St Gallen take on managerless Chelsea

St Gallen striker Charles Amoah will have his eyes set on the Chelsea defences Keystone

The Swiss football champions, St Gallen, take on a Chelsea side full of superstars but without a manager in the first round of the UEFA Cup on Thursday.

This content was published on September 14, 2000 - 12:50

The London side parted company with trainer Gianluca Vialli on Tuesday, following a disappointing start to their season. Going into the match against St Gallen, Chelsea have won just once in five league games.

There is plenty of speculation about who will take over from Vialli. The Spanish coach, Jose Antonio Camacho, is the latest name to be mentioned. Another is a former England manager and Chelsea player, Terry Venables.

Even without a manager, the Chelsea side contains a wealth of foreign players imported from around the world. The club's scouts have been particularly active in France and Italy.

There is also a little part of Switzerland in the club's metropolitan make-up.
Italy's Roberto di Matteo grew up in the German-speaking part of the country and won the Swiss league championship with Aarau.

What St Gallen may lack in glamour is compensated by their history. Founded in 1879, St Gallen are the oldest Swiss club and the fifth oldest in Europe.

A group of English students founded the club on April 19, 1879, according to the official history of the club.

If match days were far less frequent than in contemporary football, training for the St Gallen faithful was tough. Players met every lunchtime, and then again at seven o'clock in the evening when they trained as late into the night as the lack of floodlighting permitted.

Soccer boots were unknown. Everyday shoes were used for their twice-monthly matches. The first professional game was on May 1, 1892 when St Gallen lost at home to Grasshoppers Zurich 0-1. Along with Grasshoppers and Yverdon, St Gallen founded the Swiss Football Association.

Their first international game followed a decade later when the team ran up a rugby-sized score, beating Alemannia Karlsruhe of Germany 26-0. No surprise then that St Gallen went on to become Swiss champions the following year - the first of only two occasions when they have taken the title.

Glory has come to St Gallen infrequently in the intervening years. A cup final victory in 1969, participation in three UEFA cup competitions (1971, 1983,1985) have made for thin pickings for the green-and white fans at the Espenmoos stadium in St Gallen.

The second occasion was just last year when the team, trained by Marcel Koller, played entertaining, attacking football to win the championship.

St Gallen's team is also drawn from an international background, although an annual budget of SFr5 million does not allow for Chelsea-style spending sprees.

Some of their biggest names include prolific Ghanaian scorer, Charles Amoah, his Romanian co-striker, Ionel Gane, a brace of Brazilian midfielders, Jairo and Guido, and Swiss-Canadian central defender Daniel Imhof who has stepped into the assured boots of Giuseppe Mazzarelli, recently departed for Italy's Serie A.

Like Chelsea, St Gallen have made a mediocre start to the season. A 1-1 away draw at lowly Yverdon in their last match left officials saying the Chelsea spy watching the game would have learned nothing from his 90 minutes of surveillance.

Despite their modest size, St Gallen have big plans afoot, capitalising on last year's championship title and the cash earned from their unsuccessful Champions League qualifiers against Galatasaray Istanbul.

A total of SFr100 million ($177 million) is being invested in a new stadium, which would increase the current capacity of 11, 300 by about 50 per cent. As yet, a name for the new stadium has not been divulged.

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