Holland the Cup

The Cup final opposed the two best teams this season – Ajax vs AZ’67. Normally, Ajax should have been the favourite, but AZ’67 were so strong this season, so it was difficult to bet – still Ajax was the likelier winner: on one hand, they had to compensate for losing the tile; on the other – Alkmaar, playing on three fronts, was under heavy pressure and no matter how good they were, this was not a club used to winning. Predictions, expectations, arguments… on the pitch AZ’67 destroyed Ajax 3-1.

Kees Kist triumphal with the Cup. Treytel next to him was also happy – he was used to winning trophies, but may be this season was special for him too: it was one thing to get titles and cups with Feyenoord and entirely different to win with small club at an age nobody expects anything from you.

Ajax lost twice this year, finishing with nothing – second-best equals failure. The team was not bad, but there was something missing, something not quite good, not quite right – after 1973 Ajax was just unable to make a great team. Of course, it is hardly possible to keep a new team at par with true geniuses, like Cruijff &Co., but Ajax was not getting even close. Unlike Feyenoord and PSV Eindhoven, Ajax did nothing wrong and never sunk into a crisis – they sold the great players one by one, adding young talent all the time, plus their special brand of always buying old solid player with big reputation. They stayed strong in Holland, but lost their leading position in Europe – and 1979-80 was just continuing the pattern. Not a single player of the great team remained – Krol moved in the summer of 1980 first to Canada and from there – to Italy. Now the leading veterans were not associated with the glory years at all – Schrijvers, La Ling, Schoenaker. Add Henning Jensen, who arrived from Real Madrid, having made his fame with Borussia Moenchengladbach – unfortunately, he was 32 years old by now and no longer the same. In terms of leadership, the current veterans were not just what was desired. Behind them were young stars – Wim Kieft, Wim Meutstege, Edo Ophof to a point, but largely the Danish midfield duo Soren Lerby and Frank Arnesen. Not a bad ‘skeleton’, but somewhat unfinished – as were previous versions of Ajax after 1974. If Ajax made a mistake in rebuilding, it was in their eagerness to sell stars – veterans were one thing, but may be they sold too quickly younger players – like Tahamata – which left in the position of having half-a-team, never finished and constantly searching for leaders. And it was quite sure now that Lerby and Kieft will not be around for long. A bit shaky, Ajax lost both the championship and the Cup.

AZ’67 won a double – this was the best year in the history of the club: champions, cup winners, and UEFA Cup finalists – this cup they lost just by a single goal, they really came close to win a third trophy. What a season! And the funny white bathrobes donned for the picture, evoking the memories of the great Ajax. As if coming back again. The best season in the history of AZ’67 to this very day, a legendary season. Alas, there were some dark clouds on the horizon: since the typical life span of a strong team is about 5 years, AZ’67 just reached its peak and the inevitable decline was coming. If this was a bigger club, the downfall may have been avoided, but there was the predicament of small clubs instead: once such a club came into focus, there was no way to keep the stars and develop further. Three key players of this wonderful squad were already wetting the appetites of both Dutch and foreign clubs – and Kees Kist was sold to Paris SG in 1982, John Metgod – to Real Madrid in 1982, and Kurt Welzl to Valencia in 1981. AZ’67 were simply not in a position to build a dynasty, but what a season they had, crowning their 5-years long climb with fantastic and difficult to match success. No accident in their case, no just a lucky year.

Holland I Division

The Dutch First Division played a strange season: on one hand, it was the familiar high-scoring kind of football, typical for this country. On the other hand, the usual favourites were not really a big factor this year, dominated entirely by one club. At the bottom – nothing surprising. Two outsiders, more or less expected. FC Wageningen finished last.

Wageningen was not expected to last in the top league and they did not. Well, they had their short rub with the best and were going back to their familiar second division football. Note the big W on their shirts: it is just the first letter of the club’s name – shirt advertisement was not yet permitted. It will be in the next season.

SBV Excelsior (Rotterdam) finished 17th – like Wageningen, they finished with 21 points, but better goal-difference placed them a place above last. No comfort in that – they joined Wageningen in relegation. Both teams were clearly not up to the challenge this year – to the joy of other smaller clubs, which had not to fret about second division.

Up the table – nothing immediately interesting. FC Groningen finished 15th with 25 points, but better goal-difference than NEC Nijmegen.

Top row, from left: Sip Bloemberg – Theo Keukens – Jouke Faber – Jack van Loon – Dick Bults – Karel Hiddink – Walter Waalderbos – Dick Ploeger

Middle row: Wubbo de Boer (elftalleider) – Renze de Vries (voorzitter) – Azing Griever – Eddy Bakker – Henk Veldmate – Peter Houtman – Leen Swanenburg – Herman Dijkstra – Hans Boer – Theo Verlangen (trainer) – John Visser (verzorger)

Sitting: Anne Mulder – Jan Brouwer – Ronald Koeman – Bert Hendriks – Bert Wiebing – Ludwig Timisela – Jan van Dijk.

Nothing spectacular, as usual, but there were at least two youngsters eventually becoming well known – Peter Houtman and Ronald Koeman. The next great generation of Dutch football was coming, but it was still too young for immediate impact.

FC Den Haag was 14th with 27 points. No future great names here – the club relied on Aad Mansveld. Den Haag distinguished itself this season with the worst defensive record in the league, allowing 79 goals.

NAC Breda was 13th with also with 27 points, but ahead of Den Haag on goal-difference. Standing: Jansen (trainer/coach), Wanny van Gils, Jack Beusenberg, Tom Dekker, Bertus Quaars, Tom Smits, Anton Joore, Hans Heeren, Geert van de Wiel (verzorger).

Sitting: Ton van Eenenaam, Edu de Schepper, Ton Sprangers, Martien Vreijsen, Ton Lokhoff, Hans Neeskens, Ad Krijnen, Mathé van Kelle.

Roda JC ended 11th with 28 points, ahead of Go Ahead Eagles on better goal-difference.

Third row from left: Leo Degens, Peter de Wit, Dick Nanninga, Joop Dacier, G.Tsinos, John Meuser, John Eriksen.

Mmiddle row: Ton Marijt, Leo Ehlen, Allan Nielsen, Willy Smeets, Jan Jongbloed, Frank Ramakers, Roger Raeven, Kees Bregman, Piet de Visser (trainer)

Sitting: Ronald Hendriks, René Hofman, Eugène Marijnissen, Michel Mommertz, J. v/d Kinderen, Theo de Jong, Eugène Hanssen, Wim Meijers.

