Trabzonspor were the first Anatolian team to win the Turkish title. They achieved revolutionary success just 10 years after their foundation. It is for these reasons that the “Storm of the Black Sea” hold a very important place in Turkish football.
Through an efficient youth policy Trabzonspor gained success winning six titles in eight years, a remarkable achievement. The secret of this success is hidden in the words of legendary Trabzon keeper Senol Güneş, “We did not become complacent with our successes. Instead we kept being dynamic and faced our tasks with growing maturity”. Unfortunately for Trazbonspor those words have no place in their current era.
The team came very close to winning the title in the 1995/96 season, which would have been their first since the 1983/84 campaign. The circumstances in which they missed out on the Turkish crown were controversial to say the least. The goal that gave Fenerbahce the title was clearly scored by Aykut Kocaman’s hand, a fact he admitted later. Had Trabzonspor won the game then the title would have been heading to the Black Sea port.
Finishing 2nd and narrowly missing out on the title was as good as it got for Trabzonspor as their decline began. Young talented players from the club’s academy and skilled foreign pros lost their belief that an Anatolian team could win the title again and the side fell apart.
The decline which began in 1996 bottomed out in the 2001/02 season in which the club were very nearly relegated. Three points secured their survival in the Super Lig, but a transformation had taken place, turning the club into one which had survived by a whisker, from one which had just missed trophies by a whisker.
The club began to rise again in the 2004/05 season when a fantastic start (the first five games of the campaign won) eventually led to a 2nd place finish. Led by former fan favourite Şenol Güneş they played excellent football all season long, just losing out to Fenerbahce (yet again!), but this time without the controversy.
The 2nd place finish though led them to a shot at Champions League football, something everyone in the Black Sea port was looking forward to. But a team making a splash in this season’s Champions League, Anorthosis of Cyprus, knocked them out before they could reach the group stage.
The next three seasons resulted in two 4th places and one 2nd. But clearly Trabzonspor were a force once again.
This season 23 new signings were made to bolster the squad. Some have arrived from other Anatolian teams but the difference this time is that they believe an Anatolian team can win the title again. This could well be the most important fact, because if they believe they can win the Super Lig, they can!
Another plus comes in the form of the coach in the dugout, the experienced former Turkey national team coach Ersun Yanal. Renowed for having his sides play flowing attacking football he is a good fit for Trabzonspor.
On the road to this season’s title they have already played their important rivals early on. Even though they managed to take a point from Besiktas they lost to Galatasaray 3-0. Losing or conceding so many goals is not the biggest barrier they have to face however, rather it is psychological. The comments made by the manager and the players after the Galatasaray game went along the lines of “well we lost against Galatasaray, but they are the biggest team in the league! We came here as league leaders and that added extra pressure onto us. This is the reason we couldn’t concentrate on the game”.
Thinking like that will be the biggest handicap to Trabzonspor becoming successful again. Yes they are still a team in transition, but they have many experienced players who can help them claim the trophies they believe they deserve. If Ersun Yanal can impose the ideas of former great Şenol Güneş and drill his ideals into the players then perhaps Trabzonspor can claim their first championship for 24 years.
Could it be this season? Well, they have made their best start for 14 years. But if they don’t challenge this season then there is no reason why they should not next season.