov, Željko Stanić, Radomir Radulović, Zoran Kalezić, Jovo Sučević, Milivoje Kovačević, Đuro Zobenica.

Similar to Celik, Proleter usually played in first division. Perhaps they had slightly better squad than Celik, but were not a factor this season – they finished 5th in the Western Second Division with 32 points. Closer to the relegated than to the winners… But they played very well in the cup torunament, reaching the semi-finals. Well, they had to try again – Vardar and Celik went up.

Belgium The Cup

Surprising winners of promotion, surprising champion… the Cup should have balanced that. FC Brugge reached the final. The other finalists were Beerschot (Antwerpen). Technically, the smaller club of the city in the 1970s – Royal Antwerpen was the ‘big’ club and it was not really much. The Bears were regular member of first division, but mid-table club at best – their glorious days were in the ancient past, when they won 7 titles. All that ended in 1939… after that – once they won the Cup: in 1971. FC Brugge was the obvious favorite: much stronger team and also they had to compensate for the weak championship performance. Beerschot did not stand a chance.

Third row, from left: Leen Barth, Walter Meeuws, Jan Ceulemans, Lajos Kü, Dirk Ranson, Henri Gogne.

Middle row: Mathieu Bollen (assistent-coach), Eddie Krieger, Raoul Lambert, Bernard Verheecke, Birger Jensen, Paul Courant, Eddy Martens, René Vandereycken, Ernst Happel (coach).

Sitting: Georges Leekens, Fons Bastijns, Jos Volders, Julien Cools, Jan Sörensen, Gino Maes, Jan Simoen, Daniel De Cubber

This season FC Brugge was arguably the most Belgian club in the league – Walter Meeuws (from Beerschot), Jan Ceulemans (from Lierse), and Peter Houtman (from Feyenoord Rotterdam) were the newcomers. The English striker Ray Clarke arrived from Ajax (Amsterdam) later. Meantime Eddie Krieger, the aging Austrian defender went to play in Holland. It was the squad built by Happel, which was aging a bit as a team and most importantly Happel was no longer around – he came back from coaching Holland at the World Cup and soon was fired. Andres Beres was the new coach – one of many Hungarians, including football players, who left their country in 1956. Beres played professionally in Belgium and Holland and later became a coach in Belgium. Good one too, judging by his stint with Anderlecht in the second half of the 1960s. But the 1960s were gone… Beres had good reputation, but he may have been out of date – FC Brugge suddenly underperfomed and by the date of the Cup final Beres was gone – temporarily, the assistant coach Matthien Bollen was at the helm. However, there were no changes in the team and there was no way to make any until the end of the season and the opening of the transfer period. Still, FC Brugge was far better team than their opponents – on paper.

On the pitch the Bears not only kept their ground, but scored a goal. FC Brugge was unable to equalize. Beerschot won 1-0. The Cup was theirs for second time. Complete triumph of the small clubs this year – the championship, the cup, one of the promotions: the big boys got nothing. Surprising winners characterized the season.

Beerschot left little evidence of their great year – the club had financial troubles, which lead to more than decline. The club practically folded by the end of the 1980s and like many other Belgian clubs went through various mergers and transformations, which according to registration rules were starting a new club. Thus, almost nothing remain from the winners – not even a team picture. A pity, for it was an interesting vintage. Georg Knobel was coaching them – the Dutch coach, who ‘destroyed’ the mighty Ajax in 1974-75 and then coached Holland at the 1976 European championship finals. Since his spell with the national team was not a success either, it was not surprising to find Knobel in Beerschot… There was no great performance in the league – the club finished 12th, their usual mid-table place – but they excelled in the Cup tournament. Most players were ordinary and not familiar to anyone outside Belgium. The club had no money for big transfers – the best they were able to do was acquiring the Polish goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski after the 1978 World Cup. He joined a group of interesting players – the Haitian striker Emmanuel Sannon was a minor sensation at the 1974 World Cup: he scored against Italy, braking the clean sheet record of Dino Zoff, already running over 1200 minutes. Italy had hard time overcoming Haiti, and Sannon was hailed as the hero of the match. But it was in the early rounds of the finals and bigger sensations trumped his – Poland, for instance, with Tomaszewski between the goal-posts. Sannon was unable to score against him – now the opponents of 1974 were teammates.

