First Division was pretty much divided into three sections this season – one absolute outsider, fairly equal group of 11 teams, and 4 favourites fighting for the title. The dividing lines were not strongly pronounced, except for the outsider.
ZTS Kosice had terrible season, ending with just 14 points from 5 wins, 4 ties, and 21 losses.
May be the picture is not exactly form this season, but is from the period. Back in 1977 the club changed its name from VSS to ZTS – Czechoslovakian clubs were generally attached to industrial factories, so most likely the club was moved from one to another such factory, but no luck. Going down again… they returned to first division after winning promotion in 1977-78. Local rivals Lokomotiva were perhaps happy, but Kosice lost its local derby. On the other hand, Second Division was going to see a Kosice derby next year – ZTS vs VSZ.
Spartak Hradec Kralove finished 15th with 25 points and were also relegated. How was that is impossible to tell, for they and Dukla Banska Bystrica finished with absolutely identical records: 10 wins, 5 ties, 15 losses, 31-43 goal-difference. Very rare occasion, but Spartak went down for some reason.
Bad luck really, but the truth was sad – Spartak played much stronger role in Czechoslovakian football up to mid-1960s. After that it was just downfall to insignificance – the 1970s established it new lowly position. They managed to return to first division football in 1979-80, but lasted only one season. Going down right away, unfortunately.
The other newcomer for the season Tatran Presov enjoyed a swell season – they finished 8th. Really good for a perpetually ‘in between’ club, constantly moving between first and second division. The rest was more or less familiar, except for the low finish of Zbrojovka (Brno) – 12th and only 3 points above relegation. They were champions just two years ago, but were unable even to keep stable performance. Slovan (Bratislava) and Spartak (Trnava) were in sharp decline, already well known – Slovan finished 9th and Spartak – 10th. Right behind them was Inter (Bratislava) – like all Slovak clubs, declining, but more erratic.
Internacional was 11th this year. At least they behind Slovan, traditionally, the big Bratislava club, so it was ‘logical’ finish, although it was so only because Slovan had better goal-difference: Inter, Spartak, and Slovan ended with 29 points each.
Slavia (Prague) continued its seemingly eternal so-so performance, finishing 8th . The strongest Slovak clubs this years were Lokomotiva (Kosice) and Ruda Hvezda (Cheb), both ending with 32 points. Lokomotiva took 5th place on better goal-difference, continuing their solid period.
Wonderful season for Ruda Hvezda (Cheb), a club more often playing second division football. They were promoted in 1978-79, survived among the best the next year, and now in their second consecutive top flight season suddenly went high – 6th. One of their best years ever, thanks to managing somehow to get a bunch of good players: Miklosko, Chovanec, Hruska, Cermak. Of course, they had to keep the stars and that was a big problem for the small club.
Lastly, the favourites – all Czech clubs, three from Prague. Dukla, Sparta, Bohemians, and Banik (Ostrava). Sparta finished 4th, losing bronze medals on worse goal-difference.
Sitting from left: Miroslav Koubek, Zdenek Scasny, Zdenek Caudr, Kolar (?) – assistant coach, Jiri Rubas – coach, M. Sykora – masseur, Petr Slany, Milan Vdovjak, Miroslav Starek.
Middle row: Jaroslav Pollak, Frantisek Straka, Jaroslav Kotek, Tomas Stransky, Vaclav Kotal, Josef Horvath.
Top row: Bezkocka (?), Josef Raska, Jan Pospisil, Prostecki (?), Josef Jarolim, Konvalinka (?), Jan Berger.
This may be the squad for 1979-80 – Jaroslav Pollak apparently missed the 1980-81, which, given his age, may have been retirement (although he came back, played abroad and back in Czechoslovakia for a good chunk of the 1980s) – but the strong team was already in place: Jarolim, Berger, Straka, plus some not so well known players. However, the team was not ready for victory yet – just climbing up.
Bohemians (Prague) clinched bronze on better goal-difference – this was very strong period for the club and not ending yet.
Dukla (Prague) finished with silver – 2 points ahead of Bohemians and Sparta, but also 2 points behind the champions. Best scoring record in the league, but they tied 2 games, instead of winning them and because of that lost the title.
Banik (Ostrava) topped the league with 18 wins, 4 ties, and 8 losses. 44-19 was not the best record, but they had the best defensive record in the league by far. Second consecutive title!
Strong during the 1970s, consistent, even getting better with time. Perhaps not so different than their rivals in terms of stars, but they had enough: Vojacek, Knapp, Danek, Radimec, Licka, Nemec, Michalik, Rygel. Good team, 3 titles, two of them consecutive – Banik enjoyed their best time in the history of the club. Nobody knew this was their last success…
One more look at the champions, for the last time.