Slightly better squads when one climbs up the table: Dick Nanninga, Theo de Jong, the Danish international Allan Nielsen, and, of course, Jan Jongblood between the goalposts.

Familiar teams in the lower half of the table, nothing special and far away from any great things. There was sharp gap between those clubs and the better ones: MVV Maastricht, 8th, was 4 points ahead of those bellow. And Maastricht was nothing special.

Sparta (Rotterdam) was nothing special too, but they had good year and finished 7th with 36 points. Which was not close to the top 6 teams – Twente ended 6th with 39 points.

Standing: dhr. Hollink (trainer), Tjalling dilling, John Scheve, Niels Overweg, Eddy Pasveer, Andre van Gerven, Theo Snelders, Ab Gritten, Bert Strijdveen, Heinz Otto, masseur Jan Steeneeke.

Sitting: Manuel Sanchez Torres, Ferdi Rhode, Romeo Zondervan, Soeren Lingsted, Hallvar Thoresen, Fred Rutten, Aad Kila, Martin Jol, Jaap Bos, Evert Bleuning.

Gone were the days when Twente was expected to become really strong team – by now, it was mostly keeping a position in the upper half of the league. Niels Overweg was almost the only player left from the exciting squad of mid-1970s and only two players eventually became well known – Theo Snelders and Martin Jol. Jol was coming close to moving first to West Germany and after that – to England. Add the Norwegian national team regular Hallvar Thoresen.

Twente was left 5 points behind by PSV Eindhoven, which itself was no longer in great shape.

Third row: W. v.d. Kerkhof, J. Poortvliet, Q.v.d. Meulen, H. Stevens, E. Brands, P. Wildschot.

Middle row: verzorger J.v.d. Ven, W. Scheepers, W. Jansen, P. Doesburg, A. Koster, 2de trainer J. Rekers en trainer J. Libregts.

Sitting: N. Valke, P. Posthuma, T. Smolders, E. Koeman, T. Christensen, R.v.d. Kerkhof en W.v.d. Kuylen.

The squad was dangerously aging – the van de Kerkhof twins, Jansen, van der Kuylen, Doesburg were getting too old and the next generation – Huub Stevens, Ernie Brandts, Poortvliet, and Wildschot – never became great stars. Erwin Koeman did not even make his reputation with PSV Eindhoven. Perhaps the most interesting figure is not on the picture:

The South Korean midfielder Huh Jung-moo arrived this summer (the photo of his tackling Johan Cruijff is from the next season) after finishing his military service playing for Navy SC. The 25-years old never became internationally famous like his compatriot Cha Bum-kun, but he played 3 years for PSV Eindhoven, 12 years for the national team of South Korea (1974-86 – a total of 84 games, in which he scored 29 goals). The Asian were slowly rising, Huh was the third high-profile Asian player in Europe and his importance for both South Korean and Asian football is undeniable.

Frankly, PSV had to discard most of its regulars and build entirely different team. Fifth place was not quite right for such a club. Nor was 4th position for Feyenoord, lead by Vaclav Jezek, but there problem was not aging.

The problem of Feyenoord was rebuilding – a new squad was taking shape, but it was still formless and not very strong. Some were already very experienced, but not great leaders – Rene Notten, Sjaak Troost, and Jan Peters. Others were promising, but only that – Joop Hiele, Ben Wijnstekers, Karel Bouwens. The Danish import Ivan Nielsen was still not at the peak of his career. Feyenoord missed the right moment for starting a new team back in the mid-1970s and now suffered the consequences of hesitation – apparently, PSV Eindhoven did not learn from their sorry example and now was in the very situation Feyenoord was around 1975-76. Rebuilding was particularly difficult after missing the crucial moment – another sorry example. Feyenoord was not a factor at the moment – the heavy price.

FC Utrecht was good news this year – they finished 3rd, a great success for them. True, they bested Feyenoord only on goal-difference, were never in the battle for the title, and perhaps just benefited by the weakness of Feyenoord, PSV Eindhoven, and Twente, but they earned the bronze medals.

Third row: H. v. Breukelen, H. v.d. Vlag, J. v.d. Akker, J. Stroomberg, B. Rieter, T. de Kruyk, G. v.d. Lem.

Middle row: trainer N. Berger, G. Tervoort, 2e trainer J. Verkaik, J. van Veenendaal, J. Wildbret, T. Duchatinier, K. van Tamelen, W. Carbo, P. Eikelboom, T. Norbert, verzorger J. Okhuyzen, W. van Hanegem.

Sitting: Dr. Querido, T. Gruters, G. Kruys, J. van Staa, J. Wouters, F. Adela, W. Flight.

Great team Utrecht was not, but lead by Wim van Hanegem they outplayed themselves. A memorable season, although it was quite clear it was not to be repeated: the team did not have big potential, nor they had money to buy stronger players. Van Hanegem was at his last legs, but there was a player for the future – the great goalkeeper Hans van Breukelen already was noticed. A bit of success only helped his reputation – and perhaps was not helping Utrecht, because they were not able to keep a star for long.

Ajax finished 2nd but so distant second, the season could be seen as a failure – 12 points behind the champions. One good thing was that they were still maintaining leading position in the country. To a point, one can blame the whole league for having wrong attitude: Ajax were prime example of shrewd financial policy, selling quality players to the highest bidder and recruiting as cheaply as possible, but it was general Dutch approach – this season almost all foreigners were Danish. Ajax had three – 2 were rapidly rising stars, the third was a veteran over the hill. Somewhat the chemistry was not there and not for the first year either. Ajax – unlike the smaller clubs – did hot shy away from big names, but preferred them old, when their price was not big (Vasovic, Blankenburg, Mulder, Zoltan Varga, Geels, to name a few – and now Henning Jensen). Sometimes the policy worked, sometimes did not – this time it did not.

Rarely Holland had so dominating champion, finishing 12 points ahead of the nearest pursuer. Even more rare was a brand new champion. AZ’67 (Alkmaar) was and is seen as unlikely champion, may be just a chancy one, but chancy champions never finish with such astounding records: 27 wins, 6 ties, and only one loss. The boys scored 101 goals, receiving only 30. The best attack, the best defense, almost unbeatable and seemingly not even recognizing the distinction between home and away games, for they equally successful on every stadium: scored 51 goals at home and 50 away, received 14 at home and 16 away, won 14 matches at home and 13 away. Almost ironic was the fact that the only match they lost was in Alkmaar. Superior in every aspect, staggeringly dominant – and winning their very first title.