Sannon had his minute of fame and was forgotten right after that – but his moment was important: Beerschot offered him a contract and he joined the club in 1974. And there he stayed – adaptation was difficult at first, but Sannon was young and determined. By 1978 he was key player, called ‘Manno’ by the fans.

Sannon dropped out from spotlight quickly, but Tomaszewski was talked about for years. However, he was slowly declining – he lost his place in the Polish national team during he 1978 World Cup finals and at 30 he appeared to be going down. But veteran Polish players were permitted to go professional and he got contract with Beerschot.

Perhaps not the club of his dreams, but after his World Cup fiasco not so bad. ‘Tomek’ was the most famous player of his new club and he played well.

The third relatively known name was Gerrit ‘Gerrie’ Kleton. The 25-years old Dutchman was part of the great Ajax. He almost never played, but was known largely from team pictures – sitting next to Cruyff and the rest of the big stars. Kleton moved to other clubs after 1974, but was unable to establish himself anywhere. Hardly a starter even in small clubs, he moved from place to place to the end of his career. May be Knobel brought him to Beerschot, where he seemingly failed again and did last the whole season, moving back to Holland.

Kleton scores against Belgian team – KAA Gent – but in 1982 and not as a Beerschot player. His dark shirt is Haarlem’s – he moved to his homeland during 1978-79 season and arguably had his most successful years with the small Dutch club.

A pair of defenders also had minor fame: Arto Tolsa from Finland, already 33 years old, who played 10 years for Beerschot. He also played 77 games, scoring 9 goals for the national team of Finland between 1964 and 1981 – astonishing record at the time. A legend in Finland may be – a stadium is named after him – and certainly of Beerschot.

Arto Tolsa – little known player with loyal heart and great international record.

His partner was naturalized Congolese – Paul Beloy Beloy.

Still very young this season – only 22 – he quickly became respected player in Belgium, but not a great star. Because his name is confusingly doubled, he is often written just Paul Beloy.

The inevitable Dutch at the left wing: Rene Mucher.

One of the many Dutch players in Belgium, not famous at all, but seemingly useful for Beerschot.

The last and perhaps the most important player was young, but already playing for the club since 1974 – debuting along with Sannon. In 1978-79 he was only 23 years old, considered still a promise of foreign origin – so far, listed as Spaniard.

Juan Lozano was one of the greatest Belgian players of the 1980s, nicknamed the King, but his complicated dual citizenship left him out of national team football – he played a single match for Spain. Which prevented any attempts for inclusion in the Belgian selections. Already a regular, he won his first trophy this year – which was also his last season with Beerschot: he moved to USA the next season. His real fame was yet to come – for the moment, only a cup winner with a funny jersey: apparently, Beerschot advertised some firm dealing with eyeglasses.

Good for the Bear, completing the season of the underdog in Belgium.

Belgium I Division

First division can be roughly divided into 4 groups.

KV Kortrijk was the outsider of the season, finishing last with 20 points. 5 wins, 10 ties, 19 losses, the weakest attack in the league and the second worst. A bunch fairly known players were in the squad – Attila Ladinsky, now no more stateless Hungarian, but listed as Dutch; a real Dutch, who never played in Holland – Ronny van Poucke, formerly of Anderlecht; two Yugoslavians – Salih Durkelic, who had better career in France, and the 33-years old veteran Franjo Horvat, and aging German journeyman Detlef Webers. The foreigners did not help, although their names sounded stronger than those playing for the competition.

Three teams tried to avoid relegation – Berchem Sport and RFC Liegeois managed to escape.

RAA Louvieroise, more often written just La Louviere, lost the battle – with 24 points and the worst defensive record in the league, they finished 17th, going down to second division.

The second group was the typical lower mid-table bunch of teams, usually found in the bottom half of the league year after year. From KSV Waregem, 14th, to Royal Antwerpen, 7th, they were 8 clubs divided by 6 points. Some were a bit lower may be, but nothing really surprising:

Watershei SV Thor (Genk) were typical – 11th this season, a point and place behind their city rivals FC Winterslag.

Charleroi SC were 9th – like Waterschei, sometimes they appeared briefly among the top 5-6 clubs, but mid-table was their normal environment. Agind Enver Hadziabdic were still with them, but at 34, hardly a regular starter. His best days more or less ended at the 1974 World Cup. Nico Braun was respected professional, but players from Luxembourg were and are not real stars. Alex Czerniatynski was the most promising player in the team – but he was still 19 years old hopeful.

