The Unfinished Season

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The Story…

This is the story of the unfinished season...

One day in 1976, three brothers decided to play a Subbuteo league - the youngest not yet 10 years old...

They had 12 teams between them, who competed for the league championship and the FA Cup...

Southampton, Chelsea, QPR, Man Utd, Watford, Norwich City, West Ham, Liverpool, Aston Villa, Arsenal, Spurs and Man City.

Then more teams appeared, so in 1977 a 2nd division was needed. The top 6 teams formed the new first division (apart from Watford, who seemed to be lost for a few years!? ?), where they were joined by Everton, Hibs and Plymouth.

Leeds Utd were added to the second division. This belonged to the three brothers' Dad, who decided it was time to join in...

The seasons continued until 1983, but this season remains unfinished - just 4 games were left needing to be played...

The teams progress through the divisions from 1976 to 1983

The Trophies

Division 1 Cup: 1976 So'ton; 1977 Soton
Division 2 Cup: 1977 Liverpool, 1978 Everton
1978 So'ton; 1979 Chelsea; 1980 Chelsea
1979 Darlington; 1980 Liverpool
Division 3 Cup: 1979 Newcastle; 1980 Watford

Subbuteo produced a limited range of trophies. This one is the rare intact 3-handled League Cup. One of the holy grail accessories for 21st century collectors. In mint condition it could be worth up to £200. "The rarist by far of all Subbuteo trophies" (Subbuteo Emporium) "The League Cup is now the most sought-after trophy on the planet." (Subbuteo Online).

As this one was used for the Division 3 Cup and has tippex on the base, it is devalued by approximately £199... ?

FA Cup: 1976 Chelsea; 1977 Soton
1978; Hibs; 1979 So'ton; 1980 So'ton

The 1983 Season...

Division 1

Newly promoted SV Brudges losing their opening 2 games...
The table needs updating to reflect all games played...
At the top of the table, one game remains unplayed - the championship decider between Southampton and Chelsea
With Chelsea's goal difference at +9 and Southampton's at +10, all Chelsea need is a win to take top spot.
QPR are relegated, but the second relegation place was controversial with Hibs and Norwich having identical goals for and against (both 13-17). However, as Norwich won their encounter 4-3, Hibs are relegated.

The top goalscorer of the season is currently Southampton's number 11 (Bobby Stokes). Chelsea's number 9 (Peter Osgood - even though he had left by then!) could become the top scorer if he nets a hat-trick in the final game!

Division 2

Newcastle and Plymouth were mid-table after 1 game following their 2-2 draw
The final table is awaiting the last game to be played between Sheffield Wednesday and Watford...
All games have been completed, apart from Watford v Sheffield Wednesday. With Blackpool already champions and promoted, both Sheffield Weds and Watford need to win this game by 5 goals to overhaul West Ham. It looks unlikely, but who knows,,,?

Cambridge Utd end up rock bottom, relegated to division 3 along with Aston Villa.

Top goalscorer in Division 2 is currently Watford's number 9 (Luther Blisset), although Sheffield Wednesday's number 10 (Brian Joicey?) could yet overtake him...

Division 3

An opening 1-1- draw between Cork Hibs and Man City...
The final table still needs filling in...
Spurs and Man City are still to play, with Spurs still with a chance for promotion. If they get a draw then four teams finish the season level on 12 points. Balleymena's goal difference is +8, Cardiff's is +5, and Nice have +3. Spurs' goal difference is currently +9, so a draw is all they need to win the championship!

Northampton and West Brom are relegated to division 4

The division 3 top goalscorer is Ballymena's number 4 (Terry Kingon?), and he should stay there unless the Spurs v Man City game is an absolute goal fest!

Division 4

Borussia Mönchengladbach get off to a flyer and Coventry City get off to a disastrous start!
The table hasn't been updated yet, probably waiting for the whole season to finish first...
All games have been completed, with three teams ending up on 10 points. Hartlepool, with a goal difference of +6 are promoted to division 3 as champions. Millwall's goal difference of +3, pips Borussia Mönchengladbach's +1 to grab the runner's up spot and promotion.

Arsenal are relegated together with Coventry City,

The division 4 top goalscorers were Morton's number 7 (Andy Ritchie) and Bournemouth's number 6 (Billy Steel?)

Alliance Premier League

Hot Shot Hamish and Mighty Mouse get off to a great start!
The final table still needs filling in...
This was the first season of the new Alliance Premier, and with all games completed, the 8th Southend are promoted as champions, and Princes Park bag the runners-up spot, despite their neutral goal difference.

Melchester Rovers appear to have ended up bottom of the entire league! ?

The top goalscorer golden boots are shared between the 8th Southend's number 11 (Pete Osborne), and Princes Park's number 9 ('Hot Shot' Hamish Balfour)

The FA Cup

It's not entirely clear why there was a need for a preliminary round, with 48 teams in the 5 divisions.

Surely a first round of 16 games would have reduced the teams to 32 to compete in the second round?

It appears West Brom beat Sheffield Weds in the first round, although whoever Southend High beat has faded away over time. ...although this should be work-outable if anyone wants to spend the time...
So just the final remains...
Southampton, the three times winners versus Arsenal, who have been relegated from division 4.
It's all set up for a famous cup upset!