Wonderful champions, but today especially they were considered just a lucky underdog – it is not true. AZ’67 did not pop out of the blue – they started their climb in 1975-76, when they finished 6th. The next year they were 3rd and in 1977-78 -also 3rd. 4th in 1978-79, then 2nd in 1979-80 – not exactly your surprise team. Now they obviously reached their peak and won the championship. Their peculiar approach worked just fine: AZ’67 started with recruiting some aged stars, seen as over the hill, complimented by talented youngsters, who, for some reason did not interested the big clubs. The mixture worked and some fine tuning and careful adjustments made AZ’67 a wonderful team full of current stars. To the envy of the big three, AZ’67 formed a very strong team – Treytel, Hovenkamp, Spelbos, Arnzt, Metgod, Jonker. Kees Kist was the bright great star not only of the club, but the leading scoring machine in Europe. Add the experienced Dane Kristen Nygaard and the Austrian national team striker Kurt Welzl and there was the strongest side in Holland. The coach was good too – the West German Georg Kessler never made it big at home, but was successful abroad – he came from Swarovski Wacker (Austria) and was perfect for AZ’67 – as a coach, he was arguably at the perfect age: 49 years old, but vastly experienced. At his peak, one may say, and the same applies to his team. AZ’67 just galloped throw the season, winning left and right, but most importantly they were very exciting to watch – they brought back the old fast, attacking, high-scoring, wonderful to watch total football. It was their year and the title was more then well deserved.

Holland II Division

Not that Second Division was strong – the numbers of participants fluctuated a bit, but it was not due to relegation, but largely economic reasons changed the numbers: occasionally a club was no longer able to keep professional team and dropped out of the league; occasionally a club decided to try professionalism, applied for league membership, and, if meeting the requirements, was accepted. The quality in Second Division was not great and the Dutch Federation knew that all too well, so there was elaborated promotional system – the second league champion were directly promoted, the second spot was decided by a play-off tournament between the winners of four segments of the regular championship. Which meant that the second in the final table may not even appear in this final tournament, but what the heck: there was no great difference between the stronger second division teams. As for relegation, nobody had to worry about such misfortune as long as they had money. So Heracles finished last – 19th – this year, but it did not matter. More interesting was the plunge FC Amsterdam took: they finished 16th, obviously in permanent crisis. It was clear that even the biggest Dutch cities were unable to keep two decent clubs – Ajax was practically the maximum for Amsterdam and Feyenoord – for Rotterdam. There was hardly any second division club coming close to the most first division members: even the strongest were hardly able to last for long among the best. Nothing new… and because of that Second Division would be mentioned only in terms of curiosities.

Just because they had relatively stronger past, Telstar should have been among the favourites. By past and presence are different things: Telstar already settled for run-of-the-mill second division football and finished 11th.

FC Volendam finished 3rd.

Third row, from left: Jaap Braan, Bas du Mortier, Jos Cornelisse, Jaap Jonk, Marcel Boonstra, Frank Kramer, Leo Tholens (fysiotherapeut)

Middle row: Bruin Steur (trainer), Cees Molenaar, Dick Helling, Piet Koning, Dick de Boer, Cees Guyt, D. Maurer (trainer)

Sitting: René Tol, Cees Sul, Theo Mooyer, Klaas Tuyp, Frans Hoek, Cor Smit, Wim Tol, Wim Kwakman.

One of the teams, at least in theory, which should have been aiming at promotion. They finished high, but… did not even qualify for the promotional play-off.

Cambuur, 9th in the final table, perhaps illustrates the second division best:

It is their performance, not the players or the coach, but the exotic picture. May be there was light at the end of the tunnel, but the symbolism is lost. Bricks… Nice photography, though, and Dutch clubs had an interesting tradition going back to the early 1960s of making unusual team pictures.

Haarlem won the league. They had no rivals this season, finishing 8 points ahead of the second placed and were directly promoted. Well done, of course – and better things were to come. For the moment, the only second division team really improving.

The second promotional spot was decided by the play-off tournament. In another country such final would be unthinkable: the contenders were SC Heerenveen – 2nd, De Graafschap – 7th, FC Den Bosch – 6th, and DS’79 – 5th. Reason insists on easy win by Heerenveen, having strong season. Den Bosch, a former decent member of first division also would be considered as having a chance. But reason does not work very well in football – DS’79 finished last, Den Bosch was 3rd, Heerenveen – second, and De Graafschap won the play-offs by a single point.

Well done- the lowest among the competitors, according the final league table, were the best when mattered most. ‘Superboeren’ – ‘Super Peasants’ – were going to play first division football for a second time: they were promoted in 1973 for the first time, but did not last. Now they had to try again. Not bad for a relatively young club, founded in 1954 – especially if compared to ancient club like Be Quick.


Holland. An interesting case – how to measure? The yearly UEFA ranking placed Holland number one for 1980-81. The 5-year table – important for the next season UEFA Cup quota – placed the Dutch 4th, quite ahead of France. That gave them 3 teams in the UEFA Cup, which in turn almost assured that the country will stay high in the quota table. Technically, the UEFA ranking was the most objective and it was simple: based on wins and ties, who got the most points stayed on top. But European club football was not the whole picture: Dutch football lost its dominance, the current generation was not even close to the great players of the early 1970s, the kind of football the Dutch played by now was not exciting, but solid, physical, and not particularly skilful. Not only Holland lost its aura at the 1980 European championship finals, but in 1981 they failed to qualify for the 1982 World Cup. They finished 4th in their group, ahead only of Cyprus. Crisis was obvious, yet, Dutch players were highly respected professionals and foreign clubs, particularly British ones, eagerly signed them. Well, the players had great reason to be determined professionals, but their exodus was not helping football at home – Ajax, Feyenoord, and now PSV Eindhoven were no longer feared and, worse, they were not very strong anymore. One can say inertia ruled: Dutch football was thought of highly only because of old success and habit dies hard. Unfortunately, the country was too small and not able to maintain big professional football – it had 2-tier system: two professional leagues and vast, but separated non-professional system, which never came into focus outside the Netherlands. Those, outside the professional system, were diverse clubs. Some new and small, some old and with great past. Like Be Quick.

Be Quick (Groningen) were found in 1887 and once upon a time were not only leading Dutch club, but even champions. Now they non-professional and if one thought of local football, FC Groningen came to mind, not Be Quick. And there was no way of ‘discovering’ such a club – the professional football was practically closed to amateurs.

