72 Classic: Clough, Allison, Keegan and co. – why it was special

MALCOLM Allison, one of the pivotal figures of the 1970s, once said that the period between 1967 and 1972 was one of British football’s golden ages. Anyone who lived through that half decade of action will doubtless recall some outstanding players and personalities, memorable teams and the outlandish fashion and hairstyles of the age.

This was, after all, a period that desperately clung to the “swinging Sixties” and introduced the excesses and decadence of the early 1970s. It was played out against an economic background that was deteriorating weekly, culminating in the candle-lit days of power cuts in 1973-74 and the three-day week. From a footballing perspective, England still had enough self-confidence to believe that Sir Alf Ramsey’s squad was still capable of competing at the highest level. 1971 was just five years after the 1966 triumph and some of its key figures were still stubbornly hanging onto their place in the national team.

But if the end of the Sixties, from a cultural point of view, was signalled by the break-up of the Beatles, 1971-72 really killed-off the period with the decline of England, the ageing of some of its icons and the conclusion of the post-66 attendance boom. 1971-72 was two years on from the last football season of the 60s, but football’s two standard bearing groups of the decade – Best, Law, Charlton and Moore, Hurst, Peters, were coming to the end of their time of influence. By the end of 1972-73, the Manchester United trio were no longer at Old Trafford, for various reasons, and only Moore was still at West Ham.

The 1971-72 season looked like the final flourish of the man that epitomised the 1960s, George Best. He scored 26 goals in domestic football and provided some brilliant football, but it was the last we saw of the genius that was the Irishman. As Manchester United declined in the second half of the season, Best lost heart and by the middle of 1972-73, he had retired.

United’s fall from the pinnacle of the game really started in 1970 and their impressive first half of 1971-72 merely papered over the cracks. Within two seasons, they were relegated, although in hindsight, it was the short, sharp shock the club needed to acknowledge that things had changed since the days of Sir Matt Busby.

Even without United, though, English football served up an exciting championship race, possibly the most tense and open for years. Arsenal went into the campaign as double winners in 1970-71, but they were never really involved in a bid to retaining their title, although they returned to Wembley for the FA Cup final. However, Arsenal’s pursuit of European success suggested that there was a degree of stagnation settling in across English football. In 1970, when the Gunners won the Fairs’ Cup, they beat Ajax over two legs with some ease. Two seasons on, Arsenal were beaten twice by the Dutch team, who were holders of the European Cup. Something had changed and the spirit of progressive football wasn’t to be found in England, it was across the Channel.

The Dutch, with Johan Cruyff in his pomp, may have been leading the way in club football, but the West Germans had emerged as the team to beat on the international stage. There were signs that an irresistible force was in the ascendancy in Mexico in 1970, but in 1972, the Germans were European champions and they had signalled the end of Ramsey’s England in the quarter-finals, winning 3-1 at Wembley. West Germany had their own dynamic playmaker to rival Cruyff in the form of Günter Theodor Netzer, and he made England’s own midfielders look very pedestrian. That tie was, effectively, the end of Geoff Hurst – he left West Ham in the summer of 1972 – but also struck at the heart of English confidence.

Derby County players show off their League Championship medals aas they pose with the trophies won by the club during the 1971-72 season: (back row, l-r) ?, John McGovern, physio Gordon Guthrie, trainer Jimmy Gordon, Ron Webster, John Robson, Terry Hennessey, Alan Hinton, John O’Hare, Colin Boulton, Alan Durban; (front row, l-r) Peter Daniel, Archie Gemmill, Kevin Hector, ?; (trophies, l-r) Central League, Football League Championship, Texaco Cup Photo: PA

In terms of self-confidence, Derby County’s outspoken manager, Brian Clough, had few equals, although his style wasn’t to everyone’s taste. Nobody predicted that Derby would become genuine title challengers, although Clough had assembled an exciting team at the Baseball Ground. Leeds United, who had become serial bridesmaids in 1970 and 1971, were most people’s idea of champions, although they remained unpopular. Don Revie had instilled in his squad something of a siege mentality, largely built on the “us and them” philosophy and the desire to create intense loyalty and togetherness. It worked, but Leeds never had the strength in depth required for a campaign fought on multiple fronts and accompanying their intensity was high drama – a Leeds defeat was invariably greeted with schadenfreude by the rest of English football, which only served to bond Revie’s troops even closer. This often clouded the fact that Leeds were a extraordinary footballing team and in 1971-72 they produced some of their best performances. They won the FA Cup and were beaten at the death by Wolves in their final league game when the double was at stake. Once more, they had fallen short at the final hurdle.