Bookings and Sendings off

The foul rule played in these games, was if a figures hits another figure before hitting the ball it was judged a foul. Obviously a foul because the player smacked into an opponent before playing the ball - a clear foul!

Apparently, this is a 'back' in Subbuteo rules, but these three brothers and the Dad didn't know this rule at the time. They played the foul rule as it clearly should be played if the figures were real people. I mean can you imagine if a football player runs up to an opponent and kicks his legs away, and then the referee says "go back to where you were" and then waves play-on??? ?

So, using this (more realistic) foul rule, there were plenty of fouls. If a player committed two fouls in a game they were booked, and a third foul meant they got sent off

The dirtiest player of the season? The 8th Southend's number 11 - Pete Osborne...

A Match Report

As reported in a conversation with Vikash Ramnath on a Subbuteo Forum

That was my thought as well Vik!! ?

However, the old 3-tier stadium does make for interesting incidents. I was playing my brother on Wednesday evening. We are still trying to finish off our 1983 seasons and we were playing a third division match between Cork Hibs and West Brom (my brother was West Brom, who were already relegated).

Cork Hibs were also playing their 9th and last game of the seasons and were destined for mid-table mediocrity, win lose or draw. So the game was played more for inspiration than points, and for the first time for probably 15 years we had reached half time 0-0 – not easy to do when you play 20 mins each way. There were loads of chances and close-shaves, but it seemed like the goals and goalkeepers were having a charmed existence.

For example, I was trying to pass back to my goalie from the edge of the defensive area, and because it’s too much hassle to walk round the table and lean over the 3 tiers, I leaned over from behind the goal turning my hand 180 degrees to play the ball back with my left hand holding the goalie’s rod.

This body position apart from looking ungainly and feeling uncomfortable, also lends itself to a certain lack of subtlety that such a delicate flick demands. Essentially, I ended up blasting the ball back to my goalie who promptly punched the ball straight into the west stand for a thrown-in! ?

Later I was attacking with the ball by the corner flag with my lone attacker on the goal line with 2 flicks left. My brother was tying me down with defensive flicks, but to do these flicks he had to let go of his goalie in order to play them. As there really wasn’t anything on I went for the old ‘flick the player along the goal-line whilst just glancing the ball, and then fire in a 'Hail-Mary' shot from 2 inches from the corner flag before my brother could take his defensive flick’ option.

I was astounded when this actually came off, but even more astounded when my brother’s unattended goalie pushed the shot round the post!! ??

The match carried on in this general chaotic vein until my brother scored what we thought at the time was the winner, in the 38th minute. It was one of those impossible to read shots where the player is 6 inches outside the shooting area and the ball 2 inches inside it. He was just able to lean over the 3 tiers to get right behind the player and caught the ball just right, slotting it inside my left-hand post.

He then played 9-0-1 for the last 2 minutes and 50 seconds! ?This tactic appeared to have worked with 7 seconds to go. He had just taken a goal kick that ricocheted off one of my players, and the ball had ended up right in my defending left hand corner arc. We both applauded the realism of such quality time-wasting tactics and we mentally prepared to play out the game by faffing around the corner flag. ?

My left back then played a blinder. First he curled 25 yards (00-scale!) and just touched the ball with his head (the ball was still nearer the touchline than the player). Then he did one of those ‘180-degree-tight-curl-right-around-the-ball’ type of flicks ? and ended up in the corner right next to the ball, with only one option of passing to the goalie. He kicked it hard to make sure it reached, forcing the standing goalie to boot the ball up the pitch whilst it was on the move. At this point my brother’s spidey-sense made him turn and head for his goalie.

A midfield player played the ball on through a tight gap and the ball ended up in the shooting area, with his players all around it. My only player with sight of the ball was 5 inches from the half-way line and slightly on the other side of the pitch to where I was flicking. So, on the tippiest of my left toes and with my right foot in the air, I had to lean as far over the 3 tiers and across the pitch as I could. My finger just reached, but it was total guesswork in aiming for the ball. From where I was leaning over the West Stand I had a great side view of this player catching the ball perfectly and seeing the ball blast inside my brother’s hapless keeper inside his right-hand post. He was initially stunned, and then when the full-time whistle went one second later, he just fell to the ground in a state of dejected hysteria!! ?

I love the effect this stadium can have on what is otherwise an orderly pastime! ?

Update - 2022!

So, 39 years after the season started, the First Division title decider was played, when a couple of the brothers caught up in March 2022!

The temptation to play a game for old times sake proved to be too much, and finally, Southampton and Chelsea took the field to play the final game of the first division, with Saints just needing a draw to end on top...

The rules were played as back then. 20 minutes each way, with no defending flicks allowed until the team in possession crossed the half-way line. This rule needs more consideration. It takes the incessant pace out of the game and creates a more relaxed atmosphere. A chance to step away from the table and enjoy the defensive action, or take a sip or two of a glass of Mackerson...

Oddly, no goals for the first half an hour, until with 10 minutes to go , when Hollins fired Chelsea ahead!

But then with a minute to go, after some intense Saints pressure Osgood fouled in his own penalty area (what was he doing there??)...and he got booked! ?

Channon slotted in the winner, and the Saints have finally marched back in!

An early Chelsea corner, and some nervous Southampton defending...
Another Chelsea corner, but this time a great near post clearance!
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