The Bundesliga. The season in a nutshell: three outsiders and dramatic battle for the title, which ended with victory on better goal-difference. The 70s-generation practically stepped-down and the new one established itself. Declining clubs were somewhat more than the those going up.
No end of troubles for Hertha (West Berlin) – apart from brief strong period in the mid-70s, the club was shaky at best. Dead last this year with 20 points, but hardly surprising. Apart from Danish Ole Rasmussen, nobody worth mentioning and rightly so: consider their goalkeeper Gregor Quasten – the only slightly memorable thing about him was that as an young man he was reserve goalie for Borussia (Moenchengladbach) at its peak.
Karlsruher SC – 17th with 21 points and the leakiest defense in the league – 86 goals in their net. This, combined with weakest strikers – only 39 goals, the only team scoring under 40 goals. Nobody to mention even in passing of this squad.
The decline of Schalke 04 reached logical conclusion – it was long and painful road, ending at 16th place this season with 22 points. Whatever other problems the club had, their recruiting policy was obviously wrong for years, bordering to desperate: 8 new players this season, but the bigger addition was the veteran defender Bernard Dietz from MSV Duisburg. Well over 30, no longer national team player… he joined the other old players Schalke seemingly depended: Norbert Nigbur and Norbert Janzon. All well beyond their peak and looking more for retirement than anything else. Schalke had a chance to survive, but was relegated after losing the relegation/promotion play-off against the 3rd in the second division, Bayer (Uerdingen).
Traditionally among the weakest, Eintracht (Braunschweig) were perhaps quite happy this season – lowly, but not in danger. 15th with 27 points, they had a 5-point cushion. No different from Schalke 04 in their make: veterans were their best players – Franke, Geyer, the Swedish Borg, and the Yugoslav Zavisic. But they were not demoralized like Schalke 04 and that helped.
Nothing new about 1. FC Nurnberg – lowly as ever. 14th with 28 points. And, naturally, similar to the other lowly clubs – few veterans lead otherwise unimpressive squad: Kargus, Eder, the Swiss Botteron, and the Austrian Hintermayer. It was telling that – like Schalke 04 – the biggest new addition was a player already past his prime: Rene Botteron – by now not only his hair was much shorter.
Also nothing new about VfL Bochum – it was just amazing, that this club managed to keep its place in the Bundesliga year after year. They never had stars – no current, no future, no former. It was just tough, dog-like team, which always play just a bit better than few others. 13th with 28 points and ahead of Nurnberg on goal-difference.
The decline clearly settled in Moenchengladbach, but the mind refused to accept that, so it was rather surprising to see Borussia (Moenchengladbach) in the company of Bochum – but there they were, 12th with 28 points too. And how to accept decline? This squad, at least on paper, was very different from the others in the lower half of the table – Mill, Hannes, Matthaus, Frontzek, Borowka, Rahn, coached by Heynckes, already noticed as a great promise.
Bayer 04 (Leverkusen) was only 11th with 29 points, but unlike Borussia M, this team was climbing up and expected to go higher soon. To begin with, they had great coach – Dettmar Cramer. They had few sturdy professionals like Winkhofer, Gelsdorf, the Norwegian Arne-Larsen Okland, and the 1974 World champion Dieter Herzog, now 36 years old. A promising young goalkeeper was recruited – Vollborn, who soon will become one of the most reliable keepers in the league. The team was still in the process of building, but definitely going in the right direction.
Eintracht (Frankfurt) was going down – not full-bloomed crisis, but down. The names are quite misleading… the team was getting old and tired both as a squad and as individuals. Players beyond their peak, players already reaching their limits and no developing further, but deadly inertia ruled. The typical problem with aging stars… many a club lingered too long, scared to let go players just because they were still playing well. Playing well, but no better than few years before – point in case: Karl-Heinz Korbel. It was already difficult to recall when he was called to the national team for the last time. But what to do… if you just sold Norbert Nachtweih to Bayern. Austrian coach Senekowitsch was hired – but it was just the same stuck-up: names, names, but not going up names. 10th with 29 points.
Fortuna (Dusseldorf) – 9th with 30 points. Mid-table position was not fooling anybody – Fortuna was going down. Slowly, but surely. Zewe and Kleff were old, Edvaldsson, Ormslev, Wenzel were not first rate stars.
What really was happening to Eintracht (Frankfurt) becomes clear by looking at the table – usually lowly Arminia (Bielefeld) was ahead of Eintracht. They were just like ever before – practically no stars, their foreigners were the only almost internationally known members of the squad – the Austrian striker Riedl and the two new Finnish recruits Rautiainen and Isoaho. The whole trio could not came close to sole Bruno Pezzey and no need even to name another Frankfurt player. But paper does not earn points… so, rather strong season for Arminia – it was so rare for them not to struggle to avoid relegation.
