24.04.2022Bayer 04

#RoadtoGlasgow – ‘They could hardly understand Sir Alex’

In the 2001/02 season, Roland Crump not only looked after the German journalists who accompanied the Werkself on matches in England but also translated press conferences on behalf of Bayer 04 before and after matches. The 63-year-old Englishman lives in Manchester and works as a self-employed translator including for Bayer 04. We spoke to him about the 2-2 draw at Old Trafford, the Manchester United coach Sir Alex Ferguson, and becoming a fan of the Black and Reds.
Roland Crump (r.) with head coach Klaus Toppmöller (centre) plus Bayer 04 press officer Uli Dost at the press conference in Manchester.

Roland, when and how did contact come about with Bayer 04 back then?

Crump: Since 1996, I'd worked as a tour guide with German-speaking tourists in England and then looked after German journalists who visited Britain to report on European games for clubs like Bayern Munich. Bayer 04 approached me in 2001 and asked me if I would like to look after the journalists over here for the Champions League match at Arsenal. I was very happy to do that in association with Petra Braun-Hahn from the Bayer 04 press department.

What exactly did you have to do?

Crump: Well, I waited for Bayer 04 to arrive at the airport and then boarded the coach that took the members of the media to their hotel. En route I talked about the landmarks in London that we passed. Later I interpreted the press conferences for the German journalists from English into German and vice versa.

What was your connection to Germany?

Crump: As a teenager in the 1970s I went on an exchange in Ludwigshafen. After my A-levels I spent a year in Germany working in a rehabilitation centre for people with physical disabilities. I then studied German and Spanish at the University of Birmingham. During that time I also studied at Hamburg for a year when Kevin Keegan was playing for HSV. But my favourite German team from the end of the 80s was FC St Pauli. I later worked in Manchester as a German teacher.

And what did you know about Bayer 04?

Crump: I've been a football fan for getting on 60 years and I've always been interested in the Bundesliga. So, I was obviously aware of Bayer 04 Leverkusen. But I have to admit: I didn't know that much about the club at the end of the 90s.

That changed in 2001/02. London, Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow – it was one after the other. The Werkself played in Britain four times in the 2001/2002 season. What do you remember of those matches?

Crump: As I said, my first job was the match between Bayer 04 and Arsenal. To be honest, I didn't think I'd see Leverkusen again in England that season after the 4-1 defeat at Highbury. How wrong I was! My personal highlight game was the 2-2 draw for Bayer 04 at Old Trafford. There was a great photo in the Guardian in the match report showing Oli Neuville in a sliding tackle with Wes Brown. I ordered one of the photos, had it framed and gave it to Neuville after the second leg in Leverkusen. 


Manchester was a home game for you…

Crump: Yes, it's 20 minutes on foot to Old Trafford. Of course, it was a special match for me. Although, I have to make it clear, I'm a Manchester City fan. I'd already worked on press conferences in games between Bayern Munich and United and therefore new Sir Alex Ferguson. When he saw me in the press conference room the day before the game against Bayer 04, he said: "Hey, Roland, great to see you again!” A couple of German journalists said to me before the press conference that I didn't need to translate as they could all speak English really well. But afterwards they were all happy that I did do it as they could hardly understand Sir Alex. As Ferguson is a Scotsman from Glasgow, his accent had little in common with the English that most Germans learn in school.

What was Ferguson like?

Crump: I always got on very well with him. I got to know him as an open and likeable person. We had a professional relationship with each other. For me he is one of the greatest coaches ever to work in the Premier League.

He seemed to be certain of winning before the first leg against Leverkusen. "I smell the glory," was a quote in the British media at the time. That doesn't sound like a typical British understatement…

Crump: Well, perhaps he did underestimate Bayer 04. Up to that point Bayern were the usual opponents from Germany. Not many people in the country knew much about Leverkusen. And English journalists didn't have much to do with the Bundesliga back then. Expectations were quite clear in Manchester: We'll do it, go through to the final, who else!

The Werkself had just spectacularly knocked Liverpool out of the competition.

Crump: Of course, but United weren't Liverpool or at least that was the confidence of the Red Devils. The relationship between Manchester and Liverpool is perhaps a bit like that between Cologne and Düsseldorf. They can't stand each other.

The trips to England and Scotland for many Bayer 04 fans, VIPs and sponsors were absolute highlight of that Champions League campaign. Did you feel their special attraction to Britain?

Crump: Yes, indeed. I think of a lot of them really looked forward to our special football culture. I always found it interesting to compare fans in Germany and England. For example, in the Bundesliga the grounds are usually very full at least 20 minutes before kick-off. There is a great atmosphere in almost all of the stadiums. That's not always the case in the Premier League. On the other hand, the chants and songs are much more humorous.

What was your experience of the atmosphere at Old Trafford in the Theatre of Dreams?

Crump: In terms of atmosphere: I was in the press box during the game and, of course, I had to restrain my celebration of the Bayer 04 goals. I was happy about the good performance and good result for Leverkusen on the quiet.

Do you remember Ferguson's analysis of the match?

Crump: Not in detail of course. But he always acknowledged it when other teams played good football. That was the case after this 2-2 draw. Obviously he was disappointed when his team was knocked out of the competition by Bayer 04 in the second leg. I remember that the press conference after the 1-1 draw in Leverkusen was transferred to the Haberland Hall because of the incredible interest from the British media and because the press conference room in the stadium was too small. I was on the top table with Ferguson and Toppmöller and remember that Sir Alex praised the opponents and was a good loser.



Did you become a bit of a Bayer 04 Fan during that time?

Crump: Yes, definitely. The team back then had a lot of incredibly good individual players like Lucio, Ballack, Schneider and Bastürk to name just a few. And the main thing was they functioned well as a team. That really impressed me. I got to know people from around the team and also some of the management like Reiner Calmund, who was always the focus of attention of all the journalists after press conferences. And the friendly association with the German journalists was really good. I'm still friends with Manni Breuckmann who was a reporter for WDR back then.

You are still closely involved with Bayer 04 and have translated the club website for many years. Do you now feel a bit like half a Leverkusener?

Crump: Yes, that is the case. This season I was the interpreter for Bayer 04 in the Europa League match against Celtic. Perhaps they'll be a return to the Champions League next season. I've definitely got my fingers crossed! Bayer 04 and Manchester City have never played each other before. If that does happen then perhaps I should go for two draws. In that sense, I am half a Leverkusener.

Click here for all articles on the #RoadtoGlasgow.


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