Monday, April 2, 2012

The bright future was already past and present: Borussia (Moenchengladbach). They successfully defending the title won in 1975. It was their 4th – once again, going shoulder to shoulder with Bayern (counting the Bundesliga titles only), also with four championships. The rivalry was exciting, for it was David-Goliath struggle really – mighty Bayern and tiny Borussia. Yet, David looked equal and even better than Goliath… Bayern was aging and seemingly incapable of retiring its stars. Borussia, always short of money, had no dilemmas about great players – Netzer was sold without ill effects. Young unknowns were effortlessly introduced, eventually becoming stars. Bayern kept the same squad year after year, but Borussia in 1976 was quite different than the team of 1970. It was younger than Bayern’s, but there was more to the rivelry: Weisweiller departed for Barcelona in the summer of 1975. There he was to challenge his pupil Netzer and Real Madrid and he failed miserably, losing the battle with Crujff. Bayern, dissatisfied by its results fired Udo Lattek. Lattek was hired by Borussia. Unlike Weisweiller in Barcelona, Latteck had no problems with players used to different coach. His revenge was great on both his former opponent and his former club: Lattek was champion when Weissweiler had to resign in Barcelona even before the season ended (Cruyff ‘coached’ the remaining 5 games – Barcelona curiously improved, but too late). Borussia was champion – and Bayern was distant third! And Heynckes, Fogts, Wimmer, and Bonhof neither obstructed, nor bad-mouthed their new coach!
Borussia and Bayern are interesting to compare: Detmar Cramer and Udo Lattek were essentially in the same situation – both inheriting squads made by others. Both used the already made teams. But Bayern was already aging – the last additions were made by Lattek – Breitner, Hoeness, Torstensson, and Andersson. It was Lattek telling Bayern’s brass that the team needs major change – at the time, it was seen as changing the coach and Lattek was fired. Cramer ‘improved’ the team cosmetically – the bunch of useless nobodies included in the squad for 1975-76 season. Meantime Lattek hardly got any new players, depending on the squad left by Weissweiler. But what a difference: in Bayern, the days not only of the superstars were numbered – Beckenbauer, Maier, Muller, Schwarzenbeck, and Hansen, Roth, Zobel, and Torstensson too. There was almost nobody to provide the skeleton for the next team: as useful as they were, Kapelmann and Durnberger were not leaders, but journeymen. Unlucky Hoeness was suffering constantly of injuries, eventually cutting his career short, but even if he was healthy, he was hardly enough foundation for a new great team – he was only one. Rummenigge was not only inexperienced, but still seen as suspect player – in part, Muller was to blame: not his personality, but his playing style, which automatically reduced any other striker to rather conventional winger, feeding balls in front of the net, where Muller operated. There was no place for Rummenigge, essentially, a centre-forward – relegated to the wings, who hardly shined and was no better than Torstensson or even the universal workhorses Durnberger and Kapelmann. ‘Kalle’ shined and flourished only after Muller left Bayern. Cramer used the old team, depending on their experience and making them a bit more conservative in style, but clearly this was not a team capable of enduring the long season any longer.
It was very different situation in Moenchengladbach: Kleff was fine for another 4-5 years and he was not immediate concern. Fogts, Heynckes, Wimmer, and Koppel were getting old, but Bonhof, Stielicke, Simonsen, and Jensen were increasingly becoming the leading players. And there were others, like Del’Haye, pushing for a place among the starters. No problem with retiring stars – the leaders of the next team were already in place, and even younger generation was eager to play as well. At the end, Borussia was more flexible squad Bayern, where only Durnberger and Kapelmann were able to play at any position (not to mention that some stars were practically unmovable to another position – Muller, Schwarzenbeck – thus, limiting tactical options). Wimmer, Bonhof, and mostly Stielicke were much more versatile – young Stielike was equally at home in attack, midfield, and defense. Even Bertie Fogts moved to midfield on ocassion, so Lattek had far more tactical options. More or less, his major change was strenghtening the defensive aspects – Borussia no longer played the wild attacking football introduced by Weisweiller. The attack did not suffer because of that, for Lattek was not defensive minded anyway. At the end of year he had the last laugh – Bayern was beaten; Weisweiller was unemployed; Borussia was champion.
A team bursting with talent and ensuring the healthy future of West German football.