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1.08.2022Bayer 04

From the archives: The sensational season of 1967/68

When the contracted players at Bayer 04 Leverkusen begin training for the new season on 18 July 1967, nobody expects that the club would be knocking on the door of the Bundesliga for the first time at the end of the league campaign. The first four years in the then second-tier Regional League West were rather mixed with a two digit finish in each of the season. I will guide you through the next months of this surprising season for Leverkusen back then.
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Only nine of 17 professional players remain at the end of the 1966/67 season. Reserve keeper Dieter Friedmann (Fortuna Köln), Karl-Heinz Ripkens (Viktoria Köln), Dieter Fern (Kickers Offenbach), Heinz Reinhard (Tasmania Berlin), Horst Wehrle (VfB Langenfeld), Klaus Heydenreich (he stops playing as he is studying medicine but does play for Bayer 04 again after his studies), Peter Weber (Bergisch Gladbach 09) and Jörg Goldmann (FV Ebingen) turn their backs on the club causing Bayer 04 fans a lot of concern about the future.

However, the football boss Dr. Ernst Werner Blume is able to make seven new signings over the course of the next few weeks to join the nine remaining players (goalkeeper Friedhelm Renno, Helmut Brücken, Günter Haarmann, Leo Wilden, Fredi Hennecken, Karl Heinz Zickel, Helmut Röhrig, Helmut ‚Bello‘ Richert and amateur player Manfred Schumacher). In addition to the experienced keeper Hans Benzler from VfR Mannheim, who somewhat surprisingly took over from the regular shot-stopper Friedhelm Renno, Willi Haag (22, Eintracht Trier), Wilfried Seifert (19, SC Euskirchen), Peter Rübenach (19, Bonner SC), Friedhelm Strzelczyk (19, Karlsruher SC), Karl-Heinz Brücken (19, Fortuna Düsseldorf) and Klaus Görtz (27, TSV Marl-Hüls) move under the Bayer Cross.

Coach Theo Kirchberg has a great touch to turn this squad into a unit with the aim of a finish in the top third the end of the season as desired by the board at Bayer 04. In addition, it is hoped attractive football will increase attendances at the Ulrich Haberland Stadium. The mix of the team of keen youngsters and serenity on the pitch is promising in that respect. And the fixtures for the new season, beginning with two home games, promise a good start even though the two teams from Cologne Viktoria and Fortuna visiting the Ulrich Haberland Stadium are two opponents to be taken seriously.

 

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The team kicks off the campaign on 5 August 1967 with a tie in the Western German Cup. SV Weiden stand no chance and the match ends in a 6-0 victory. The Regional League season starts a week later. The predictions from the local press are rather negative. Internally there are questions about the coach given the performances in the first friendlies and the cup match although football boss Dr Blume keeps faith with Theo Kirchberg.

It is Sunday, 13 August 1967 at three o'clock in the afternoon. The first match of the new 1967/68 season against Victoria Köln with 10,000 spectators at the Ulrich Haberland Stadium. Bayer 04 cause a surprise as the hosts pin Viktoria back in their own half and create chance after chance. The home side takes the lead on 28 minutes with Friedhelm Strzelczyk scoring from a corner but Viktoria equalise one minute later with a free kick from 25 yards out from centre forward Hansi Sturm with the keeper Hans 'Opa' Benzler looking at fault. Viktoria have more possession in the second half and the Bayer 04 keeper is able to make amends for his mistake with the goal conceded. The much celebrated winner from Gunter Haarmann is scored on 87 minutes. A successful start to the season.

A convincing 2-0 home win against Fortuna Köln follows a week later with goals from defender Willi Haag (with a long-range effort from 30 yards) and striker Karl-Heinz Brücken. Bayer 04 remain unbeaten in the third game of the season with a 1-1 draw away to Preußen Münster (goalscorer Klaus Görtz) and they are top of the table level with Rot-Weiß Oberhausen with five points and five goals scored and two conceded. One unique moment in this game. With 67 minutes on the clock, Peter Rübenach comes on for Fredi Hennecken to become the first substitute in a competitive match in the history of Bayer 04.

The last match in August is on the 30th. Leverkusen are in Jülich in the cup and they secure a 3-2 win in extra time in a tough encounter.

 

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