Returning to Malcolm Allison, his Manchester City team had the title within their grasp, but to some extent the signing of Rodney Marsh, the coveted Queens Park Rangers forward, cost City the title. Signed in March 1972, for a record £ 200,000 fee, March joined a team that was four points clear at the top of the table. Marsh himself admitted that the transfer was a mistake and that it had been detrimental to City’s championship credentials.

While Marsh, despite his skill and charisma, upset the shape of Allison’s team, a new and relatively unknown forward had injected fresh impetus into Bill Shankly’s Liverpool. His name was Kevin Keegan and he would become British football’s hottest talent and the successor to George Best as the face of the game. Keegan was a different proposition to Best, though. He didn’t have Best’s natural virtuosity, or his maverick tendencies, but he made the most of his attributes and he knew his worth. Keegan was wholesome, reliable and energetic and Liverpool’s Kop loved him.

Liverpool were one year away from beginning their ruthless pursuit of silverware, but in 1971-72, they had enough to finish painfully close to the top spot. That belonged to Derby County, but not before no less than four teams stake a claim to the title, right up until the final week. Derby were, perhaps, the least likely to finish in first place, but there could be no denying the quality of their football. Players like Roy McFarland, Colin Todd, Archie Gemmill, Kevin Hector and John O’Hare would become household names, while Clough, with his emphasis on skill and hard work, would go on to prove that his success was no fluke.

The party was not quite over, but the guests were gradually leaving. Within a decade, attendances in division one had fallen by 10,000 per game. Clough left Derby in 1973-74, Allison resigned from City, Revie took on England in 1974 (after a second title with Leeds), Shankly retired in 1974. United were relegated, Chelsea followed them in 1975 and Tottenham lost that doyen of managers, Bill Nicholson. And to cap it all, England failed to qualify for World Cup 1974 and Ramsey was sacked. In 1971-72, who would have predicted such a chain of events, even in the unpredictable world of football.

Coming soon: Chapter 2 – Lifting Leeds

Great Reputations: Borussia Mönchengladbach 1974-77 – mythical rebels

IT’S part of popular football culture that Bayern Munich have always been the dominant force in German football. Certainly, Bayern is the country’s most high-profile club and undoubtedly the most successful football institution from the Bundesliga. In recent years, only Borussia Dortmund have challenged Bayern on a sustainable basis, but the first club to grapple with the slick Bavarians was a team from North-Rhine Westphalia, a club from a small city of 250,000 people.

Borussia Mönchengladbach were not only a fine football team, they also represented the alternative to the Bayern machine, which was so indelibly aligned to the West German national team. The explanation that has often been used to summarise the creative tension between Bayern and Gladbach has been “radicalism versus rationality” or “establishment versus rebels”. Furthermore, it has been suggested that it was a clash of playing styles – Bayern’s technical professionalism built on possession football against Gladbach’s free-for-all ethos that relied on swift counter-attacks.

Bayern were, apparently, masters of the 1-0 win, while Gladbach would go all-out in search of goals. The statistics do not support this argument. In the period 1968-69 to 1976-77, Bayern scored more goals than Gladbach in six of the nine seasons. Moreover, they conceded more goals than their rivals in six campaigns. Any accusation that Bayern were safety-first seems to hold little water. More likely, Gladbach offered an antidote to Bayern’s insatiable appetite for headlines and drama.

Borussia Mönchengladbach 1975 mit Meisterschale und UEFA-Cup, hi.v.li.: Trainer Hennes Weisweiler, Henning Jensen, Walter Posner, Lorenz Günther Köstner, Hans Jürgen Wittkamp, Jupp Heynckes, Christian Kulik, Dietmar Danner, Hans Klinkhammer, Frank Schäffer, Horst Köppel, vorn: Ulrich Surau, Allan Simonsen, Calle del Haye, Berti Vogts, Torwart Wolfgan Kleff, Torwart Gregor Quasten, Uli Stielike, Rainer Bonhof, Herbert -Hacki- Wimmer, Roger Roebben – HM Borussia Moenchengladbach 1975 with Bowl champions and UEFA Cup Hi v left team manager Hennes Weisweiler Henning Jensen Walter Posner Lorenz Günther Goswami Hans Jürgen Wittkamp Jupp Heynckes Christian Kulik Dietmar Danner Hans Klinkhammer Frank Schäffer Horst Köppel front Ulrich Surau Allan Simonsen Calle DEL Haye Berti Vogts Goalkeeper Kleff Goalkeeper Gregor Tassels Uli Stielike Rainer Bonhof Herbert Hacki Wimmer Roger Roebben HM.

As a number of chroniclers of German football have said, Bayern were no more “establishment” than the team from the city that gave the world Josef Goebbels. For part of the 1970s, Bayern versus Gladbach included the sideshow Guenther Netzer versus Franz Beckenbauer. Netzer was a long-haired free spirit and a discotheque owner, but he was also a committed businessman, not unlike Beckenbauer.

