Der opposition

Just to be different, Robin Wilkes looks at our opponents on That Day.

Today sees the deserved celebration of a team of special footballers whose names should roll off the tongue of any Villa supporter worth their salt. Our European Cup winners celebrate the fortieth anniversary of their wonderful triumph in Rotterdam. Their opponents, the players who represented the then three-time European Cup winners, Bayern Munich, on that night may need more introduction to us (Bayern’s three victories were all the more impressive in that they were consecutive, from 1974 to 1976, including the defeat of Leeds United in 1975).

Of Bayern’s side, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge would be the most well known. The blonde striker was enjoying the best spell of his stellar career, going into the final that season having won the Ballon d’Or award for European Footballer of the Year in both 1980 and 1981, as well as the European Championship with West Germany in the summer of 1980. He went on to finish his career with 45 goals from 95 international caps. He finished as a runner-up in the 1982 World Cup, as he did again in 1986, so not a great year for him in the biggest games. Rummenigge was the lingering menace we all expected him to be on that night in Rotterdam, most notably forcing Nigel Spink, to push out a fierce drive down to his left and seeing an overhead kick go narrowly past his left hand post.

That the German newspaper, Bild, often referred to the club at the time as ‘FC Breitnigge’ tells you their other most well-known player. Captain, Paul Breitner had won a European Championship (1972) and a World Cup (1974) with West Germany (for whom he won 48 caps and scored ten goals) and was a European Cup winner with Bayern in 1974, before he went to play for Real Madrid for three years. His return to Bayern led to a period of success both individually (he was second to Rummenigge in the 1981 Ballon d’Or) and for the team, though not on that night in De Kuip, although the chemistry and ability between him and Rummenigge was clear throughout the entire 90 minutes. His battle with our midfield Holy Trinity of Dennis Mortimer, the superlative Gordon Cowans and Des Bremner, seemingly underrated to everyone outside Villa Park, proved to be one of the defining contests of the game.

Bayern’s equivalent of big Ken McNaught in both stature and shirt number was Klaus Augenthaler, who went on to represent his country 27 times, being part of the World Cup winning side of 1990, having been part of the squad which finished as runners up in 1986. Surprisingly, he was still uncapped at full international level at the time of the final against Villa. Augenthaler was an imperious centre-half, who regularly strode forward with the ball into the forward areas and the final was no exception. On the hour mark he had just such a run, shooting across the face of Spink’s goal, when he was left clear through after an unfortunate slip by Allan Evans. A few minutes later he was on the end of a right wing cross to beat Spinksy with a header, only for Kenny Swain to thankfully head off the line. The big German doubtlessly had his hands full defensively that night too, due to our own dynamic striking duo of Peter Withe and Gary Shaw.

Alongside Augenthaler in Bayern’s defence, at right back (though he was better known as a defensive midfielder) was Wolfgang Dremmler, who also won 27 caps for West Germany, from 1981 to 1984, a spell which included a place in their 1982 World Cup runners up squad. It was Dremmler who Shaw so neatly sidestepped and left on the ground in the build-up to our decisive goal. A goal which even now, when watching a repeat of the game, was scored at exactly the right time, when the Bavarians were well on top and creating chance after chance. Truth is they never recovered from that goal and Villa’s old heads had enough know-how to see the game out.

Given their domestic dominance, surprisingly the only other senior international in the Bayern team to face Villa was Rummenigge’s strike partner, Dieter Hoeness. Despite netting nearly a goal every other game throughout his career, mainly for Bayern but with earlier spells at VfB Stuttgart and VfR Aalen, the big striker only ever won six caps for West Germany, though these did include a couple of appearances at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. Trailing 2-0 in the final to Argentina, Hoeness was introduced as a substitute, playing a part in their comeback, before a late winner for the South Americans. McNaught and Evans did fantastically well to keep the powerful striker largely quiet in Rotterdam, although they, like the rest of us, would have had hearts in mouths when he had the ball in the net late on, with a strike that was rightly ruled offside.

So, not unlike Villa, Bayern didn’t have as many internationals as you’d probably have expected, though the side was still made up of world-class, experienced and exceptional footballers. They were serial winners already decorated with league titles and European Cups. Going into the final, though, with five, Villa had more full internationals than our opponents but all of ours had won just single digits in numbers of caps. On the back of our 1981 League Championship win, Withe and Tony Morley were being occasionally selected for England and Evans for Scotland. Our two other full internationals at the time of the final, Jimmy Rimmer and Bremner, had both won just a single cap, some six years before in both cases, for England and Scotland, respectively. After the final, Spink was to go on to join Rimmer in gaining just a single cap in goal for England, whilst Cowans went on to play ten times for the Three Lions.

