Ah yes, the glorious years! I remember them well, as if it was just yesterday. Well, at least as well as I can remember yesterday when I wake up with a hangover after downing shots of tequila and bottles of Mexican beer. But the memory of that wonderous season will last forever!
1974-75, a year full of hope for Wuppertaler SV and the fans. Of course, the legend really began in 1971-72, when WSV crushed the opposition in the Regionalliga West, coasting to a record finish in the old 2nd division. That season our star forward Günter Pröpper scored 52 goals in only 34 league matches, arguably a greater feat than the famed Dixie Dean's 60 with Everton back in Jolly Ol' England in 1927. (BTW, the same year Ruth bopped his legendary 60; must have been a good year for that number.) And then WSV swept through the promotion playoffs, mercilessly destroying the feeble attempts of other hopefuls to offer resistance to WSV's overwhelming superiority. The Lions won every match, a feat never achieved previously nor afterwards...
The first Bundesliga season, 1972-73, was quite a relevation for the top division clubs. Although Bayern München was at the height of it's powers, with the famed Franz Beckenbauer, Paul Breitner, Sepp Maier and Gerd Müller, and was basically untouchable at the top, the many other strong clubs were in for a surprise. WSV put up an enormous effort, and sensationally finished 4th, qualifying for the UEFA Cup. The next season was not quite as successful, but for the 3rd year, 1974-75, with a new coach and some additions, we were ready to make a run at it.
The main question of course had to be: who can stop Bayern? The machine had already won 3 titles in a row, and were fully expected to run the table again. In the first Bundesliga season, WSV had given the Bayern all they could handle, but last year Bayern notched up both wins, as WSV could generate no offense.
WSV brought in some new players to help out. Youngster Franz Gerber came from St.Pauli, to help out legendary Pröpper up front. Also coming were two Hungarian internationals, defender Tamas Krivitz and forward Antal Nagy, along with Janos Bedl to replace the geriatric Horst Buhtz as coach. Of course, the nucleus of the successful squad was still there, of course Pröpper, captain Manni Reichert, Gustl Jung, Kohle, Lömm, Kremer, Stöckl etc. - the base of the squad that had played together so successfully for many years. Also an addition from the previous season, ex-German international Willi Neuberger helped out to strengthen the defense.
So on August 24, it was ready to go. Almost 16,000 fans streamed into the Zoo to see WSV take on MSV Duisburg. We were all standing and cheering, but things did not start out the way we planned on this beautiful day. In fact, that Zebra scumbag Herbert Büssers took advantage of a momentary breakdown in our usually solid defense and snuck in a goal after only 13 minutes. God damn! Bayern is probably already crushing those assholes in Offenbach. (Damn Offenbach cheaters, they should have been kicked out along with those scum in Bielefeld for the Bundesliga-Skandal!) WSV regrouped and viciously attacked those crap Zebras. Finally, after about 35 minutes, veteran Willi Neuberger had moved up front and scored in a scramble after a corner kick. Even! Yeah, we're rolling now! But that was it. Those perennial bottom feeders from Duisburg had managed to hold WSV scoreless for the rest of the match. But there was some consolation over the loud speaker at the end: stunning news from Offenbach: Bayern had gone down in flames! So no losing ground on day 1...
In the next few matches, our defense was solid on the road, at enemies Essen and Düsseldorf. At home, We managed to score a lone goal to see us through in a tough match with traditional enemy Bochum (some of our fondest memories of the 2.division include kicking Bochum's ass in key matches, and pelting their obnoxious flag-waving fans with crap. Not on my watch, buddy!!)
OK this HAD to be it. Face to face with the evil empire from Bavaria. The 3-in-a-row German champion Bayern München comes to town. They were in form too, having won all their matches since the opening loss, even putting 6 past Köln, a strong club that would end up qualifying for UEFA again. Meanwhile, WSV's defense had been solid in the last three games, but we couldn't afford to lose any ground to the Lederhosen.