USSR the Cup

The Soviet Cup should have been special this year – it was the 40th tournament. But the final was seen as particularly promising – Spartak (Moskva) vs SKA (Rostov). Not a big, dramatic final fit for the occasion – the winner was certain. Spartak was much stronger and playing at home in Moscow. SKA… they just lost 7 matches in a row and were at the bottom of the table. Predictions were right – Spartak was expected to attack, having lively technical style. SKA was expected to saturate its own half with defenders, hoping for occasional counter-attack. That precisely happened on the pitch and was only a matter of time Spartak to start scoring. But they were missing the target… the lowest point of their impotence came in the 35th minute, when Mirzoyan missed a penalty. SKA managed a few counter-attacks, but nothing really dangerous. The second half was similar, except that both teams minded their net and the tempo became sluggish – killing time was more important than trying to win outright. Still Spartak was more active and dangerous.

Yury Gavrilov with the ball and Sergey Shavlo at his left side ready to help – Spartak was attacking, SKA was defending, the game was boring… Until the 84th minute.

If there was danger to Spartak, it came from Zavarov and Andreev. In one of their not so many counter-attacks SKA passed the ball to their key striker, Spartak defenders were late, and Sergey Andreev scored. 1-0. Six minutes were not enough for equalizing and the result stayed. Spartak lost.

The unthinkable happened – SKA’s captain Pavel Lossev received the cup. Big smile, of course.

SKA (Rostov) made their run of triumph.

Sensational cup winners SKA (Rostov). Crouching, from left:V. Berezin, A. Vorobyov, P. Gussev. S. Andreev, V. Degtyarev, I. Gamula, A. Zavarov.

Standing: A. Andryushchenko, P. Shubin – assistant coach, V. Goncharov, V. Fedotov – coach, N. Kuryatnikov, V. Zuev, V. Radaev, N. Romanchuk, A. Yashin, A. Ivanov – assistant coach.

Happy winners, proving miracles happen from time to time. Forget the unattractive final – see the trophy, making this squad instantly the greatest in the history of the club: SKA never before or after 1981 won a trophy. They also wrote a new chapter in the amusing history of Soviet football – there was already a second division team winning the Cup. Karpaty (Lvov) did that, but they also won promotion at the same year. There was particularly lowly finalist once, which never played first division football, but Krasnaya Presnya did not win. Now there was a winner going down to second division – the final was early in the season, but SKA was seen as relegated already. Since the winners were not a team to brag about, more trivia: Zavarov won his very first trophy. It will be not the last, but not with SKA. Zuev, on the other hand, added one more to his biography – he was champion and cup winner with Dinamo (Kiev) and not only once, if only by default, for he was generally a reserve player in Kiev. A pleasant moment for Andreev, who deserved a trophy not only because he scored the winning goal – he was one of the best strikers at this time and regular national team player, but playing for lowly SKA had no chance to collect silverware. At last something – and that was all he won on club level. Great success for the young coach Vladimir Fedotov, not long ago a national team star and used to winning – now as a coach as well. The rest… the rest is just general: it is always nice to see the underdog winning against the odds.

USSR I Division

If Soviet football was seen as improving, it did not show very much this championship – a curious contradiction, for nothing especially bright happened in the first division. There was not even a race for the title. A rather routine season with no signs of up and coming clubs. From the distance of time, it is particularly interesting how insignificantly the teams making the 1980s of Soviet football played this year.

The absolute outsider was Pakhtakor (Tashkent) – they finished with 19 points, 4 less than the 17th finisher. Not a big surprise, but also alarming: because of the air crush, killing almost the whole squad in 1979, Pakhtakor was still exempt from relegation. The idea was to permit the club to build a new team – but it was not working. Safety seemingly made them disinterested and now they were dead last. But they were staying in the league.

Tavria (Simferopol) finished 17th with 23 points – they put some fight, but the small club was clearly not up to task and had to leave first division football. They ended 4 points ahead of Pakhtakor, but also 3 points behind the 16th placed. Outsiders, too bad, cherish the memories of top flight football.

SKA (Rostov) was 16th – an end of bitter-sweet season. This was the year of their greatest success ever and also the year they were relegated.

As a whole, not particularly strong team, depending on two guys, who did not make it at their original club – the goalkeeper Radaev and the defender Andryushchenko, the long-time Dinamo (Kiev) sustitute Zuev, one current star – Sergey Andreev, and the young, bright talent Zavarov. Not much, but still above relegation – they finished 3 points ahead of Tavria and under normal circumstances would have been safe. But fate played a bitter joke on them – Zenit took the 15th place on better goal-difference and since Pakhtakor was still exempted from relegation, the 16th was unlucky – SKA went down.

Zenit (Leningrad) was lucky 15th. Not a suprise, for they have been a so-so team most of the time. Judging by this season nobody would have imagined these guys were future champions – and in very near future at that. One interesting thing about their picture is the glimpse at forgotten side of Soviet football of the late 1970s and 1980s: indoor championship games were played in Moscow, something most clubs were not happy about. It was unfamiliar kind of game to most, played with different shows and even players dressed differently to avoid bruises, cuts, and injuries at the hard surface. The indoor kind benefited Moscow clubs at home, but… they had away matches too, to their peril.

Ararat (Erevan) was lucky 14th.

From left: Kh. Oganesyan, A. Antonyan, S. Kassaboglyan, A. Keropyan, Ash. Khachatryan, Raf. Galstyan, B. Melikyan, O. Kirakosyan, N. Petrosyan, G. Mkhitaryan.

One of the brighest Soviet teams in the first half of the 1970s slumped into a crisis after 1975 – the reasons were obvious: inability to rebuild. Only N. Petrosyan remained from the old winning squad and after that only Oganesyan emerged as a true star and national team player. Unfortunately, Armenia was small and not rich on football talent. Ararat was not alone – a host of teams was either going down or not not improving.

Kayrat (Alma-ata) finished 12th, a normal place for them – in the lower half of the table. Neither good, nor bad. The same were Chernomoretz (Odessa), Neftchi (Baku), Dinamo (Minsk), Dnepr (Dnepropetrovsk). Nothing new, nothing interesting.

Chernomoretz (Odessa) took the 11th place. Standing from left: P. Chilibi, Yu. Smotrich, V. Leshchuk, A. Chistov, V. Golovin, I. Shary.

First row: V. Mashnin, I. Bulankin, G. Shalamay, Yu. Goryachev.

Typical mid-table team – few local heroes, but middle-of-the-road in the big picture. Only Leshchuk remained from the squad winning bronze medals in 1974.

So much the same, that hardly anybody expected something from Dinamo (Minsk). Third row, from left: N. Gorbach, Yu. Trukhon, I. Gurinovich, Vl. Voytzehovich, Al. Golovnya, V. Yanushevsky, Al. Alekseychikov, Yu. Pudyshev, A. Zygmantovich, S. Aleynikov.

