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Promotion joy for Spartans and Vittoriosa in 1975-76

Ħamrun Spartans won the second division title in season 1975/76.

Ħamrun Spartans won the second division title in season 1975/76.

They say, in football, you cannot keep a good horse down.

In 1975-76, Ħamrun Spartans, after spending two seasons in the second division, won back their rightful place in the top sphere of Maltese football.

Ħamrun based their game on the experience of veterans Ronnie Cocks, ‘Chippy’ Vella, and Fitzgerald, and the enthusiasm of a number of promising youngsters.

The most promising was Ġiġi Salerno who was soon to establish himself among the best midfielders on the islands.

The Spartans went through an excellent season which brought a smile back to the faces of their long-suffering supporters.

Tactics and experience play a big part in the modern game and Ħamrun had these ingredients in abundance.

The Spartans were consistent in their play and, despite being chased all the way by Vittoriosa Stars and Żurrieq, they never wavered.

Ultimately, the Spartans were accompanied to the first division by Vittoriosa.

Without any big names to boost their chances, the Stars returned to the top division on their 70th anniversary.

Vittoriosa had a young team with an average age of 22 years.

Their most prominent players were John Galea, who finished as the club’s top scorer with seven goals, and Frankie Falzon.

Season 1975-76 was certainly one to remember for the Spartans.

Their euphoria continued in that season’s FA Trophy competition.

The first-round match against Birkirkara seemed heading for extra-time when referee Paul Bonnet awarded the Spartans a very dubious penalty.

Birkirkara protested hotly and some of the players attacked the referee and the match had to be abandoned. Ħamrun were declared winners.

They were on song and, in the next round, they beat none other than champions Sliema Wanderers. This was the biggest surprise in local football for many years.

Played in front of the season’s biggest crowd, the match was a ding-dong struggle worthy of cup-tie football.

It took 110 minutes for the Spartans to break the deadlock and score the all-important goal.

It had been a long time indeed since the stadium witnessed such a scene.

It was a scene reminiscent of the good old days of Maltese football.

It bore witness to the fact that football was still the most popular sports among the locals.

No unusual publicity was needed for the great turn-out.

It was just the Spartans’ revival from the doldrums of second-division football and the luck of the draw which heralded one of the toughest matches seen for years.

The second division champions beat the league champions with a goal scored in the closing minutes of extra-time. There was great rejoicing in Ħamrun and when, in the quarter-finals, they managed to avoid the favourites, Valletta and Floriana, many dreams of glory were conjured.

Ħamrun were drawn to meet Żebbuġ Rangers, who had a good side in those days but were surely not among the best teams in the first division. Imagine, therefore, the Spartans’ delusion when they were soundly beaten 3-1 by Żebbuġ Rangers.

However, the Spartans’ rise from the ashes was definitely the highlight of that season’s competition but there was more drama in store in the final.

For the first time in the history of the KO, the FA Trophy final was abandoned and the winner was decided on the table.

With the finalists being Floriana and Valletta the outcome perhaps was not so surprising… but that is another story!

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