A large crowd of 23,000 filled the Zoo in a tense match. Why did we have to play in white? That sucks, just because the champs can play in their red? What about our red-blue? Favoritism if you ask me. The match began tense, but soon we were pushing back those crappy Müncheners. Then it happened: 18th minute, "Meister" Pröpper rises high above that bum Schwarzenbeck and lifts a header over that Weisswurst-eater Seppl Maier. 1-0 for WSV!!! The stadium is rocking! What thinks you about that, Herr Beckencrapper?! Meanwhile, Willi Neuberger was having a fierce battle with the Bomber der Nation, Gerd Müler, who had scored over 100 goals in the last three seasons. A raucous first half ended with WSV holding that slim lead. In the 2nd, things got off with a bang, as youngster Franz Gerber slipped through to blast another past der Seppl, 2-0 after 50 minutes! We could not be stopped now, and Georg Jung (no, not Gustl's brother) put in the coup-de-grace only 10 minutes later. The only thing the oompah-musiker could answer with was a lucky shot by Uli Hoeness, now known as the obnoxious Bayern General Manager or something. Who cares? WSV wins brilliantly 3-1 over Bayern, and we're back in the hunt!
The next few matches were tough, as we had a couple of smash-and-grab goals away in Offenbach and Stuttgart, and sandwiched in a great defensive battle against powerful Hertha BSC, shutting them out. Bayern meanwhile lost in Braunschweig, so we inched ever closer. Still, we were on a run of seven straight, but Bayern was keeping pace. Finally, it was getting critical. A couple of days before Xmas, a very cold, miserable day in the Zoo. And the guest was that crap Berlin squad, Tennis Borussia. Hey, we don't play pansy sports here! TeBe was basically 2nd to last. We just HAD to crush them! But only about 7,000 braved the crap circumstances, and we suffered throughout. Why weren't we banging them in? TeBe was obviously watching Serie Ha-ha highlights from Italy, learning catenaccio. We couldn't score. Finally, with only 15 minutes left, Franz Gerber came on for Herbert Stöckl. A third outright forward to go with Pröpper and Gustl Jung. And it worked sensationally. Gerber couldn't even have been warm, and he scored, putting us up! Then a few minutes later, a sigh of relief, as Gerber scored a 2nd to give us the 2-0 victory. We muttered about our poor performance, but at least we got a decent Xmas to look forward to. And we had somewhat mixed emotions as we heard on the loudspeaker that Bayern had won again. It didn't hurt as much, since they kicked the ass of hated rival Fortuna Düsseldorf 4-0...
Well, the return round was beginning with the snow still all around. Travel up to Duisburg to those damn Zebras that had given us so much trouble in the opener. Yeah, even in Meiderich they don't like their club, as only 8,000 bothered to show up against the mighty WSV. Hell, we can take this town! And yet those crap Zebras do it again. This time only 3 minutes in and Lehmann scores. We're down 0-1. But this affront is immediately answered by Gerber (again! Maybe they should name some baby food or something after him?). Less than 60 seconds later it's 1-1. Take that! Now WSV is coming out and playing with full confidence. On the half-hour mark, Jürgen Galbierz scores a rare goal and puts us in the lead. We'll never trail these suckers again! And as we cheered our great performance, we heard another shocker: Bayern had lost, at home, once again to Offenbach. We're creeping up!
Again the next few weeks in prep for the trip to München saw some decent play. Another defensive struggle with Essen, and then the offense got in gear, putting in a couple of goals each against Bochum and Düsseldorf. And the combo was newcomer Lothar Dupke and that man Gerber again. Then the match in the Olympia stadion. We were under pressure, but resisted fiercely. Dupke made it three against Bayern, but that only could blot out Gerd Müller's strike. Well you can't stop der Bomber for ever. Unfortunately, that game I missed due to some inconsiderate relative dying or something.
Our next match was against those fiercesome Offenbacher Kickers, twice conquerers of Bayern. The WSV defense was superb, keeping the clean slate. Those bribing bums were KO...