And the upper part of the table was occupied by two groups – three teams were not strong enough to attack top positions – KSC Lokeren finished 4th with 42 points.

Lokeren played well in the 1970s, so their position was not surprising. But they were modest club, and unable to build really strong team. Their strength was largely the striking line – the Polish great Wlodzimierz Lubanski was he key figure, still very dangerous at 32. Loyal to his club too. Along him two young players were making names for themselves: one 18-years old Icelander, Arnor Gudjohnsen, and 22-years Dane, who was champion of West Germany the previous year with 1. FC Koln, but hardly ever played – one Preben Elkjaer-Larsen. Both youngsters were to become quite famous in the 1980s, especially Elkjaer-Larsen, but not with Lokeren. Still this team had better season than the European sensation of the last 3-4 years – FC Brugge. Was it the inevitable drop of form after few years of success , was it a bad choice of coach, or aging squad in need of rebuilding, is immaterial – FC Brugge struggled and finished 6th. However, it was temporary flop.

The very top was a battle between three clubs – Anderlecht, obviously, Standard Liege, seemingly recovering from decline and coming back, and a small club having perhaps the best years in their history.

Standard was perhaps the most promising team at the time – under Robert Waseige a new team emerged, based on young players: Michel Preud’homme, Eric Gerets, already captaining the squad, were the core. Experienced veterans made Standard solid – the German Erwin Kostedde (b. 1949) returned to the club for which he played back in the 1960s; there was another German, also 30-years old – Helmuth Graf, and the Austrian national team striker Alfred Riedl (b. 1949) completed the group of strong veterans. Two young foreigners also were regulars – the Icelandic talent Asgair Sigurvinsson (b. 1955), and the Turkish defender Erhan Onal (b. 1957), who came from Bayern (Munich). Standard was still unfinished and young squad, but rapidly rising – it was just not their time yet, so they were not up to winning the title. But they competed to the end, finishing third with 44 points.

Erwin Kostedde, no longer a key player, but still with second spell with Standard.

Anderlecht were favorites – well, who else? Lead by Raymond Goethals, they were one of the most talked about clubs since 1975, and compared to the rest of the Belgian league, they were superior in every aspect: great coach, great squad, money to add new players with names… It was ‘the smaller Ajax’ – Rensenbrink was the first among the Dutch playing for Anderlecht, but the Haan and Johny Dusbaba came directly from Ajax. And Ruud Geels joined them in 1978 also from Ajax. Of course, he made his name playing for FC Brugge in the early 1970s, but the speedy top scorer came to Brussels as star of Ajax. The goalkeepr Nico de Bree and Mathijs van Toorn completed the Dutch colony. Add the Dane Benny Nielsen and the Congolese Jean-Claude Bouvy, and don’t even look for Belgian players…

Standing, from left: De Bree, Van Binst, Broos, Coeck, Vanthoorn, Munaron, Thissen, Dusbaba, Beeckman.

Sitting: Goethals – coach, Bouvy, Martens, Vercauteren, Van Der Elst, Rensenbrink, Nielsen, Geels, Haan, Lippens.

Of course, there were Belgian players, and what names too – Van Binst, Broos, Coeck, Vercauteren, van der Elst – all national team regulars. And Munaron will be national team player soon… Anderlecht had so much class and talent, it was out of the question who will win the championship. But they did not – may be the team was aging: Rensenbrink, Haan, Geels were getting old certainly. The next generation had no leadership potential, unfortunately – Bouvy, Nielsen, van Toorn, Munaron, and Dusbaba as good as they were, were not big star-material. It was time Anderlecht to start building of new squad – the second place in 1978-79 was a signal. It was not that lost the title – it was to whom they lost it: it was a inferior squad and inferior by far, if names are compared. The real signal was in that Anderlecht won nothing this season with seemingly unrivaled in the league squad .

May be defense was everything, may be enthusiasm, may be the weakness of the rivals. May be this, may be that, but he champions lost only 4 matches and allowed only 24 goals in their net. They squirreled points from ties, they scored enough to win, they were not a team to rave about, but a surprise winners. Unlikely too. SK Beveren were not the usual candidates for the title, so it was fantastic season for them. To see the underdog winning is nice, of course, and it was well deserved title: at the end, Beveren left Anderlecht 4 points behind.

