Bundesliga – the best in Europe again. Fast, competitive, football, high scores, dramatic race for the title. Three matches ended 7-1 and two of them were won by the visiting team! The championship to watch, the championship to play in. But the most important about this season was the change of guard: the next generation asserted itself. It was their year – clubs, based on the next generation soared. They will define German football for the next 5-6 years. The decline of great clubs of the 1970s started a bit earlier, now it was more pronounced. Of course, not everybody was happy…
SV Darmstadt 98 finished dead last. They tried as much as they could, but 21 points was their best.
Third row, from left: Meier, Kalb, Korlatzki, Lindemann, Weiss, Westenberger, Bechtold
Middle row: Trainer Buchmann, Bremer, Drexler, Cestonaro, Hahn, Kleppinger, Frey, Co-Trainer Schlappner
Sitting: Eigl, Weber, Seyffer, Rudolf, Metz, Schabacker, masseur.
Nothing surprising – if there were outsiders, Darmstadt qualified. Weak squad, even heroics would not help – and didn’t.
1. FC Nurnberg finished 17th – and that was no surprise either: usually Nurnberg was considered prime candidate for relegation. Perhaps the only thing to say about them is that the they had the weakest strikers in the league, scoring only 36 goals. In some countries 36 goals scored the champions – in West Germany such record was a disgrace.
And still no surprise – 16th and completing the relegation group was another expected loser: Arminia (Bielefeld).
Like Nurnberg, too strong for second division, but too weak for top flight, Arminia was in and out Bundesliga. When among the best, they were prime always seen as mots likely candidate for relegation. So, nothing new – going down, together with Nurnberg.
Much more interesting was the group just above the unfortunates: MSV Duisburg, 13th with 30 points, was not big surprise – they had their good years in the mid-1970s, but somehow failed to upgrade the team and naturally faced decline. Hertha finished 14th with 29 points and that was big and somewhat unexpected fall: the West Berliners had good previous seasons and looked like building really strong squad. They looked ambitious and were expected to be among the leaders. Instead, they finished dangerously close to relegation zone.
The sense was that Hertha was unable to find the right mixture – good coach, good players, but the chemistry did not work. It was not a decline – it was inability to stay strong.
15th was Schalke 04. Now, here was real decline.
It was detected shortly after 1972 – partly, the bribing scandal was to blame. Incredibly talented and promising team was halted by penalties. They never recovered and with time decline began. By 1978 Schalke 04 had still few big names – Russmann, Fischer, Abramczik – but they were getting older and no better. Perhaps leadership was an issue too – the team was shaky and although they had some better years, the direction was downhill. Instead of fighting for the title, Schalke 04 was fighting for survival – 28 points were good for that, but it was also only 2 points better record than Arminia’s. The future did not look bright.
The future did not look bright for mightier than Schalke 04 club either – Borussia Moenchengladbach finished 10th. Not only that, but with negative goal-difference. The first tremor of coming disaster. Borussia was in difficult position – as a team, they reached their peak around 1975, but most players were still young. So far, the exit of stars – either retiring or going to play in Spain – did not affect the club: the squad was big and talented enough, so reserves successfully filled the empty spots. However, money were always short and the exodus continued. The team was losing its spark, it was clear by now that Simonsen was for sale, Vogts was approaching retirement, and Hannes was not going to play for the national team. The future was Hannes, though…
A greeting looking like farewell. Great Borussia Moenchengladbach was becoming mid-table club. Like the typical example of such clubs: VfL Bochum.
Brave little club… in a bad year they struggled to escape relegation, in a good year they were in mid-table. 1978-79 was good one – VfL Bochum ended 8th with 33 points. One more than Borussia Moenchengladbach – a team without stars finishing above a club still conquering Europe is a strong testimony of great, competitive league and healthy football. But Bochum was not improving and there was no way for them to improve – it was Borussia declining.
In the upper part of the table five clubs were fairly equal: Fortuna (Dusseldorf) finished 7th, continuing their strong years.
Fortuna was curious club – they were rising for some time without big stars in the squad. But now they had three – Zewe and the Allofs brothers. Thomas and Klaus were of the generation stepping in – the new crop of stars, already coming into maturity. 7th place was not bad at all – especially because there was something much better this season.
1.FC Koln and Eintracht (Frankfurt) maintained their leading positions – 6th and 5th – but it was inertia. Eintracht failed to become the third German super-team a few years back and now they were clearly beyond their peak – but having a strong squad helped them to stay among the strongest German teams. Real decline did not happen yet, inertia did – and the only question was for how long. As for 1.FC Koln, good as they were, they were more or less accidental champions the previous season.
Rinus Michels was gone, Hennes Weisweiler was back, but the team was pretty much the same – no great additions to the squad, which was a bit short to begin with. Koln was not in the race for the title at all – 6th place was more or less their rightful spot.
Bayern finished 4th – a questionable place. On one hand, it looked like recovery after two disastrous seasons. On the other – no recovery at all, just the veterans outfoxed most of the opposition. Maier, Muller, Schwarzenbeck… still half of the regulars were painfully familiar names. Too old for anything else, but retirement. Paul Breitner came back – looked like desperate move. Yet, it was the true beginning of the next vintage – based on Breitner and Kalle Rummenigge. Early phase, first steps, only returning to the group of top teams.
Bronze medals were won by the most unpredictable club – 1. FC Kaiserslautern.