Middle row: L. Garay – team chief, V. Arzamastzev – coach, M. Vergeenko, Yu. Popkov, Al. Vanyushkin, Yu. Kurbyko, L. Rumbutis, Al. Voynakh, G. Tzyrkunov, A. Ussenko, L. Vassilevsky – administrator.

Sitting: N. Pavlov, V. Melnikov, I. Belov, S. Gotzmanov, P. Vassilevsky, Al. Prokopenko, G. Kondratyev, Yu. Kurnenin, V. Sokol, G. Kobrenkov.

9th place – more or less, normal for Minsk in a good year. Zygmantovich, Aleynikov, and Gotzmanov were noticed as talented newcomers, pushing their way to the national team of which they became integral part for the most of the 1980s, but the team performed as usual and it was unimaginable that the same squad will conquer the Soviet league in the next year.

11 out of 18 first division clubs played more or less as usual. The top seven must have been different then? Well, not quite.

Shakhter (Donetzk) were 7th – perhaps a tiny bit lower than expected, but in general they continued their solid play and stayed among the best. The good thing about the club was its ability to change smoothly generations without having real stars – something almost impossible for a club located so near Dinamo (Kiev).

CSKA (Moscow) ended 6th with 3 points more than Shakhter. On the surface – good season, for the Army club suffered quite a lot during the 1970s. Yet, it was not a memorable team – it was strange, because CSKA had virtually free hand at picking the best talent of the whole country: universal army service was unavoidable (only those playing for Dinamo organization were relatively safe, for the Police had their own military service, thus, able to keep their players.) CSKA had a handful of good players and even snatched a bright young star from Spartak (Moscow) -Vagiz Khidiatulin – but it was a rag-tag squad: some were getting old and on their way out, others were not able to better themselves. Contrary to its strong final place, the club was actually heading down.

Torpedo (Moscow) was 5th with 38 points. Not bad, but they were similar to CSKA – able to get some good players, but nothing exceptional and largely trying to maintain upper-half position in the league. Traditionally, they were in bad position: the smallest and most vulnerable of the 4 top Moscow clubs.

Dinamo (Moscow) was 4th, but they were similar to CSKA – unable to build a strong team for a long time, despite their privileged position in recruiting. Forth, but… mostly because the league as a whole was not very strong.

Dinamo (Tbilisi) was 3rd. A very distant third… 4 points behind Spartak and not for a second title contenders. Perhaps strange – this was their most glorious season in history, they had wonderful squad, they were perhaps the closest to Dinamo (Kiev) in terms of available talent, they had the best player this year and the top league scorer – Ramaz Shengelia. Seven national team players above… and third. Well, the Georgians were traditionally moody and not very consistent, but most likely the parallel run, leading them to winning the Cup Winners Cup was too much for them and they were unable to preserve top form for the whole year.

Spartak (Moscow) finished confident second – far ahead of Dinamo (Tbilisi), but nothing more. Standing, from left: S. Shevtzov, V. Sochnov, V. Samokhin, R. Dassaev, O. Romantzev, A. Mirzoyan, A. Prudnikov, S. Shavlo, S. Krestenenko.

First row: E. Sidorov, A. Kalashnikov, V. Safronenko, Yu. Gavrilov, F. Cherenkov, S. Rodionov, B. Pozdnyakov, G. Morozov.

Seemingly, that was the best they can do – not their best year, distant second. The lack of true competitiveness was attributed to pre-season losses: players left, but their replacements were not at similar level. The excuse was rather weak: Yartzev left, but the goalscorer was already 33-years old and no longer the same. Others were not even undisputed regulars. The only significant loss was Vagiz Khidiatulin, who moved to CSKA, having been called to Army service. One player, however great – and Khidiatulin was not yet considered great – hardly destroys a team. The problem was different – so far, Spartak had short squad compared to Dinamo (Kiev). Behind the first eleven were rather ordinary players.

That leaves us with the familiar name of Dinamo (Kiev) winning their 10th title, thus, equalizing the record so far held by Spartak. Clearly without a rival this season – Spartak was left 7 points behind. Dinamo lost only 3 matches and won 22 – the only team in the league winning more than 20 games. Superb defense, but not so great attack – a testimony not of defensive approach, but of the physical point-getting style they played at the time.

A record 10th title, achieved much quicker than the 10 title Spartak had, the most consistent club in USSR – already 20 years they were at the top – but there was no big celebration. The reaction was rather cold, giving the impression Dinamo just finished a routine season. In the post-seasonal introduction of the champions not Lobanovsky, but the veteran assistant coach Koman wrote of the team and his words were dry, as nothing happened. The players were introduced largely by numbers – Veremeev got his 6th title, trailing only Muntyan, no longer playing; Blokhin and Buryak – 5 titles; Konkov – 4 times champion, Bessonov and Lozinzky – 3 each; and so on. Instead of praise, reservations were voiced: Khapsalis, Evtushenko, and Boyko apparently had quite a lot to learn. Mikhaylov, Khlus, Dumansky, and Bal – promising youngsters, but let see. Sorokalet, Zhuravlyov, and curiously Viktor Kolotov – well, reserves with ittle contribution. Strangely the captain of the great 1975 team, Kolotov, was not even mentioned among the record makers – he, like Veremeev, also won his 6th title. Some kind of excuse was found for Yury Romensky, the goalkeeper, who missed most of the season because of illness – or rather chronic injury. With caution, only Andrey Bal was praised. The impression from Koman was that the season was not exceptional, may be because there was no stronger opposition. But Dinamo (Kiev) adopted severe and merciless attitude under Lobanovsky and what could be read between the lines was that some of the new champions were already goners or near that – Kolotov, Romensky, Dumansky, Khapsalis – and others had to keep in mind that the boot is ready to kick them too – Lozinsky, Zhuravlyov, Sorokalet. Aging Veremeev and Buryak had to keep in mind they will be dropped without even ‘thank you’ at the first moment somebody younger appears. Well, one after another all of the mentioned disappeared – bitterly, in the case of Buryak – but there was one more side to that: this was not yet the team Lobanovksy envisioned.