An interesting and not typical picture of the champions – made when nobody thought of title, even they. No world-famous names here and actually old squad, based on local players. They had the usual for Belgian club big group of foreigners, but most of them were not only unknown, but rarely played – Saul Lisazo (Argentina), Erwin Albert (West Germany), Karl-Heinz Wissmann (West Germany), Patrick Verhoosel (Holland). The coach was equally unknown – the Belgian Rik Pauwels. But was spirited team – they won the Belgian Cup in 1978 and continued their strong performance, going all the way to the very top.

It was tied, small team, mostly Belgian and old – Freddy Buyl and Jean Janssens were 35 years old. The German Heinz Schonberger was 30, his compatriot Wissmann – 32. But these veterans paled when compared to Paul van Genechten – he was 38! Local stars, at best, but sturdy still. The only younger player with real star potential was Jean-Marrie Pfaff, rapidly climbing up – he was included in the national team and was to become famous player soon. Apart from him, the Dutch youngster Wim Hofkens (b. 1958) was to achieve some fame – but much later. As a whole, curious team, perhaps with more part-timers than full professionals (one player combined football with regular work as a stevedore). Rather ordinary squad, by all accounts, without promise for the future – but thy won. Two years in a row – the Cup in 1978 and in 1979 – the title. Lovely nobodies. Surprising winners.

Belgium II Division

Interesting season in Belgium, which was running on Dutch feet as ever. The recent international successes of Anderlecht and FC Brugge suggested domestic supremacy, but… it was the year of surprises.

KSV Cercle Brugge (Brugge) won the second division – more or less, expected result, for the smaller club of Brugge was usually top league team. It was not an easy victory – with 46 points, the winners clinched promotion by a point. Their only rival this season were SC Tongeren, also recent member of top flight. The rest of the league was far behind.

But Tongeren were to be very sorry for finishing second, for the the other promotional spot was not automatic: it was to be decided by round-robin tournament between the clubs placed right after the champions – KAA Gent (3rd), FC Diest (4th), and SC Hasselt (5th). In the regular championship neither came even close to Tongeren – KAA Gent finished with 38 points. Tongeren had 45. Looked like the mini-league was not necessary – Tongeren was much better than the others. But this was during the regular season and paper does not mean much: the new chance was not to be missed by anybody and playing two matches against direct opponents was something else than regular season. Tongeren won 2 matches, tied another 2, and lost 2. They scored 10 goals – a record of the mini-league, shared with SC Hasselt, but also received a lot – 11 goals. Leaky defense and nothing much. Tongeren ended 3rd. FC Diest were obvious outsiders – they lost 5 matches and managed a single tie. The battle for promotion was between KAA Gent and SC Hasselt. KAA Gent excelled defensively – they allowed only 3 goals, but strong defense usually means weak attack – they scored 7 goals, won 3 matches, tied 2, and lost one. 8 points were good, but not enough – SC Hasselt, more attacking minded team, earned 9: 4 wins, 1 tie, 1 loss, 10- 4 goal-difference.

Surprise winners of the important mini-league – SC Hasselt.

SC – or KSC – Hasselt had a modest regular season – they were 5th with 36 points, thanks to better head-to-head record: RC Mechelen also had 36 points and far better goal-difference. For a very modest club, this was great performance as it was. They were lucky to go to the promotional tournament, but as an outsiders. Goal-scoring was obvious problem – they managed only 32 goals in the regular 30 matches of the season. Their opponents outscored them by far: FC Diest – 55 goals, KAA Gent – 56 and Tongeren – twice more: 68. But Hasselt seized their chance, played excellent final tournament and won the second promotion. Which was the best achievement of the club so far – the club was founded in 1908 as Excelsior, but merged with another local club in 1964, becoming KSC Hasselt. Even in Belgium their name did not ring a bell – they never played in first division. No famous player, nothing… a tiny club, perhaps happy just to be in the second division, if possible. Unlikely promotion, but great moment for club and fans. They were not going to last among the best, as it turned out, but those were the best years in the history of the club – and the years, in which they had some famous names: Peter Ressel (from the strong Feyenoord team of the early 1970s) and Horst Blankenburg (from the best Ajax team) joined the club for their debut at the top league. In 1980 the great Czechoslovakian star of the 1960s, Josef Masopust, arrived to coach them. But all that was in the future – presently, it was just joy.


