After seven titles in ten seasons St Etienne failed to go onto greater things, but Michel Platini's star would keep rising by James Eastham
The long-term significance
St-Etienne, the swashbuckling side of the 1970s, won their third consecutive title and seventh in ten seasons – but this triumph marked the end of their dynasty. A single league title followed, in 1981, when Michel Platini was their talisman – and then nothing since. In their famous green shirts they became the first French club since Reims in 1959 to reach the European Cup final, losing 1-0 to Franz Beckenbauer’s Bayern Munich after hitting the woodwork twice.
There was no established hierarchy below the champions, as is also the case today behind multiple title winners Lyon. Marseille, champions in 1971 and double winners in 1972, had floundered since president Marcel Leclerc’s departure, although they did win the French Cup, with Marius Trésor their star player. It would be a further 15 years until “l’OM”, rejuvenated by Leclerc’s most infamous successor, Bernard Tapie, became the first French club since Les Verts to reach a European Cup final.
Story of the season
If Jean-Marc Guillou had remained fit, Nice might have won their first title since 1959. A summer signing from Angers, the midfielder – later the founder and co-owner of an Ivory Coast academy that has produced several Arsenal players – won France Football magazine’s French player of the year prize in 1975, but he suffered injuries in the new year. His team, eight points clear at one stage, fell away.
Sochaux and Nantes also enjoyed spells on top, although the league table was misleading towards the end the season because St-Etienne had fixtures postponed so they could prepare for European Cup ties. After picking up points in their games in hand, the champions took the title with one match to spare. Winger Dominique Rocheteau was the rising star of French football, attracting fans with his dashing looks as well as skilled performances. He was lucky, too – he emerged relatively unscathed from a car crash in December 1975. But Nice and Sochaux had no reason to feel unhappy at claiming UEFA Cup berths – they had climbed from 14th and 17th respectively the previous season.
Avignon went down with 75 goals conceded, while Monaco and Strasbourg joined them in the second division. The latter two bounced back straight away and went on to be champions in 1977-78 and 1978-79 respectively.
For the record books
Jean-Michel Larqué and Hervé Revelli of St-Etienne collected their record seventh league winners’ medals. Lyon’s Gregory Coupet, Juninho and Sidney Govou will equal that tally if Alain Perrin’s side win a seventh consecutive title this season.
Argentines took the top three places in the scorers’ charts. Carlos Bianchi (Reims) won the second of five golden boots with 34 goals, the runner-up was Delio Onnis on 29 goals – a career total of 299 makes him the French first division’s all-time highest scorer – while Metz’s Hugo Curioni netted 25 times.
The average attendance per match was 10,514, half what it is today. According to the UNFP (France’s players’ union), a professional’s average monthly salary was 6,300 francs (£731). “Nothing like the jackpot most people think,” declared union president Philippe Piat.
Same place today
Thirteen clubs are playing in what’s called Ligue 1 today, with PSG the only ever‑presents since 1975-76.
Moved furthest away
Four of these six teams are in Ligue 2, with three – Nantes, Troyes and Bastia – competing for promotion. Nîmes lie in the Championnat de France National (Division Three), leaving Avignon the biggest fallers by some distance. After serious financial problems and a merger, the Provence outfit now play under the name Avignon Foot 84 in the regional sixth tier of French football.
From WSC 254 April 2008