Bayern’s captain, short-haired, clean-shaven and upright, always appeared very much part of the system, slightly aloof but eminently respectable and always listened to. At the same time, Bayern had a figure every bit as outspoken and noticeable as Netzer in Paul Breitner, described by Brian Glanville as a paradox, “a rich Bavarian Maoist”. Gladbach, conversely, had Berti Vogts in their team, a player who looked more like a buttoned-up bank clerk than 1970s icons Netzer and Breitner. In truth, both clubs had conventional and unorthodox individuals.

Both teams had won promotion to the Bundesliga in 1965, Bayern topping the southern regional league and Gladbach winning in the west. They both had young teams and this, to some extent, was the root of their rivalry. It was also how Gladbach acquired a new nickname – the youthfulness of their squad led them to be tagged, Die Fohlen – the foals.

While Bayern won their first title in 1968-69, Gladbach secured the next two, the first team to retain their crown since the Bundesliga was formed. Netzer was now in prime form and his performances for the national team – notably in the European Championship of 1972 – brought him to the attention of the rest of Europe. Gladbach lost their title in 1972, needless to say to Bayern, but Netzer was named player of the year. In 1973, with Real Madrid already agreeing to sign Gladbach’s star man, he came off the bench in the DFB Pokal final to score a dramatic winner as his team beat 1.FC Köln. Again, he was Germany’s top player as he moved to Madrid.

Gladbach’s coach, Hennes Weisweiler, had guided them from the regional leagues to the top of German football, but with some people expecting the bubble to burst, the 1974-75 season saw them reach a new high before their long-time manager also departed.

Weisweiler adopted a fast and furious adaption of the Dutch Total Football with an exciting front three that included the Danish duo of Allan Simonsen and Henning Jensen, and the prolific Jupp Heynckes. Gladbach soon got over the loss of Netzer as Rainer Bonhof cemented his place in the team and became renowned as a free-kick specialist. Weisweiler’s team won the title by six points, beating off the challenge of Hertha Berlin. Bayern, who had won their first European Cup in 1974, had slumped to 10th. Gladbach also lifted the UEFA Cup, beating 1.FC Köln in the semi-final before trouncing FC Twente 5-1 on aggregate in the final. The cognoscenti were talking in glowing terms of Die Fohlen as the new successors to a now Cruyff-less Ajax Amsterdam.

Weisweiler moved to Barcelona and in his place came Udo Lattek, a coach who had won two European Cups with Bayern Munich. In 1975-76, a more cautious Gladbach – they scored 20 fewer goals in Lattek’s first season – retained the Bundesliga title ahead of Hamburg and Bayern. The problem for Gladbach was that Bayern had just notched up a third successive European Cup, achieved in a very uninspiring and machine-like manner against a popular and flamboyant St.Etienne team.

In 1976-77, Gladbach had the chance to put that right. In the Bundesliga, the title was clinched on the final day with a 2-2 draw with Bayern after Heynckes and Uli Stielike has given them a 2-0 lead.  But it had been tight – Schalke and Braunschweig both finished one point behind and Frankfurt were only two adrift. Lattek’s experience in Europe paid off for Gladbach as they reached their first European Cup final, facing Liverpool in Rome.

Although Lattek’s side had been crowned German champions just four days earlier, they had struggled to score goals in 1976-77, netting only 58 in 34 league games. Heynckes, their top marksman, was not 100% fit and there was a mood of realism in the Gladbach camp. “It will be hard for us, but it will not be impossible for us to win,” said Lattek, aware of the rising power of Liverpool.

With Gladbach appearing nervous and lacking confidence, Liverpool went ahead, but Simonson equalised early in the second half. At times, Gladbach looked as though they would go on to win, driven by the excellent Bonhof, but Liverpool scored two more goals, in the 64th and 82nd minutes to win 3-1.

And with that ended the Gladbach era. In 1977-78, they finished runners-up in the Bundesliga on goal difference to 1.FC Köln and year later, they were wallowing in mid-table. Lattek left in 1979 after a second UEFA Cup was won by the club and was berated for having allowed a fine teamto become stake without succession plans – a criticism that was aimed at him from his time with Bayern Munich.

Gladbach have never had it so good. Their golden age belonged to a different time, an era when success could be achieved by smaller, perhaps less fashionable clubs. With five Bundesliga titles and four European finals, providing a host of players that would form the backbone of the West German team that won the 1972 Euros and 1974 FIFA World Cup, Borrusia Mönchengladbach were one of the European teams of the decade.

Photos: PA