Holland The Cup

So it looked liked, for Ajax won a double. Twente was the other Cup finalist. By now they were in a decline.

Third row, from left: John Scheve, Andre van Gerven, Niels Overweg, Hans Loovens, Ab Gritter, Roy Wiggemansen, Heini Otto.

Middle row:Masseur Smit, Theo Pahlplatz, Cees van Ierssel, Harry Bruggink, Jaap Bos, Eddy Paveer, Bertus Strijdveen, Piet Wildschut, assistant coach Jan Morsing.

Sitting: Frans Thijssen, Hallvar Thoresen, Roel Smand, coach Spitz Kohn, Kick van der Vall, Henk van Santen, Epi Drost.

Like Feyenoord and PSV Eindhoven, Twente missed the right moment of starting rebuilding. Unlike the big clubs, Twente had fewer options… the team dangerously aged, but next generation strong players did not last long enough to provide some foundation for new squad. Even this photo shows the problem – Arnold Muhren was already gone to Ipswich Town in the summer of 1978, but Piet Wildschut and Frans Thijssen are present for the new season. Well, Thijssen joined Muhren in January 1979 and Wildschut moved to PSV Eindhoven. The key players of the team were known ‘forever’: Drost (b. 1945), Overweg (b. 1948), van Ierssel (b. 1945), Pahlplatz (b. 1947), van der Vall (b. 1946), Gritter (b. 1942). Those of them who were national team players years ago were also not called to the national team for quite a few years. Individually and as a team, they reached their peak about five years earlier – inevitable decline settled. Twente finished at 12th place this season – the time when this team played at the UEFA Cup final were long gone. Perhaps their coach was the reason – Antoine ‘Spitz’ Kohn, from Luxembourg, was the maker of the team in 1972. He was still coaching the same team seven years later – none young anymore, including Kohn. There were only three young hopefuls – all strikers, all lacking experience, and all foreign: Soren Lindsted (Denmark, b. 1957), Sanchez Torres (Spain, b. 1960), and Hallvar Thoresen (Norway, b. 1957). Hardly something to build on. Well, Kohn was finally dismissed after the end of the season, but too late… Yet, he and his old boys were still able to fight on occasion. Cup formats are probably best for such teams – direct elimination somewhat favours old foxes. Twente reached the final.

And old foxes fought strongly – the final ended 1-1 after extra-time. A replay… but old foxes have strength for only one game. The predictable happened – much younger Ajax won easily the second match 3-0. No cup for Twente, one more trophy for Ajax, and a respectable double this season. After the end of the season both winner and loser fired their coach. One can think how strong is a team whose coach is fired right after wins a double… Hardly anybody heard of Cor Brom again, but Spitz Cohn was to coach Ajax on three occasions in the 1980s.

Holland I Division

At the bottom of first division – hopeless outsiders. VVV Venlo were well bellow the league’s level.

Third row,from left: C. v.d. Boogaart, G. van Rosmalen, Jochen Vieten, E. Sobczak, H. Schreurs, R. Monnee, P. Franken.

Middle row: (man in blazer unknown), K. Rettkowski, L. Hilkes, J. Hermans, H. Janssen, H. Brunnenberg, P. Pala, M. Jovanovic, H. Janse, H. Croon.

Sitting: T. van Veggel, S. Kurcinac, W. Bothmer, F. Nijssen, A. Oostrom, T. Gubbels, M. Leushuis, A. v.d. Weide.

4 wins, 6 ties, 29 losses, 23-79 goal-difference, 14 points. There was no escape with such performance – VVV Venlo sunk early and stayed last to the end. The better known players in the team were foreign – two obscure Yugoslavians Stefan Kurcinac and Mikan Jovanovic, a West German journeyman, who played in the Bundesliga for a while, Kurt Rettkowski, and the best known joined the team during the season – the former Austrian national team defender Eddie Krieger, who was a regular in the great squad of FC Brugge, which played twice European cup finals. Krieger was 33 at the time, but the others were not much younger – Kurcinac was 31, Rettkowski – 30, and Jovanovic – 29. Aging players, who were not much even at their prime – but aging perhaps was the key: Jovanovic arrived in Venlo in 1973, when he was 23 years old – by now, he was perhaps not just getting old, but also not very inspired. VVV Venlo largely played in the second division, even dropping to amateur football for few years. Playing first division football was very high achievement for them – but the three-years spell ended with relegation.