USSR II Division

USSR next – their was no doubt her football was ascending and 1981 was judged positively on both club and national team level: Dinamo (Tbilisi) won the Cup Winners Cup and team USSR qualified for the 1982 World Cup finals for the first time since 1969. Retrospectively, the most important thing was that all bright players of the 1980s were already impressive at home, if not yet famous abroad. However, international ranking was not showing big improvement: the UEFA club ranking for 1980-81 placed USSR 8th, just above Bulgaria, and the more important 5-year ranking placed the Soviets also 8th – the last country having the right to use 3 teams in the next UEFA Cup tournament: above Italy, but behind DDR. At home, the picture was strangely mixed. The Third Division football was judged improving at last – it was noticed that more players interested the top clubs than before. On the negative side, more talent meant only that the big clubs quickly snatched the emerging talent during the season and the smaller clubs of third division were in the position of Sisyphus, having to start new teams at the very moment they thought they managed to build a good team. The rest was familiar problem without solution: there was old great divide, the Ural mountains. East of them the quality of football rapidly decreased. Better football was played West, in the European parts of USSR. The vast Third Division was divided into 9 zones, the winners of each went to play qualification for three promotional spots and at the end Daugava (Riga), Dinamo (Kirov), and Rotor (Volgograd) earned promotion. All newcomers located West of Ural. It was not foreseen, but this year Rotor started its journey up to eventually becoming one of the strongest Soviet teams of the 1980s.

Second Division was only criticized, as every year before: whatever good was happening was not in the second level of Soviet football. Old, painfully familiar problems – the quality was low, most teams were not interested in anything but keeping a place in the Second Division, no more than 3 clubs wanting to go up. The league was to be reduced from 24 to 22 teams for the next season, one more attempt to force disinterested clubs into more competitive attitude. So 5 teams were going down – since most of the league was fairly equal, the championship was largely preoccupied with escaping relegation: 4 teams finished with 40 points, one with 41, 7 with 44 – 15 clubs mostly tried to stay away from the last 5 places. At the end Traktor, Dinamo, Kuzbass, Spartak (Ordzhonokidze), and Prykarpatye went down. SKA (Khabarovsk) and Buston (Dzhizak) survived on better goal-difference. Some clubs were heavily criticized for complete lack of ambition – particularly Karpaty (Lvov) and SKA (Odessa) – and generally it was observed, that there was no really up and coming team, mediocrity ruled.

Kolos (Nikopol) was among the typical ‘disinterested’ clubs – they finished 5th, not bad at all for a relatively new member of the league, but they did not catch the eye of the observers. May be the specialists were wrong in their case – eventually Kolos moved up.

Three clubs competed for the two promotional spots: Lokomotiv (Moscow), Torpedo (Kutaisi), and Metallist (Kharkov). Lokomotiv lost the race, finishing 3rd with 54 points, but it was the only team seen as improving and trying to build serious squad.

With 56 points Torpedo (Kutaisi) took 2nd place and was promoted.

Once again going to play top league football: standing from left: M. Tzivtzivadze – coach, M. Kvernadze, D. Dardzhania, T. Tznobiladze, G. Koridze, V. Merechko, M. Machaidze, G. Gvadzabia, A. Kantaria, V. Shvelia, Sh. Okropirashvili – captain, G. Sardia – assistant coach.

Crouching: G. Panchulidze, R. Burkadze, D. Kviria, R. Pestvenidze – assistant coach, G. Gabichvadze, G. Machaidze, L. Agaronov, N. Meskhia.

Well done, but.. there was no much enthusiasm even in the club. When Shota Okropirashvili introduced his team in the the ‘Football-Hockey’ weekly, he praised the club’s bus driver and was very reserved about his teammates. Practically only the brothers Gocha and Manuchar Machaidze were noted – the former stars of Dinamo (Tbilisi) were getting too old, however. Not much for a team going to play first division football. Outside observers were even more critical: the club was accused of lacking sufficient youth system and practically not producing talented players. To a point, it was true and part of huge problem: clubs like Torpedo were more or less just suppliers to bigger clubs – Dinamo (Tbilisi) in this case. Thus, they hardly had big interest in producing young stars – they would be taken away immediately. Probably replaced by no longer needed veterans, may be not… as it was, having the Machaidze brothers was just enough to win promotion. The next season was pain in the ass already… it was obvious that to survive in the first division a new team had to be recruited.

The champions of Second Division were generally judged as steady – at the end the even, constant form, elevated them above the rest, 6 points ahead of Torpedo (Kutaisi). Metallist (Kharkov) won, but was never seen as dominant.

The champions of Second Division: standing from left: N. Aleshin – assistant coach, V. Bulgakov – assistant coach, R. Potochnyak – captain, A. Dovby, S. Malko, Yu. Tzymbalyuk, Yu. Sivukha, V. Kamarzaev, I. Ledney, A. Kossolapov, E. Lemeshko – coach, A. Zaslavsky – administrator.

First row: S. Sapeshko, S. Bernikov, N. Leonov, L. Saakov, L. Tkachenko, A. Gorbik, V. Kryachko, V. Linke, V. Suslo.

Well, the lost boys were coming back – Metallist was first-league member once upon a time: 18 years ago. After that they sunk into complete obscurity, spending time in third division, from which they emerged just recently. Going up was the positive news. The only positive news… the champions were judged with caution, even critically. Compared to Torpedo (Kutaisi), they had no famous player at all. Just a few players had experience with top level football – the captain Rostislav Potochnyak most of all, but never played for a big club and was already 33-years old. A key veteran – the striker Nodar Bachiashvili – missed a lot from the season, because of injuries. Clearly his days were over. To a point, Metallist benefited from sinking into obscurity – the coach Lemeshko was able to build reliable squad, without worrying that bigger clubs would steal his players. That was all too familiar problem for smaller clubs and painful examples were right in the face: Zarya (Voroshilovgrad) lost almost a whole generation of players after winning the Soviet title in 1972 – the result was sinking into the middle of second division. Karpaty (Lvov) seemingly lost any ambition for something higher than mid-table second league place, tired from losing players. Metallist, having no particularly bright youngsters, avoided losses and built a good team, which impressed observers, when they came back to second division. But.. the team aged and now, when they were promoted, they were seen as too old. That is, with little chances to stay in first division, for Metallist had to start rebuilding at this very time. On the surface, that was true – but the grim expectations were proved wrong. For the moment, though, neither of the promoted clubs appeared to be good news.


