Triumphs, bitter defeats and curiosities: Heynckes, Bayern and the Foals

As Jupp Heynckes prepares to lead Bayern Munich into the Champions League final, Layth Yousif examines the fascinating back story of this venerable manager"The circle is closing," said the 68-year-old man. He was talking from his position as manager of some renown, heading club known until recently for its pragmatism.

For those of a certain vintage, their opponents that day were an evocative throwback to a more carefree age. They were also the team that he won four league titles as a player in his younger, freer days, and a figure who the fans still revere.

The venerable, silver-haired manager has been described as unable to deal with big egos and insensitive to the fragile temperaments of those who play in the modern game; an old-school boss who banished stars for falling out with him, a conventionalist who tried to impose a regimented discipline on free spirits who never forgave him. When a financial scandal – not of his making – hit one club he fled to Spain to resuscitate his career, and before his health briefly failed him he was known derisively as an authoritarian who had a limited shelf life at unruly football clubs. He was seen an unadventurous traditionalist.

Waving farewell at Gladbach

Yet in his later re-incarnation, his teams played with verve and audacity. He banished remorseless efficiency in favour of astonishing attacking football, brought on talented youngsters, embraced the latest sports science… and he made people happy.

This is the story of Jupp Heynckes, the Foals and Bayern Munich: a tale of triumphs, bitter defeats and curiosities.

VIETNAM, TOUPEES AND NAKED DANCINGIn 1968, no one believed in the Vietnam war anymore. German society was riven with the struggle between liberalism and conservatism. This was reflected in their football as much as anything.

The two top teams at the time were Bayern Munich and Borussia Monchengladbach. The symbolism was tangible. Radical left-wing writers, reformers and progressives were ‘Gladbach’. If you were a politician who favoured the status quo you were labelled as ‘Bayern’. Classification was everything. It didn’t matter if the truth was less emphatic.

Even Gladbach’s nickname was symbolic: Die Fohlen (the Foals), devised during the Bayern rivalry thanks to the team playing fearless football with fearless youngsters.

It was no surprise that Heynckes played for Gladbach. The Foals hail from the region of North Rhine-Westphalia traditionally known as Land von Kohle und Stahl – land of coal and steel. Bavarian Munich is twinned with the beautiful cities of Edinburgh and Verona, Mönchengladbach with Bradford and North Tyneside.

For a young Heynckes, the Gladbach teammate of the enigmatic Gunter Nezter, their beauty stemmed from the football they played and the characters they were.

All flowing blond locks, Netzer drove a Jaguar, ran a nightclub called Lovers Lane and had a girlfriend who was a goldsmith. Even his more prosaic attacking teammate Horst Koppel had an endearing eccentricity about him as he wore a toupee for three of his playing years, whilst midfielder Berti Vogts was an orphan.

Their glorious attacking football produced mythical results like an 11-0 victory over Schalke 1969 and 10-0 versus Neunkirchen in 1967. There was also a curious 12-0 over Borussia Dortmund in 1978. Die Borussen’s coach – Otto Rehhagel, who was to lead Greece to improbable Euros glory in 2004 – was not only sacked straight after the game, but he also received the nickname "Torhagel" ("Goal hail").

The Foals were also loved and renowned for taking risks. They once lost 7-0 at home to Bremen. Their legendary manager of the time Hennes Weisweiler roared “better to lose 6-5 than 1-0”.

UEFA Cup glory in 1975

When Munich won the league in 1973, Paul Breitner, the one Bayern player who should have been Gladbach – a Maoist who refused to sing Deutschland uber alles – was photographed naked dancing by a pool. He bit back angrily by saying: “At this shitty club, they can’t even celebrate”.

What also attracted many to the Foals, despite the three consecutive Bundesliga titles between 1975 and 1977, was the sense of heroic failure mixed with outlandish bad luck bordering on a curse.

That 12-0 win against Dortmund on the last day of the 77/78 season still wasn’t enough to win the league, as they feel three goals short of what was required to overhaul Cologne. In 1970 a losing penalty shoot-out against Everton in the European Cup could have been dodged if keeper Wolfgang Kleff hadn’t been distracted by picking up a toilet roll as Howard Kendall sensed a chance to shoot.

In one of the most famous German victories of all time, against Italian champions Inter Milan in 1971, an early Heynckes goal spurred the Foals to a 7-1 win. The Nerazzurri won the seemingly meaningless second leg 4-2.

However, after Inter made a complaint that Roberto Boninsegna was hit by an empty can during the first game, UEFA decreed the game was to be replayed. When it ended 0-0 in Berlin, a shocked Borussia were out.

Mönchengladbach became the first German side to reach the final of the UEFA Cup in 1973, against Liverpool. Heynckes scored both goals in Borussia's 2–0 second-leg win – but true to form, they had lost the first leg 3-0 at a raucous Anfield. (With 12 goals, Heynckes was the competition’s joint top scorer.)

Stunned by Liverpool (Heynckes centre left, Netzer left)

In 1975, though, Borussia won the UEFA Cup. Again Heynckes led the way, scoring a hat-trick as they won 5–1 away to Enschede, helping seal the first German triumph in the competition; again, Heynckes was the competition’s top scorer, this time with 10 goals. Altogether Heynckes scored 23 goals in 21 games in the UEFA Cup.