The other relegated team was also an obvious suspect – FC Volendam.

Like VVV Venlo, they usually played in the second division. Survival among the best was their only aim and they failed, to nobody’s surprise. But they put some fight – the safe 16th place was missed, unfortunately.

The opponent of FC Volendam was Haarlem. Ancient club – founded 1889 – successful in the past, but completely insignificant in the professional era, Haarlem were just happy to play in the first division – occasionally.

Haarlem did not have much to offer – one of the most exotic looking players in the world

and a young English defender – Keith Masefield – who never played for his former club, Aston Villa. Masefield settled well in Haarlem – he played 11 years for the small club. The third name is impressive from a distance – a merely 17 years boy was eventually included in the squad. His name was Ruud Gullit. This squad fought bitterly for survival and clinched 16th place with 6 wins, 13 ties, and 15 losses. Three points ahead of FC Volendam.

A vast group of more or less equal clubs was spread between 15th and 5th place – 5 points was the difference between the highest and lowest, and the best said about them was only that these clubs did not worry about relegation. Vitesse (Arnhem) were 14th.

Third row, from left.: Bosveld, Mellaard, Zaaijer, Mulderij, Hofs.

Middle row: Heezen, van Hardeveld, Bursac, Bals (assistant coach), Veenstra, Das, Meyers, Horrée (assistant coach).

Sitting: Beukhof, Bleijenberg, Nijhuis, Wullems (coach), Boeve, Gerdsen, Hendriks.

Unknown club at the time, they were a typical small Dutch club. They had much better days in the future, but nobody would have imagined that in 1978-79.

FC Utrecht finished a place above Vitesse – 13th.

Third row, from left: H. v. Breukelen, B. Rietveld, A. de Kruyk, F. Dimmendaal, H. v.d. Ham, L. v. Veen, J. Stroomberg.

Middle row: H. Vonk (coach), H. v.d. Ven, G. Tervoort, T. du Chatenier, J. Streur, M. Cabo, C. Hildebrand, R. Vriezen, J. Berger (coach).

Sitting: Dr. A. Querido, J. Oostdam, E. Gozems, J. v. Staa, W. Flight, J. v. Tamelen , A. Witbaard.

Another insignificant team, having a youngster becoming famous in the future – Hans van Breukelen.

PEC Zwolle were 8th.

Standing, from left: F. Korbach (coach), B. Nieuwenhout, J. Hendriksen, C. Steinvoort, R. Israel, G. Kasperski, C. Kornelis, B. v. Geffen, K. Hoekstra.

First row: B. Hendriks, R. Jans, R. IJzerman, J. Banhoffer, J. Rasmussen, J. Frandsen, Tj. v. Leland, Y. Hamming, K. Mulder (masseur).

Rinus Israel was the only famous player – but too old.

Sparta (Rotterdam) were 6th – seemingly, well placed, but only to the eye. In reality, Sparta were typical mid-table club, no worse, but not better either, than the bulk of the league. Their 33 points were just 5 points more than the 15th placed, and their final position was on top of the massive bulk of the league only thanks to better goal-difference.

What can be said about them was trivia: Romanian coach – Mircea Petescu; a 36-years old goalkeeper, who made 8 appearances for the national team between 1967 and 1981 – Pim Doesburg; one still unknown young defender, who was to become famous as a teammate of the 1988 stars – Adri van Tiggelen; a veteran Northern Irish striker, whose best days were perhaps with Aston Villa (1973-75) – Sammy Morgan; and run of the mill midfielder, becoming famous coach – Louis van Gaal. So far, van Gaal played 0 matches for Ajax in 1972-73 and spent the next four years in Belgium with Royal Antwerpen with little success. Moved back to Holland and played for second division Telstar in 1977-78 from where he went to Sparta for the 1978-79 season. From this squad perhaps the most interesting figure in the actual time was the coach – Petescu, born in 1942, was relatively successful Romanian defender – twice champion of the country with UTA (Arad). He also made 5 appearances for the national team. His finest moment was perhaps in 1970-71, when UTA eliminated the current holders of the European Champions Cup – Feyenoord (Rotterdam). May be thanks to that he finished his playing career in Holland, where he moved to in 1973 to play for lowly FC Dordrecht. Hard to tell was it a legal transfer or a defection – by 1973 Romania was closing her export of football players and also Petescu never went back: he finished playing in 1975 and immediately became a coach. He coached only Dutch teams – and was respected for his fondness of young talent. His greatest discovery is Danny Blind.

