In 1973-74 the battle against relegation surpassed in its intensity even that of the championship. Six teams were involved in the struggle which was prolonged throughout the whole season.
Marsa, Żebbuġ, Gżira, Birkirkara, Qormi and Ħamrun fought tooth and nail to avoid the big drop.
At the end, it was just one point that condemned Qormi to the Second Division and two points which sealed the destiny of the Spartans.
For Ħamrun, this was a disaster, but these things can happen to any team in football. However, as the saying goes, 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 amongst the best midfielders on the island.
Ħamrun went through an excellent season which brought back the smiles 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.
Led by coach, Twanny Buhagiar, who replaced Lolly Debattista midway through the season, the Spartans were consistent in their play and although they were chased all the way by Vittoriosa and Żurrieq they never wavered.
All things considered, it was the Spartans’ season. At long last, their loyal supporters had something to celebrate. And celebrate they did, because every time they played the Stadium’s stands were covered with Red and Black banners.
The Spartans were accompanied to the First Division by Vittoriosa Stars.
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 Frankie Falzon and John Galea who finished as the club’s top scorer with seven goals.
At the other end of the league table, a tough battle for survival was enacted between Marsa-xlokk, Gudja United, St Patrick’s and Luqa St Andrew’s.
The latter collected only five points and were relegated rather early in the season but the fight between the other three continued up to the last kick of the competition.
At the end, it was the Saints of Żabbar who were forced to relinquish their Second Division status.
The Spartans continued their celebrations in the FA Trophy.
In the first round they were drawn against Birkirkara. The game seemed to be heading for extra-time when referee Paul Bonnet awarded Ħamrun Spartans a very dubious penalty.
Birkirkara protested vehemently and some of the players attacked the referee and the match had to be abandoned. Ħamrun were declared winners.
The Spartans 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 was a goal that rocked the terraces.
It had been a long time indeed since the Stadium presented such a scene.
It was a scene reminiscent of the good old days of Maltese football.
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 at the Stadium for years.
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.
The Rangers had a very good team in those days but surely they were not amongst the best teams in the First Division. Imagine therefore, the Spartans’ woe when they were soundly beaten 3-1 by the Rangers.