England the Cups

The English Cups were interesting, because of the teams reaching the finals stages. Manchester City reached the semi-finals of both the F.A. And the League cups. Woolverhampton Wanderers and West Ham United both reached semi-finals, just like they did the previous year, but switched the cups – the Wolves reached the F.A. semi-finals and the Hammers – the League Cup semi-finals. Woolverhampton was eliminated this time – not easily, only after a replay – but West Ham reached a final again. Ipswich Town obviously played strongly on three fronts, for, along with trying to win the English championship and the UEFA Cup, they reached the semi-finals of the F.A. Cup. Liverpool, like the Wolves and the Hammers, reached the semi-finals just like the previous year, but of different cup – the Football League Cup this time and more successfully than the previous year, when, after 4 matches they bowed down to Arsenal – this time they eliminated Manchester City and moved to the final. Where they faced West Ham United – an interesting battle of the best Second Divison club and the top European team, having rather weak season at home. The final at Wembley ended in 1-1 tie and replay followed. The second match was played on fools day – 1st of April – in Birmingham at Villa Park. There was a winner this time – Goddard scored a goal for the Hammers, but Dalglish and Ray Kennedy gave the victory to Liverpool. A small margin, not an easy win, but Liverpool got the English League Cup.

For the record, Liverpool was lucky wearing their second kit. Thompson and Rush do not look happy, but the final was not a walk in the park – the boys are not smiling, but carry the League Cup and what could be better?

The Hammers were unable to win another cup, but they fought bravely, unfortunately losing by a goal. Not bad for a second division team playing against the European champions.

Liverpool added one more trophy to their voluminous collection, but perhaps the most important part of this victory was saving the season – they were not convincing in the championship and so far English mentality valued international success less than domestic one. By winning the English League Cup, Liverpool compensated for losing the championship.

The F.A. Cup final opposed Manchester City to Tottenham Hotspur. One team desperately trying to stay among the top English clubs versus bright up and coming vintage of a honorable club, coming out from recent crisis and eagerly wanting to prove they were really good. So one match was not enough – just like the English League Cup final, this one was tied at 1-1 and a replay was scheduled. Nobody wanted to give up, that was sure. The irony of the original final was that Tommy Hutchinson scored both goals – in his one net, benefiting the Spurs, and then for his own team.

In the replay, there were 5 goals scored and the Spurs prevailed 3-2. The Argentine world champion Ricardo Villa was the hero, scoring twice. If the League Final was a triumph of ‘the establishment’ in a sense, here the new boys pushed aside the old feet.

May be one should be feeling sorry for City – they lost the final, which was the last chance for players at the end of their careers and glorious past: Corrigan, Power, Booth, Hutchinson, Tueart. But their presence was also the reason the Spurs were the more deserving team: Manchester City was plunging into a crisis, failing to rebuild and sticking to veterans for too long: those listed above were still the key players and all of them were one step away from retirement. And behind them was only Phil Boyer… no wonder City lost the cup.

As for Tottenham, a trophy was needed to prove they were back: not just a new team, but a new winning team. By now, only Steve Perryman was the link with the last strong squad the Spurs had – and they had it almost a decade ago. Back again and quite exciting too – Ardiles, Hoddle, Archibald, Villa, to name but a few. They proved their worth. Perhaps strange for an English club of that time, but Tottenham had three foreign players, when permitted to field only two – the Yugoslav Aleksic was perhaps kept on the bench too often for his liking, but his presence in the team was wise decision: Ricardo Villa was not settling all too well in England, was uneven in his performance, and ultimately – on his way out. Aleksic was not just a fancy eternal reserve, but part of the future of rapidly getting stronger squad.

Lastly, the F. A. Charity Shield was contested – it was not as exciting final of finals yet and still statisticians are not including it in the general overviews of English seasons, but it opposed the league champion to the F.A. Cup winners: in theory, the strongest teams of the just finished year. Aston Villa vs Tottenham Hotspur. They produced no winner – the match ended 2-2.

Equal teams should be pictured together – and they were. Both touching the shield, no one having it.

England I Division

Forget about lower division – First Division was the thing, focusing interest. Well, the kings of European club football played here, Kevin Keegan returned back to England, Admiral was losing its grip because Adidas dressed more and more English clubs, shirt advertisement arrived this year, some ‘continentals’ were grumpily recognized as worthy additions to the British game, and… financial troubles plus the plaque of hooliganism. Interesting season. Actually, more interesting, when one looks back: new champion, some other surprises. The first one was found at the very bottom of the final table – Crystal Palace finished last and more than that, they were hopeless outsiders.

Well, Crystal Palace was never very strong and rather up and down team, but managed by Terry Venables, coached by George Graham, having Gerry Francis, Tery Fenwick, Clive Allen, and… only 19 points. The 21st team had 32.

Leicester City finished 21st, but they fought – nothing like Crystal Palace. Gary Lineker was going to taste second division, which was nothing really upsetting at the time, for he was not yet the famous superstar.

With 33 points, Norwich City ended also relegated – 20th place. More or less, expected relegation – Norwich were nothing much and therefore likely candidate for second division experience, which they were more than familiar with. Justin Fashanu going down, but like Lineker, he was not famous yet.

Brighton & Hove Albion survived – they finished 19th with 35 points. Worse goal-difference placed them last of three teams with the same points, but it was fine – Brighton survived again and was going to experience at least one more season with the best.

Ups and downs across the league: three clubs, already in crisis, and steadily going down.

Woolverhampton Wanderers was 18th. The Wolves were probably at more advanced stage of rot than the others.

Manchester City – 12th this year. Still depending of aged players known for years and going to pay very heavy price for that. But not yet. Perhaps Dennis Tueart was the best example of the crisis – he was shuffling between England and USA, apparently not good for City anymore, but called back to help.

Leeds United was the third club in obvious crisis – they finished 9th this season, which was perhaps a bit misleading: the sad truth was that Leeds failed to rebuild. The great team of the early 1970s was gone.

Those were the clubs in crisis. Three others underperformed and went down, but only for the moment.

Manchester United was 8th – the previous season they competed for the title, losing it by 2 points. Nothing similar this year, but the sad truth was Manchester United was inconsistent. Talented bunch, but somehow never living up to its potential.

Notthingham Forest was 7th. Brian Clough explained that the team won everything and lost interest, but… that was precisely the difference between a good team and excellent team: those, who are really strong do not lose the hunger for winning. Frankly, the days of Nottingham were over – the team was good, but going to be middle-of-the-road.

Liverpool was 5th – there lowest final position since 1971, but they won the European Champions Cup again this year, so it was clear that they just had accidentally weak season.

So much for the weaklings. Other clubs were on their way up.

Tottenham Hotspur was 10th, but their new team was almost completed. Osvaldo Ardiles proved the skeptics wrong, establishing himself as one of the greatest stars in the league.