Above the insignificant bulk were two clubs, which finished divided by a single point. They were different: for the moment, the 5th placed looked like lucky club having brief strong season. So far Roda JC did not catch anybody’s eye.

Third row, from left: Bas Jacobs, Peter de Wit, Adri Koster, Johan Toonstra, Stan Ziegler, Leo Degens.

Middle row: Jan Jongbloed, Joop Dacier, Dick Nanninga, Michel Mommertz, C. Riemens, Jan Kolding, Norbert Keulen.

Sitting: T.Lees, André Broeks, Leo Ehlen, Pierre Vermeulen, John Meuser, Theo de Jong, John Pfeiffer.

Hardly an impressive squad, but they had Jan Jongbloed and Dick Nanninga, fresh from 1978 World Cup, and Theo de Jong, who played at the 1974 World Cup. None was young, but seemingly three stars were enough for strong year.

AZ’67 (Alkmaar) continued there strong years – they finished 4th. However, little attention was paid to them – they played no part in the battle for the title, largely fighting for 4th place with Roda JC. To a point, AZ’67 appeared to be a team without a future: they were peculiar mix.

AZ’67 had a strange policy – they hardly depended on home-grown players, but on veterans not needed elsewhere. Van Hanegem, Hovenkamp, Nygaard, and Meskovic were seemingly the movers and shakers of the team, but their best years were behind them. The rest were good players, but not exactly desired by the big clubs. Or at least not yet. It was a shaky-looking team – the veterans clearly were going to retire soon. The rising youngsters, who were increasingly playing for the national team, were surely to move to bigger clubs. What was not really noticed – especially outside Holland – was the way AZ’67 slowly built a decent squad: the Danish striker Kristen Nygaard (b.1949) arrived in 1972 from IHF Aarhus. Now he was 30 years old and no longer needed for the Danish national team, but more or less the team started with him. The same year unknown youngster came form lowly Heerenveen – Kees Kist (b.1952). By the end of the 1978-79 season he was one of the top Dutch players. Hugo Hovenkamp (b.1950), often included in the Dutch national team, but not a regular starter, arrived in 1975 from Groningen. In 1976 Rizah Meskovic (b. 1947), a member of the 1974 Yugoslavian world cup squad, arrived from Hajduk (Split). Two other newcomers in 1976 were the great, but aging, Wim van Hanegem (b. 1944) from Feyenoord and two unknown promises – Peter Arntz (b. 1953) from Go Ahead Eagles, and Johnny Metgod (b. 1958) from Haarlem. Jan Peters (b. 1954), already a national team player, came from NEC Nijmegen in 1977, and finally in 1978 two men came from Austrian Swarovski Wacker (Innsbruck) – the West German coach Georg Kessler (b. 1932), who coached Anderlecht among other clubs, and Kurt Welzl (b. 1954), who was part of the impressive Austrian team at the 1978 World Cup. The only player AZ’67 could have claimed as their own was Ronald Spelbos (b. 1954), who debuted in 1974. Surely a good squad, but somehow not exceptional and not exactly a team with a future – the veterans did not have much time left to play and those who were becoming leading Dutch footballers most likely were to move to bigger clubs. It was easy to see why they were in AZ’67 – compared to the big names of the 1970s, they were somewhat lower class – except for Kees Kist. Even Meskovic – at his prime, he was merely third choice for the Yugoslavian national team and was not called again after 1974. To a point, the 4th place this season looked like a sign of inevitable end of a club which took advantage of players nobody was looking for a few years back. The strange mix was not going to last, nor it was of the really winning kind. How wrong was this impression!

The traditional big three of Dutch football were the leaders this season. Well, leaders as usual… except they were not so usual. PSV Eindhoven was dangerously aging – as a team more than individual players – and it showed. They were still much stronger than the rest of the league, but the race for the title was not up to them.

