For years the training grounds and stadiums were not his only stomping grounds but also the A3 autobahn. "I went up and down it every day," explains Dieter Herzog. The reason for his commuting: Leaving his hometown and birthplace of Oberhausen was never an option for Herzog. Neither was his transfer from Fortuna Düsseldorf to the Werkself in 1976. The connection to his family, friends and acquaintances were simply too strong.
Herzog almost never travelled alone to training over all the years. Goalkeeper Fred Bockholt, his Leverkusen teammate back then, used to pick him up in Oberhausen on his way from Bottrop to Leverkusen. "We had an incredible amount of fun on those journeys," recalls Herzog with a smile on his face.
Dieter Herzog took his first steps in football in Sterkrade and he finally made the breakthrough at Fortuna Düsseldorf at the start of the 1970s after playing at Bottrop – alongside Bockholt – and Hamborn. From the 1971/72 season, he played every Bundesliga match for three seasons in succession. The man from Oberhausen became an established top-flight player in the North Rhine-Westphalia state capital. His qualities caught the attention of the Germany coach Helmut Schön.
Herzog, who was already 27 years old, made his full international debut in the spring of 1974. After two friendlies, the striker was in the squad for the 1974 World Cup in Germany. The rest of the story is well known: Germany won the World Cup and Herzog picked up his first and only title.
Two years after his great triumph, the now 75-year-old surprised German football two years later with his move to the second division club Bayer 04. The stalwart quickly became the boss and captain of the team and in his third year in Leverkusen he led the Black and Reds into the Bundesliga in 1979. Bayer 04 have remained there ever since – also thanks to Herzog.
When he ended his playing career in 1983 at the age of 37, he had made 83 Bundesliga appearances for the Werkself. The winger scored six goals. In the second division, Herzog played 110 games and scored 23 goals. Certainly his most important goal came in 1982 in the 1-0 victory in the first leg of the Bundesliga relegation play-off at Kickers Offenbach (second leg: 2-1).
At home in his four walls in Oberhausen, the beloved round leather ball was not the most popular subject for discussion in his early years. "The subject of football is taboo at home," revealed Dieter Herzog ahead of the 1974 World Cup. That will definitely have changed with the titles, goals and success for the World Cup winner and Leverkusen promotion hero in the following years…
You can learn more about Dieter Herzog in the second edition of the Werkself podcast.
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