Southampton was the other club getting stronger – they finished 6th, one point behind Liverpool. Surely the arrival of Kevin Keegan helped, but he was not alone: Mike Channon, Charlie George, Dave Watson, Chris Nicholl, the Yugoslavians Ivan Golac and Ivo Catalinic constituted impressive squad. The only problem was longivity, for the approach was risky – Southampton constructed a team of veterans and such teams hardly last long. It worked for the moment and having Keegan in the team promised good future.

The last club deserving a mention had nothing to do with performance – Coventry City were mid-table club and this season was no different (16th in the final table), but they were already famous for their weird kits. This year they put a new finishing touch:

This was their already familiar kit – the amusing part was their reserve version in brown – but apparently considered too simple, it was changed.

One can call it avanguard or stupidly ugly, depending on taste, but Coventry was one of a kind in England. How much Talbot influenced the club’s brass is debatable, but it was a big T made on their jerseys and… shorts. Amusing.

Four clubs competed for the title, none was a surprising newcomer to the top of the league, but nevertheless the champions were considered a bit of a surprise.

Ron Atkinson knew his job and West Bromwich Albion finished 4th – strong years continued, the team was good and at its best form. Alas, it was more solid than great and had not a champion make.

Arsenal, the strongest London club at the time, was in its typical good form and finished 3rd with 53 points. Hard to tell what was missing, but something was missing – this squad was unable to win a championship. Actually, this season was their best.

Ipswich Town finished with silver and the most goals scored in the league. Perhaps the best team at the moment, but probably paying the price for having to fight on two fronts: they won the UEFA Cup, they lost the English title. But stable for years and at its peak this year.

Surprise champions – Aston Villa. With 60 points, they left Ipswich 4 points behind and won their 7th title, but their first after 1909-10! A wonderful return of Aston Villa to the leaders of English football.

Bright new champions, but… yes, there was ‘but’. The ascend of Aston Villa started pretty much at the same as Ipswich: in 1973. At that time Villa was not even if the premier division. Going up was steady and near the end of the 1970s they were already among the top group of English clubs. All thanks to the wonderful work of manager Ron Saunders. The only problem was that Aston Villa had weaker squad – as far as names go – than Liverpool, Ipswich Town, Nottingham Forest, Arsenal, Manchester United. Compared to the others, ‘the Lions’ had no stars – more or less Jimmy Rimmer was their best known name and the aging goalkeeper was mostly known as long-time reserve in Manchester United. The rest of the team was not even that famous, but had a group of talented youngsters, who establsiehd their names this season: Des Bremner, Tony Morley, Dennis Mortimer. Add Peter Withe, who was no longer young and so far with less successful career than Rimmer, but finding his right place at last and playing fine football. Hardly a squad coming to mind, if one was asked to predict to new champion at the start of the season. Well, may be they were a bit lucky and taking advantage of disinterest, lack of concentration, or temporary lack of form of the favourites, but nobody can say Aston Villa was actually given the title by the others: the squad was at its best, they played with ambition, they won the most games this year – 26 – and lost less than anybody else, except Arsenal and Liverpoo – the three teams lost 8 matches each. Aston Villa was a nice underdog and their victory was fantastic. It did not look like they were going to build a dynasty, but even this victory was not yet the best of Ron Saunders and his boys.


England II Division

The English Second Division had its ups and downs, as it should. Terrible season for the city of Bristol – its both clubs were total outsiders.

Bristol Rovers was last with 23 points.

Bristol City had 7 more points than Rovers, but still was far behind the 18th placed team with measly 30 points. The third relegated club finished with 36 points.

Preston North End was down on its luck. Nobby Stiles was a great player, but plain nothing as a manager.

Cardiff City was lucky – they finished with 36 points, equal with Preston North End, but escaped relegation thanks to better goal-difference.

Interesting clubs played in the Second Divison – some settled in the middle of the table: Sheffield Wednesday (10th), Newcastle United (11th), Queen’s Park Rangers (8th). But QPR were up and down club – two other teams were real failures:

Derby County ended 6th – nothing was left from the great squad of the first half of the 1970s, except the aging by now Roy McFarland and they seemed settling for a long spell in the obscurity of Second Division.

Chelsea was the worse, though – their free fall apparently had no end. Money were short and getting shorter, and they just collapsed – 12th this year. Oh, well, things always get worse before getting better.

Other teams went uphill.

Grimsby Town had excellent year – they finished 7th. However, it remained to be seen was it one time wonder or consistent development.

Watford was 9th – less impressive than Grimsby, but they already managed to climb from 4th division to Second in a few years, getting stronger all the time. Graham Taylor was the right manager and Elton John – the right chairman. Watford was really coming.

But the heroes of the season were other clubs: five teams competed for three promotional spots.

Luton Town eventually run out of steam and took the 5th place with 48 points.

Blackburn Rovers had a strong year at last and appeared to be on its way of returning to First Division, which they left in 1966 – but unfortunately they lost promotion on worse goal-difference. May be paid the price for too many ties – they had the record of the league: 18. One thing ties do is affecting negatively the ratio between goals scored and received. Blackburn was bumped out because of that and years passed before another attempt to join the top league was made.

Swansea City edged Blackburn, finished 3rd and was promoted – a pleasant surprise, for in 1977 they – along with Watford – played forth division football. Rapid climb for the modest Welsh club, no doubt made possible by the influx of former Liverpool players: John Toshack was playing manager, supported by David Stewart, Ian Calaghan, and Phil Boersma as a coach. ‘The Swans’ were the real wonder in the recent years.

Notts County was the other surprise – they finished 2nd with 53 points, 3 more than Swansea and Blackburn. No big names here and traditionally so-so second division team, which apparently came from nowhere, for they finished 17th in the previous season. But now – happily promoted. Surprising performance, but.. they were unable to challenge the leader, finishing 13 points behind. A warning for the next season, in a way, but also a testimony of the terrible shape of some traditionally stronger clubs, like Chelsea, QPR, Derby County, Newcastle United, Sheffield Wednesday.

As for the winners, rarely an English second division champion was so dominating. West Ham United simply left the rest of the league in the dust. Normally, the winners had a tough race against other challengers – West Ham had it easy.

Judging by the squad, this was first division team – Billy Bonds, Frank Lampard, Phil Parkes, David Cross, Stuart Pearson: tough cookies, lead by Trevor Brooking. Yet, these guys were relegated in 1978 and spent two worthless season in second division, before learning their lesson. Perhaps the previous year was the waking time for them – West Ham won the F.A. Cup, and taking it from there they just got ambitious and won the league, reaching at the same time a cup final – the Football League Cup now. Well done, for these players did not deserve to play second division football.