Successful season, but Kaiserslautern hardly deserves to be placed under microscope – they were neither rising, nor declining: they were simply true to their tradition of unpredictability – equally able to challenge the best and to be relegated with the same players. One season on top, down to second division the next. Yes, they had a bunch of good players. Yes, they earned their 3rd place. Yes, they were going to play in the European tournaments. But they did not compete for the title. And nobody knew what how they were going to play the next year.
The duel for the title went between two rising teams, representing in earnest the new generation ruling German football. It was fascinating battle between a club rising for some time and one, which was more than mediocre in the first half of the 1970s. One point was at the end the difference between champions and unlucky silver medalists. It was also just difference in a sense.
VfB Stuttgart finished second – unlucky, or not ready yet? Unready… they were second in everything: second in the number of wins, second scorers, second in defense… and second in coming to the grand stage. Second division was still painfully remembered by fans and players – it was not long ago, some of the team experienced it. Perhaps second division was a blessing for Stuttgart – they had insignificant presence in the Bundesliga in the 1960s. Going down perhaps helped them to start building a strong team of youngsters – it was clear that what they had before was good for nothing. So, now Stuttgart had a few solid veterans, playing in every line – the Yugoslav defender Dragan Holcer (b. 1945), the Austrian midfielder Roland Hattenberger (b. 1948), and the former Hamburger SV striker Georg Volkert (b. 1945) – but the strength was the group of young stars: Hansi Muller (b. 1957), Dieter Hoeness (b. 1953), Bernd Forster (b. 1956), and Karlheinz Forster (b. 1958). They were pulling the strings, not the veterans. Add the goalkeeper Helmut Roleder (b. 1953) and Herman Ohlicher (b. 1949). Stuttgart had great core of players nearing their best age. The veterans was clearly in secondary position, so the future was secured – it was a matter of adding few more youngsters, some fine tuning. The team for the future, not ready yet to dominate German football. It was a team to stay among the best, though. And they did.
Hamburger SV prevailed this season – 21 wins, 7 ties, 5 losses, 78:32 goal-difference,49 points. One more than VfB Stuttgart. Difficult victory, but well deserved.
HSV was already a veteran of Bundesliga – one of the original members, not missing a single season. Always considered among the best German clubs, HSV was also odd – never in danger of relegation, but somewhat underperforming. The 1960s ended not only without a title, but on minor note – HSV was seemingly in decline and unable to build really strong team. Things started to change by mid-70s – they finished 4th in 1974-75, 2nd in 1975-76, 6th in 1976-77. They also won the German cup – their only trophy since Bundesliga was formed. It was a positive sign, a club on the rise, but still not ready. The cup was won by a relative old team of well-respected, yet, secondary players. Younger players gradually replaced veterans like Georg Volkert (playing for VfB Stuttgart this season). HSV grabbed the headlines when they bought Kevin Keegan, the best player in Europe. They were clearly detemined to go all the way to the top – but not in the first season with Keegan among them. It was a flop – 9th place in 1977-78 – but it was viewed as only temporary misfortune. The team was ready and 1978-79 was their first great year. Mature team, fighting to the end, and winning – Hamburger SV won their first Bundesliga title. And it was not to be an accidental victory – by now, HSV was complete with younger players of the next generation, the new stars to shine and dominate the coming years. This was a team to stay on top and define German football for awhile, no doubt about it. The long expected third great German team finally arrived. As for ‘the Dinosaur’, as HSV is nicknamed, for they were founded in 1887, it was their 5th title – but their first since 1960, so it was great to restore their place among the top German clubs at last. The long wait was over. They were hungry for more… so far: German Cup in 1976, European Cup Winners Cup in 1977, German title in 1979, not bad, just wetting their appetite.
The triumph came with a new coach – perhaps the missing link so far. The Yugoslav Branko Zebec arrived with great reputation from excellent stint with Eintracht (Braunschweig). He had the players needed for the task and spurred them to action. By now, few of those playing for HSV in 1974-75 remained – Nogly, Reimann, Memering, Eigl. Kargus and Kaltz were also in the team back then, but now they were not just young hopefuls, but stars in their prime, pulling the strings. Kevin Keegan needs no introduction – different country, different language, different football needed adjustment, but after one year in Germany, he was settled, comfortable, and in great form.
Having still unknown outside West Germany Horst Hrubesch in the team most likely helped Keegan – big, burly, English type center-forward, great in the air, no doubt helped Keegan’s style and habits. He would kick a cross from the wing in front of the net and Hrubesch will win the air-battle and score with his deadly header. Perhaps HSV had a bit of English flavour, but it was still playing German football – Kaltz was enourmously dangerous anywhere on the pitch and he scored lots of goals too. The arrival of Ivan Buljan from Haiduk (Split) appeared risky at first, for he was well remembered from 1974 World Cup and 1976 European Championship as modern attacking right full-back. The very position Manfred Kaltz played. But nobody suffered – the team gained instead: both players were versatile and able to play other positions. Nominally, Buljan was moved to mid-field, but he covered for Kaltz when he moved somewhere else. The duo was quite unpredictable and thus very difficult to neutralize. Kargus have been among the best German goalkeepers for some time already, and also never becoming number one German keeper, was perhaps the second best. Young talent was quickly establishing themselves – Hartwig and Wehmeyer – but there was one bound to be a star: Felix Magath.
HSV was already a great team – like all great teams, it was difficult to say who is their biggest star and who runs the show: there were more than one. Keegan, Kaltz, and increasingly Magath were great leaders, anyone of them influencing and conducting the game – similarities with Bayern of the first half of the decade were easily drown. The team perhaps lacked strong reserves, but this was expected to be easily corrected: the team was still rising.
One more look at the regulars of the new champions – better get familiar with them: they were going to stay.