Nevertheless, the pattern was repeated. We could just not gain ground on Bayern, even a 3 game mini shutout streak against Köln, Hamburg and Schalke, couldn't gain us ground. After a smash and run away goal by Kremer late at Braunschweig (hey, Jägermeister sucks!), we also put in braces against Bremen, Gladbach and Frankfurt. And of course, we wrapped it up by easily shutting out those worthless damn tennis players in Berlin.
So it all came down to the final match. WSV would host tough Kaiserslautern, and Bayern was at home to Hamburg. The cards didn't seem to be in our favor, but nevertheless, thousands of Wuppertalers streamed into the Zoo-Stadion to see the fight. And once again, it was my hero, Franz Gerber, who opened the scoring after only 10 minutes. But FCK was giving us trouble, and their superb Swedish international Ronnie Hellström was one of the best keepers in the league. But at halftime, a great roar went up from the crowd. Bayern was trailing 0-1 to Hamburg! This gave WSV a 2nd set of lungs, and we threw caution into the wind. Fired on by the massive crowd, the Lions attacked in waves. After about an hour, once again it was Lothar Dupke that put in our second. Then finally, it was complete: with only a few minutes left, everybody's favorite in the 'Tal, veteran Günter Pröpper, scored the team's last goal of the season, his 39th. WSV had done it! And when the loudspeaker announced that Hamburg had indeed held on against the fierce Bayern attacks, we left the stadium in exhaustion, stunned but happy as we knew we had witnessed an truly extraordinarty campaign.
OK, I lied. Well, not really. If you get technical, everything I wrote in this article is TRUE. The only slight criticism that you could level is that I neglected to point out some minor details which led to the following: WSV FINISHED DEAD LAST! Yep, look at the table:
Bundesliga 1974-75 1. Borussia Mönchengladbach 34 21 8 5 86:40 +46 50-18 --------------------------------------------------------------------- 2. Hertha BSC Berlin 34 19 6 9 61:43 +18 44-24 3. Eintracht Frankfurt (P) 34 18 7 9 89:49 +40 43-25 4. Hamburger SV 34 18 7 9 55:38 +17 43-25 5. 1. FC Köln 34 17 7 10 77:51 +26 41-27 --------------------------------------------------------------------- 6. Fortuna Düsseldorf 34 16 9 9 66:55 +11 41-27 7. FC Schalke 04 34 16 7 11 52:37 +15 39-29 8. Kickers Offenbach 34 17 4 13 72:62 +10 38-30 9. Eintracht Braunschweig (N) 34 14 8 12 52:42 +10 36-32 10. FC Bayern München (M) 34 14 6 14 57:63 -6 34-34 11. VfL Bochum 34 14 5 15 53:53 0 33-35 12. SC Rot-Weiß Essen 34 10 12 12 56:68 -12 32-36 13. 1. FC Kaiserslautern 34 13 5 16 56:55 +1 31-37 14. MSV Duisburg 34 12 6 16 59:77 -18 30-38 15. SV Werder Bremen 34 9 7 18 45:69 -24 25-43 16. VfB Stuttgart 34 8 8 18 50:79 -29 24-44 --------------------------------------------------------------------- 17. Tennis Borussia Berlin (N) 34 5 6 23 38:89 -51 16-52 18. WUPPERTALER SV 34 2 8 24 32:86 -54 12-56This was truly one of the suckiest performances in Bundesliga history.
But once again, soccer reporting is viewed through the prism of rose-tinted glasses...
He that shall live this day, and see old age, Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbors And say "Tomorrow is Bundesliga Saturday" Then he will strip his sleeve and show his scars, And say "These wounds he I had on Bundesliga match day" Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot, But he'll remember, with advantages, What feats he did that day. Then shall our names, familiar in his mouth as household words - Pröpper the King, Jung and Gerber, Reichert and Galbierz, Nagy and Bedl - Be in their flowing cups freshly remem'bred. This story shall the good man teach his son; And Bundesliga seasons shall ne'er go by, From this day to the ending of the world, But we in it shall be remember'red - We few, we happy few, we band of brothers...(Based on pre-match speech from Billy Shakespeare, England manager, prior to international with France)