He also scored in the European Cup Final in Rome in 1977 as his team-mate, the crowd-pleasing Dane Allan Simonsen was chosen as European Football of the Year. Again Liverpool beat the Foals, this time 3-1.

These iconic games led to a considerable amount of affection between the teams and supporters, creating strong bonds between the two cities. After the Hillsborough disaster, Borussia fans raised a considerable amount of money for the charity fund, and even now you can find Borussen wearing Liverpool shirts and scarves in the Nordkurve.

INTO THE DUGOUTHaving retired in 1978 at the age of 33, after playing more than 300 games for Gladbach over two spells, Heynckes moved into management there. He spent eight years in the Borussen dugout, but the glory days for the Foals were over as he earned the epithet “Champion without a title”.

Just as the left-wing radicals who would have been ‘Gladbach’ in German politics were being edged out by the likes of the conservative Bavarian Helmut Kohl, so Bayern Munich had won the upper hand on the pitch.

Heynckes joined Bayern, managing them between 1987 and 1991, winning the Bundesliga in 1989 and 1990. But even then, he was never accorded the respect he deserved; given his physiological tendency to redden during games, he nicknamed ‘Osram’ after a lightbulb company.

Bundesliga winner in 1989

New pretenders such as Christophe Daum derided him by saying, “Heynckes invites bad luck… he always loses at the last minute’, adding “the weather map is more interesting”. The criticism stemmed from Bayern’s change from staid establishment club to FC Hollywood; in 1991, six defeats in the opening 14 games, a shock domestic cup exit and a 6-2 loss to unfancied Copenhagen in the UEFA Cup saw Heynckes fired.

After a two-season spell at Athletic Bilbao, he moved to Eintract Frankfurt in 1994. He told Tony Yeboah to lose 10kgs, thereby precipitating a civil war for a club also embroiled in a finance scandal. The travails ultimately led to him breaking up a talented side, and the fans never forgave him.

Moving back to Spain brought better luck. After qualifying Tenerife for the UEFA Cup he ended up at Real Madrid, where in 1998 he ended the club's 32-year wait for European Cup/Champions League glory. It still wasn't enough for Madrid, and he was sacked again.

These were his lost years. After a year out he tried Benfica, then back to Bilbao, then on to Schalke; he even returned to Mönchengladbach, who by now were struggling badly. Failing to stop the rot they were relegated at the end of 2006/07. Tired and out of tune with the game, he announced his retirement that summer.

OUT OF RETIREMENTIf he had not been asked in 2009 to return some stability to a Bayern Munich team who had failed to respond to Jurgen Klinnsman’s Californication, what would his legacy have been? A much-loved goalscorer for a mythical team embedded in 70s consciousness? A Champions League winner with Real Madrid? A peripatetic wanderer seen as a stern disciplinarian?

Between retiring in 2007 and returning to give much needed stability to a lurching giant in April 2009, his whole outlook changed. Perhaps it was a mellowing with age, perhaps a realisation that egos can be soothed as well as stamped upon.

Older and wiser: Back at Bayern in 2009

And he realised that the cagey style which had seen his Madrid team finish 11 points adrift of champions Barcelona, pre-empting his sacking by that whimsical behemoth despite the long-sought European glory, could be replaced by replicating the glorious attacking football he played as a youth.

Heynckes has always been a dignified man; witness his comments after the devastating defeat by Chelsea at the Allianz Arena in last May's Champions League final. “Some clubs give up, but everyone at Bayern reacted in a very positive way. We made changes, signed good players, modified some things, and strengthened the team spirit”.

What it genuine modesty or old-world understatement for this survivor of 30 years in football? Either way, it was true.

A dashing Munich side has thrilled this season. Consider the numbers: 91 points in the Bundesliga with 98 goals scored and fewest ever conceded at a miserly 18. A stunning 3-1 away at Arsenal, which led many experienced Gunners watchers to state they had seen the best performance from an away team for many years; a barely believable 7-0 aggregate rout of Barcelona in the semis.

The irony is that this honest decent man, freed from the dogma of his more stentorian past, has delivered arguably the most attractive Bayern side ever. He has led them to within two victories of their first league, cup and European Cup treble, and yet, outflanked by the machinations at Munich, he is to be replaced by a coach who has at times delivered perfection at Barcelona.

The silver-haired gent was right. As Bayern Munich beat Borussia Monchengladbach 4-3 away on the last weekend of the Bundesliga, the circle closed.

"My thanks go to the fans for this wonderful farewell,” he told Foals supporters. “It shows me that this is my home. I associate many triumphs, bitter defeats and some curiosities with it. I would like to heartily thank the Borussia fans for their wonderful farewell."

From his joyous play in the early 1970s to transforming a traditionally conventional powerhouse into playing some of the most attacking football seen – sandwiched between two decades of a pragmatic discipline made curious by his antecedents – Josef “Jupp” Heynckes has indeed come full circle.

Layth Yousif is a freelance writer, followable on Twitter @laythy29

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