The 4th May 1949 was a tragic day for Torino FC, for Italy, and for football over Europe and the world. I don’t need, or want, to write about the passing of Il Grande Torino. So much has been said already
(look here for something rather wonderful I read this morning), and so much cannot be fully expressed. It was the legend of the Grande Torino that took me to Turin in the first place; and the ghosts, well, the echoes of the team, can be felt across the city – particularly, obviously, in the area around the Filadelfia to the South of the city. Its worth a visit if you’re in Turin, though the stadium is closed, and Turin is worth a visit if you’re anywhere. The funicular railway up to the Basilica Superga from Sassi, also, is both a lovely journey (look out for the real lizards on the rocks, and the cardboard creatures on the walls) and a slightly poignant tribute as the journey to the memorial. Again, well worth a trip. Though not on Tuesdays (it is closed).

This weekend, I’m going to write a couple of posts about the Grande Torino – starting today with some numbers, to flesh out the legend a bit, but also to give a bit of an overview of the situation they played their football in, both before and after the war. The second post will be my photographs from around the Filadelfia the other week (probably part of a slow series of photographs of football grounds), and will probably arrive on Sunday.

Let’s begin then, with the numbers.

There were five ‘proper’ Serie A seasons between 1941/42 and 1948/49, which I would consider being the timespan of Il Grande Torino; and four of the Scudetti ended up in Turin, just the earliest of the five seasons going to Roma, with Torino finishing second. I’ll move on to points – it was two for a win – later, but I’m going to start with goals.

During those five seasons, Torino scored 435 goals in 176 games – 2.47 goals per game; including scoring 6 goals or more on 9 occasions (6 x 4, 7 x 3, 9 x 1, 10 x 1). That, in isolation, doesn’t seem too impressive. Put into context, the rest of the league scored 4368 goals between them in 3144 games during the same time, which works out at something of a paltry 1.39 goals per game. That means that, having played 5 of the 93 club seasons (5.37%), Torino scored 9.96% of the goals in Serie A between 1941/42 and 1948/49.

In 1947/48, Torino’s goals for and against record was 125/33 – a goal difference of +92. That +92 is exactly double the highest goal difference by any other team during the period (Internazionale in 1948/49, with +46), which is a staggering level of dominance; 125 accounted for 11.63% of the goals in Serie A that season. It is the highest figure in the major leagues of Europe ever. Although Real Madrid 2011/12 have a goal difference of +85 (seven fewer) they only play 38 games. I make it that if their goal difference improves by another three, to +88, that will take their average GD per game up to above Torino’s level of +2.3.

So, were they a finely tuned scoring machine, casting aspersions to the wind and leaving their own goal exposed? Well, no. Firstly, you don’t win titles by doing that, but secondly, have a nibble on the self same figures as above but in reverse. Remember how the rest of the league scored 1.39 goals per game? Well, they only scored 0.98 against Torino during that same period. That’s not a bad record, conceding just under a goal a game, though other teams were more frugal – Roma conceded 21 in 30 in 1941/42, and Modena only 24 in 38 in 1946/47 – suffice to say, there weren’t a lot of goals about.

Is it time for some graphs? I think it might be.

I do want to bring about a point regarding consistency. It’s a difficult thing to quantify easily, open to ideas about unbeaten runs, or just a list of results. Something I’ve done before, and think might work well here (I write before I work things out – testing hypotheses rather than commenting on what I know to be true) is to look at the running six-game form over the course of a season. Thus, the lower standard deviation means the team consistently attains similar results over a six game period; obviously, that is better the higher the points per game is.

Well, it’s a slightly confusing graph, I admit, but there’s a couple of obvious points. Torino often started ‘slowly’ during that period; all but one game (of 176) when the team averaged one point over six games were BEFORE there was six games played. This would be impressive in the days of three points, but remember this is when there were only two points available for a win. Indeed, Torino didn’t lose two games in a row after the first two games of 1942/43.

There were two tournaments played that I haven’t featured, I ought to mention; inter-war competitions; one of which Torino won, and one which they lost one of a three team round-robin final group to Spezia (under the name Torino FIAT – I have a Torino shirt with FIAT on the front, you may know) but I haven’t included these two in my figures; its difficult to know the standard of opposition, though a P66 W50 D8 L8 record over the two would suggest it wouldn’t have hindered my figures if I had included them.

There’s a couple more graphics I want to produce here. One full table for that time period, and one extrapolated table of Serie A teams of the era having their games averaged to 38 games; of course this was the Mussolini era when Inter were Ambrosiana (and successfully so) and Sampdoria were Liguria (less successfully, but more understandably). I will use the modern team equivalents for the tables.

Incidentally, if any of the win/draws/losses don’t add up in this extrapolated table, its because they’re not exact figures, and they never round up/down properly. There is a little bit of difference in the two tables, I have to say, most notably to me, Modena.

The final table – and apologies to any who think it unnecessary. If you look at the two tables above, you’ll note Torino’s city rivals, Juventus, feature in second position. Now, this isn’t just an excuse to rub anyone’s noses in it, but take heed of this, if you support a team challenging for honours. Torino’s record in derbies, against Juventus, who were the second best team in Italy at the time.

It’s a fair destruction. I ought to counterbalance this by pointing out that Juventus not only lead Serie A today, but also have won it 31 times in their history. After the death of the Grande Torino, only one Granata team has worn the Scudetto – 1975/76 (the 7th total Scudetto). I hope I’ve managed to illustrate at least to a certain extent how Grande the Grande Torino team were; they remain, for me, the greatest team that has played the game and, on the fourth of May every year, I remember them.

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