The Colonials who upstage Liverpool

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Chicago Cubs fans like to say that every club can have a bad century now and then.

But can underachievement, especially if it follows a golden era when the carpenters were continuously being called in to expand the trophy cabinet, gnaw away at a club and its fans?

The thought prompted a very specific question: has any club who have won the most league titles in their country gone as long as Liverpool have without winning it?

In case you need to refresh your memory, the Reds have not won it since 1989/90 under Kenny Dalglish.

This query has already been posted on FourFourTwo’s Twitter feed, which inspired an entry in Some People Are On The Pitch's Friday List Of Little Or No Consequence.

Among what we might snobbishly refer to as the major football nations, St Etienne have, as tweeter @dy158 correctly noted, surpassed Liverpool in the feast and famine stakes.

Les Verts have won 10 Ligue 1 titles (one more than the next most successful team Marseille) but celebrated their last triumph in 1981.

And since then fans haven’t had much to amuse themselves, apart from a fake passport scandal and a Brazilian striker who used to celebrate scoring by pretending to be a panther, the club’s official emblem.

1981: St Etienne, star player et al, take on Ipswich

The panther, in case you don’t know, was adopted in 1968 in honour of Salif Keita, the Malian striker (and uncle of Seydou).

His 135 goals in 167 games for St Etienne more than repaid the taxi fare racked up when, as a naive 19-year-old just off the plane from Mali, he got into a cab in Paris and told the driver to take him to St Etienne.

It's 310 miles away.

Les Verts’ 28-year-barren spell has no serious rival in Europe.

In most cases, a certain metronomic regularity – exemplified by Juventus, who have never gone more than eight years without winning a scudetto – is the norm.

Even Gornik Zabrze, who won the last of their 14 Polish titles in 1988, can’t match St Etienne.

And the Miners’ title drought might have been shorter still. In 1993/94, they only had to beat Legia Warsaw in the final match to win their 15th title.

Alas, they could only draw 1-1, not helped by the fact that the referee sent off three of their players.

In a strange coincidence, just a season after Gornik’s 14th and last title, another Silesian mining club Ruch Chorzow won their 14th and last Polish championship.

But St Etienne have been outdone by Santos FC – not Pele’s old outfit but the team who, in the glorious 1970s, were the pride of Kingston, Jamaica.

This Santos, who do play in Brazilian yellow and blue, won the first of their five Jamaican titles in 1972/73 and the last in 1979/1980.

Santos’s record is slightly marred by the fact that even the stattos at RSSSF don’t know who they beat to clinch their last title.

These normally exact folk sum up the climax of the 1979/80 season with the fragmentary note: “Final. Santos bt [?]” The square brackets bestow a pleasing hint of scholarship on this terminally vague summary.

Santos’s impressive spell of underachievement is almost matched by Horseed, who won eight out of nine Somali titles between 1972 and 1980 but have won no more since.

Their dismal record isn’t quite as dire as Santos’s because the Somali league – and Horseed – were put out of action for a while by civil war. Which, as excuses go, is better than an injury-prone winger or dodgy refereeing.

There must be something in the Caribbean waters because Martinique’s record title winners, the grandly named Club Colonial de Fort-de-France, became champions for the eighteenth and last time in 1972.

Forte-de-France, the capital of the French department of Martinique, was once chiefly famous for yellow fever.

But it may want to rebrand itself as the home of the sleeping giants: five of the capital’s clubs have won the title but none have been crowned champions since Golden Star’s 16th and last triumph in 1986.

Imagine the plight of a forty-something Club Colonial fan, haunted by past glory so distant it probably seems like a dream, stoically trying not to be embittered by 37 years of underachievement and facing a daily barrage of trophy-cabinet/Japanese-prisoner-of-war jokes in the office.

I’m sure Manchester City fans of a certain age can empathise.

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