Up and coming Borussia (Dortmund), but yet in building process. 7th this year, but clearly belonging the the favourites – they ended with 39 points. Arminia, right behind them, finished with 31 points! However… Borussia was on ascent for may be 2 or three years now and thus at dangerous point: the team should have been approaching its peak, not just shaping and building. Feldkamp was still considered young and promising coach, but he shared the same risk – the team was practically completed: Russmann, Tenhagen, Burgsmuller, Abramczik, Freund, Zorc, Votava (to a point, because of his spell with Atletico Madrid). Romanian former international Marcel Raducanu was just added, Eike Immel was already the number 2 West German national team goalkeeper. This squad should have be winning… not simple at the bottom of the pack of top clubs. One more year and could be too late – the key players were getting older.
1. FC Kaiserslautern – 6th with 41 points. Good team – the Swedes Hellstrom and Nilsson, Geye, Bongartz, but the key figures were Briegel, Brehme and Thomas Allofs.
1. FC Koln – 5th with 43 points. One can say that with 6 strong rivals, Koln was doing fine, but still there was sense that a team having Bonhof, Cullmann, Klaus Allofs, Schumacher, Littbarski, Fischer, and the Yugoslav midfielder Sljivo, coached by Rinus Michels should have been more competitive.
Bayern – 4th with 44 points and outside the title race. Let’s count: Breitner, K-H. Rummenigge, Augenthaler, Del’Haye, Dremmler, Durnberger, Hoeness, Kraus, Horsmann, M. Rummenigge, and fresh recruits Pfaff and Nachtweih. Coached by Pal Csernai. Champion squad. The biggest problem of recent years was solved with the arrival of Jean-Marie Pfaff – next to him sit those who were all tried and found wanting: Aumann, Junghans, and Muller. At last Bayern had first class goalkeeper and every other line was already formidable. Yet, nothing… Perhaps it was too much Breitner-Rummenigge. Perhaps aging – Breitner, Durnberger, Kraus, Horsmann, Del’Haye, and Hoeness were nearing retirement.
VfB Stuttgart was 3rd with 48 points, but the team matured and was practically at its peak – a title contender. Strong coach – Benthaus – and wonderful squad: brothers Forster, Hansi Muller, the French winger Didier Six, Allgower, Ohlicher, the Islander Sigurvinsson, Roleder, Hadewicz, and the new arrival from Bayern Niedermayer. Stuttgart was the highest scoring team this season – 80 goals.
Big, strong come back of Werder (Bremen), lead by Otto Rehhagel. The stamp of Rehhagel, although still young coach, was present – he trusted old players and was master of getting the best of them. The new recruits for the season were Rudi Voller – now, he was young and practically established himself as a major star by finishing the season as the league’s top scorer with 23 goals – and Sidka. Sidka, by now, was vaguely remembered from the few good years Hertha (West Berlin) had in mid-70s. He joined players, who also were considered beyond their peak for some time – Fichtel (37 years old!), the Japanese Okudera, Burdenski. Kamp, Reinders. The team looked both too old and short, but not only played well, but actually run for the title, fought to the very end and lost it not on point-difference, but on goal-difference. 52 points, 76-38. If the rules considered head-to-head record, Werder would have been champions – they won and tied the direct clashes. Unfortunate ending.
Hats down to old fox Ernst Happel. Hamburger SV won – it was not overwhelming victory, but minimal one, just on better goal-difference, but who cares when they were champions. Young and coming coaches like Rehhagel, or or old big names like Michels and Csernai – Happel ate them all, as he did many times before with different teams in different countries. Of course, it was very strong formation and of course Happel did not hesitate to add to it – Beckenbauer retired, but immediately Wolfgang Rollf and old Danish horse Alan Hansen were recruited. Hansen was not taken to play a lot, but just to have solid back-up – the regular foreigners were his wonderful countryman Bastrup and the Yugoslav Djordjevic. There was no end of talent – Magath, Hrubesch, Kaltz, Stein, von Heesen, Jacobs, Milewski… one can even omit Groh, Hieronymus, Wehmeyer, who in another club would have been the leading players. Hamburger SV, in terms of the squad, had only one equal – Bayern. But that on paper – on the peach, HSV was at its peak and even when the going was rough was still able to come ahead – as it did precisely this year. Not an easy season, but also the best, for HSV was not fighting only on domestic front. Ernst Happel, looking bored and sipping his brandy, just won – the only thing he knew.
It was 2nd consecutive title for HSV and 6th in total. The club climbed to the top of the wold and the future looked bright indeed – nobody would envision that there will be no more: it turned out, this was the last title to this very day.