They finished third – comfortably third, but third. Their master-builder Kees Rijvers was still coaching them – and the team was largely familiar: van Beveren (b. 1948), Deijkers (b. 1946), Krijgh (b. 1950), van Kray (b. 1953), Lubse (b. 1951), van der Kuijlen (b. 1946), Rene and Willi van de Kerkhof (both b. 1951) were the core of the squad since 1972, when Rijvers arrived. With the exception of the van de Kerkhof twins, nobody was national team material anymore. True, the twins were the prime stars of Dutch football and pretty much the leaders of the national team, but they needed younger talent around them – there was such: Brandts (b.1956), Poortvliet (b. 1955), Huub Stevens (b. 1953), and Piet Wildschut (b. 1957). Well, looked like there was younger talent… for these players, although already members of the national team, were different kind than the previous Dutch generation. First of all, they were defensive players – suddenly the problem of PSV was the attack. They were no longer the dangerous high scoring team – with 65 goals, they had the third scoring record in the league this season, but AZ’67 scored 84 goals and Ajax – 93. Secondly, the new players were more competent than talented – they were ‘trained’, knew what to do, kept themselves in excellent condition, but had no spark. The had good careers, but who remembers them today? True stars they were not. PSV needed major rebuilding already.

Feyenoord fought for the title almost to end and had the best defensive record – they lost only 2 matches. They allowed only 19 goals in their net. Perhaps that was the key – Feyenoord was not even at the middle of transition, but at the beginning of rebuilding. They started too late – may be three years later than they should have started.

Vaclav Jezek, who made Czechoslovakia European champion in 1976, was hired – rebuilding eventually started with his arrival, but the negatives was too many for anything more than silver medals. Only two of the squad feared around Europe remained – the goalkeeper Treijtel (b. 1946) and the defensive midfielder Jansen (b. 1946). Both were old… the third experienced veteran was Rene Notten (b. 1949), who reached his peak 4 or 5 years ago – his best days were with Twente. The current stars were Jan Peters (b. 1953) and Michel van de Korput (b. 1956) – strong players, but hardly big stars and not leaders around whom to build a team. Young promising players were present: the goalkeeper Joop Hiele (b. 1958), Ben Wijnstekers (b. 1955), Sjaak Troost (b. 1959), the Icelandic talent Petur Petursson (b. 1959), Arie Romijn (b. 1958), but they were still too young and inexperienced. It was still a period of searching and trying – Romijn lasted only this season, and played a single match… Hiele, Wijnstekers, and Troost eventually played a bit for the national team, but not much… and although Hiele and Troost were main feature of the next decade Feyenoord, neither is even remotely close to legends like van Hanegem or Israel. Just a lesser quality. Feyenoord had a lot to do and no wonder Jezek mostly managed to keep the team near the top in his first year. Lacking great players, Feyenoord depended on tied, pressing, slightly defensive football, aiming at collecting points – 13 ties this season! Well, 13 points fought for…

With opposition having problems, Ajax emerged as the best shaped team. It was not much really, but at least it was not fading team or at the first stage of transition. It was not a team without problems, but still better than the rest of the league. Ajax won 24 matches, tied 6, and lost four. They scored 93 goals and received 31. The numbers are impressive. Another title was fine too.

There was new coach – Cor Brom, who arrived from Sparta (Rotterdam) – but the team was already shaped by Tomislav Ivic (who returned to Hajduk Split), so there was no trouble. Still, it is questionable how wise was to hire little known coach, associated largely with smaller declining clubs. But Ajax seemingly were always choosing the cheapest solution – the precedents of the replacements of Rinus Michels and after that of his successor Stefan Kovacs were easily to recall. Luckily, the league was too weak and Brom-lead Ajax won… but the coach did not last for a second try. Anyhow, the team appeared good and with lots of potential for the future – it was not at its prime, still too young as a team . Only Ruud Krol (b. 1949) remained of the great team winning three European Champions Cups. Only two players remained from the early shaky efforts of keeping a strong team – Schrijvers (b. 1946) and van Dord (b. 1953). There was only one more experienced player – Johan Zuidema (b. 1948). The rest was younger talent – Wim Meutstege (b. 1952), Dick Schoenaker (b. 1952), Tscheu La Ling (b. 1956), the two rapidly becoming big stars Danes – Frank Arnesen (b. 1956) and particularly Soren Lerby (b. 1958), the fascinating winger Simon Tahamata (b. 1956), and the still teenaged hopeful Ruud Kaiser (b. 1960). Almost all of the above were already playing for the national teams of Holland and Denmark. May be a bit of fine tuning was still needed and more experience, but the skeleton of the next ‘great’ Ajax was at hand – soon to soar to the heights of the team of the early 1970s. So it looked like…