With FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk through to this season's UEFA Europa League final, our man in Ukraine gives us the lowdown on the two-time Soviet champions.
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Like so many clubs in the region, FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk have industrial roots and were founded in 1918 by the BRIT technology school before being incorporated into the Petrovets steel plant sports club, changing name accordingly. The team won the city championship in 1927 and 1935. With the creation of the USSR league system in 1936, they became Stal (Steel) and by 1950, in the Soviet spirit of celebrating the proletariat, they were known as Metallurg (metal worker).
Dnipro at last
In the early 1960s the club gained a new patron, rocket and missile manufacturer Yuzhmash, and were given the Dnipro name they continue to bear. It comes from the Dnieper, the longest river in Ukraine. In 1966, the Meteor Stadium was opened and the first game there offered fans a first glimpse of Roman Shneiderman, the midfielder who went on to make 360 appearances for the club – still a record. Dnipro played home matches at the Meteor for 42 years before moving to the newly-built Dnipro Arena.
Springboard for Lobanovskiy
Valeriy Lobanovskiy earned broad acclaim for his spells as FC Dynamo Kyiv coach, yet it was at Dnipro that it all began for the father of Ukrainian football. Appointed in 1968, he guided the side from the third tier to the Soviet Top League where they came sixth at the first attempt. Dnipro reached the Soviet Cup semi-finals in 1973 before Lobanovskiy left for his famous reign at Dynamo Kyiv; the club made it to the last four again in 1976.
Dnipro were relegated but returned to the top flight in 1981 to herald a golden period. They won their first USSR championship in 1983 after a final-day victory over FC Spartak Moskva, earning a debut in continental competition. They were blessed with talent. Hennadiy Lytovchenko being voted 1984 player of the year in the USSR, a feat replicated three years later by Oleh Protasov after his Soviet Top League-record 35 goals in one season.
Against the odds
Dnipro finished 1987 as runners-up and though they then lost Lytovchenko and Protasov to Dynamo Kyiv, Yevhen Kucherevskiy's men surprisingly claimed their second title thanks in no small part to a 20-game unbeaten run. The next term they were runners-up, lifted their only Soviet Cup and, as they had in 1984/85, got to the European Cup quarter-finals. Among their players was Petr Neustädter, father of FC Schalke 04 midfielder Roman Neustädter.
Though the first professional club in the Soviet Union, Dnipro have never quite managed to crack Dynamo Kyiv and FC Shakhtar Donetsk's hegemony since Ukrainian independence. Just four times in 23 years have they failed to finish in the top four, but only in 1993 and under Juande Ramos in 2013/14 have they managed to end higher than third (runners-up both times). They have made ground in Europe, though, as demonstrated by this season's run all the way to the UEFA Europa League final.
Football tends to run in the family at Dnipro. Current players Denys Boyko, Artem Fedetskiy, Yevhen Shakhov, Valeriy Luchkevych and Serhiy Kravchenko are all sons of footballing fathers. Only Yevhen Shakhov Sr played at Dnipro, however: he was a 1988 league champion.