One of the more iconic and enduring images of the final is Nigel Spink diving low to his right to claw out a Bernd Durnberger strike which seemed certain to give Munich the lead, after he had dribbled in off the left hand flank. Spink made a similar save in the second half. Defensive midfielder Durnberger had featured in Bayern’s three consecutive European Cup wins in the mid Seventies and with five Bundesliga titles to his name too, is one of the most decorated players never to gain international recognition.

Making up Bayern’s midfield, alongside Breitner and Durnberger, were two less well known names: Reinhold Mathy and Wolfgang Kraus. They were both substituted on the night, Mathy for Gunter Guttler on 51 minutes and Kraus for Kurt Niedermayer (who won a single West Germany cap) on 78 minutes, the pair perhaps having more than met their match in Mortimer, Cowans, Bremner and of course, Morley. It was Niedermayer and Guttler who combined to set up the late chance for Hoeness that proved to be offside. Perhaps Kraus’ most notable contribution to the game was drawing the foul from Gary Williams which saw our left back pick up the only booking of the game, towards the end of the first half.

Interestingly, whilst Villa had the full five substitutes allowed by UEFA on the bench (though of course we only used one, and that through necessity) Bayern seemingly only listed three substitutes, the two midfielders mentioned above and goalkeeper, Walter Junghans, who had succeeded the legendary Sepp Maier as Bayern’s number oner. Junghans was another who didn’t feature in a full international for West Germany, though he did go to the 1980 European Championship as third choice goalkeeper and so was at least a part of their winning squad in Italy. Like Jimmy Rimmer, Junghans should perhaps have played more of a part in the final but he had been replaced between the sticks by a man originally brought in to be his back-up, Manfred Muller. Muller only played 48 times for Bayern over five seasons and in a senior career which spanned twenty years made less than 150 appearances, the majority of them for FC Nurnberg. If Junghans replaced a legend in Maier, both he and Muller were eventually replaced by another goalkeeping legend themselves, when Belgian Jean-Marie Pfaff joined Bayern in the summer after they had lost to Villa.

How strange that Bayern didn’t have any attacking options on the bench to help chase the game once Withey had scored? The match programme listed another seven squad players in addition to the eleven starters and three on the bench. In contrast, Villa had all eventualities covered with their five substitutes: Colin Gibson, who under normal circumstances would have been disappointed not to have played, having tussled with Gary Williams for the left back role, but he’d been out injured for four months and was just returning; Pat Heard, who provided cover in both defence and midfield; midfielder Andy Blair (our sole signing in the summer after winning the League Championship in 1981); David Geddis as a forward and of course, Spink – it was a good job we had all eventualities covered. Tony Barton only chose to make that one enforced change though, completely trusting those ten men who wore white shirts with the thin claret pinstripe so proudly that night.

The final two players to make up Bayern’s side were uncapped defenders: Hans Weiner and Udo Horsmann. Centre-back Weiner spent most of his career at Hertha Berlin but enjoyed a short sabbatical at Bayern, where he won two Bundesligas. It was poor Weiner who found himself squared up to Tony Morley in Bayern’s box on 67 minutes, before our number eleven, as Brian Moore so eloquently put it, “turned him one way and turned him another” before putting over the cross for THAT goal. Left back Horsmann had won a European Cup in 1976 in Glasgow but failed to double his tally of winners medals in Rotterdam.

Tony Barton’s managerial adversary was Hungarian Pal Csernai, who had been a bit of a nomad as a player, in a relatively undistinguished club career, though he did play for his country. He took the same wandering approach in management: our old European opponents Royal Antwerp, PAOK, Benfica, Borussia Dortmund, Fenerbache and Eintracht Frankfurt, plus others (including, notably, North Korea). He spent longer at Bayern than anywhere else, where he was in the middle of his five year reign when the final against Villa came round. Csernai transitioned Bayern from a side in decline to one which was again competing at Europe’s highest level. It was, of course, Villa’s first time doing that.

Csernai introduced a system combining zonal defence and man-marking, which even became know as the Pal system. Barton has no systems attributed to him, although as the years go on, he seems to be increasingly recognised, alongside Ron Saunders of course, for the part he played in delivering Villa’s finest ever moment. Being in charge for Bayern’s first ever defeat in a major final, at their thirteenth attempt, meant Pal didn’t remain in place as manager for too much longer. Sadly for Aston Villa, Tony Barton didn’t either.