At the start of the 1960s a team was formed in Leverkusen from home-grown youngsters and young, hungry players brought in from other clubs. Home-grown players Werner Röhrig, Heinz Höher and Günter Haarmann were joined by Uwe Klimaschefski, Manfred Manglitz, Werner Torner, Werner Görts and Hans-Otto Peters. This group excited Leverkusen fans again and promotion to the Oberliga West was achieved in 1961/62.
The champions of Oberliga West division two and thereby promoted to Germany's top tier. Back row from left to right: Hans-Otto Peters, Dr. Klaus Heydenreich; middle row left to right: Werner Görts, Klaus Niemuth, Werner Röhrig, Gerd Kubaschek, Helmuth Weber, Uwe Klimaschefski, Egon Rosinski, Günther Haarmann; front row left to right: Hans Zimmermann, Karl Rafet, Heinz Godyla, Ernst Dykstra, Manfred Manglitz, Werner Torner, Horst Wehrle, Heinz Höher, Günther Pospiech
After six years in the second division promotion unfortunately comes too late to have a real chance of getting into the newly created Bundesliga in 1963. In the 1962/63 Oberliga season the aim for the Bayer team is to avoid finishing bottom or next to bottom in order to achieve the minimum target of reaching the newly formed Regional League West, the tier below the Bundesliga top division.
Let's take a closer look at this team that had so much quality: Six future Bundesliga players (Manfred Manglitz, Heinz Höher, Werner Görts, Uwe Klimaschefski, Werner Biskup, Hans-Otto Peters), a future international (Manfred Manglitz), a U23 international and future top scorer for Switzerland (Hans-Otto Peters), a Germany amateur international (Heinz Höher), a Germany squad player (Werner Görts, although he earned no caps), three future Bundesliga coaches (Uwe Klimaschefski, Werner Biskup, Heinz Höher, who all took their teams into the Bundesliga in 1985 by coincidence) and players like Werner Röhrig, Günter Haarmann, Werner Torner, Horst Wehrle, Klaus Niemuth and Dr. Klaus Heydenreich wear the Bayer 04 shirt for many years. Unfortunately this team split up after the 1962/63 season in the Oberliga. There are lean years ahead for Bayer fans.
Bayer 04 Leverkusen 1962/63 from left to right: Werner Röhrig, Manfred Manglitz, Werner Torner, Heinz Höher, Hans-Otto Peters, Werner Görts, Horst Wehrle, Uwe Klimaschefski, Werner Biskup, Dr. Klaus Heydenreich, Klaus Niemuth
In 1965 our team is third from bottom in the Regional League West and actually confirmed as one of the three demoted clubs unless Regional League West champions Borussia Mönchengladbach achieve promotion to the Bundesliga. Borussia do is that favour so we retain second division status. The season does result in a change of coaches: The former player Theo Kirchberg is at the helm for the next seven years longer than the coach before and the one after him. Initially matters do not significantly improve under coach Kirchberg. 14th in 1966, 10th in 1967.
Then it's all change at Bayer. There are lots of departures but few new signings. Goalkeeper Hans Benzler, Klaus Görtz, Peter Rübenach, Willi Haag, Karl-Heinz Brücken and Friedhelm Strzelczyk join the club. Bayer 04 start the 1967/68 season with just 13 outfield players and two goalkeepers but they do surprise everybody. The team are top of the table early on in the season. The local press believes Bayer have to thank favourable fixtures for that position in the table. Everybody sees an improvement on the pitch but nobody really believes in winning the Regional League West. On 12 May 1968 our team faces Schwarz-Weiß Essen on the last day of the season needing one point to seal the Regional League West championship. In pouring rain and supported by thousands of Leverkusen fans, who rediscovered their Bayer in that season, the match ends all square at 3-3. At the end of the game players and fans of each other. Now it's time for the promotion games. Back then the best first place teams of the five regional leagues are divided into two groups and the winners of groups one and two are promoted. Bayer face Tennis Borussia Berlin, Kickers Offenbach, Arminia Hannover and TuS Neuendorf. After eight difficult games the Bayer eleven finish second in the group behind kickers Offenbach and just missed promotion to the Bundesliga. Quite a few people in Leverkusen are relieved as the Bundesliga adventure still appears to be too much of a challenge.
Regional League West – Champions 1967/68. Standing left to right: Leo Wilden, Masseur Hans Bochniak, Klaus Görtz, Helmut Richert, Helmut Röhrig, Karl-Heinz Zickel, Wilfried Seifert, Peter Rübenach, Karl-Heinz Brücken, coach Theo Kirchberg; Kneeling left to right: Günther Haarmann, Friedhelm Strzelczyk, Matthias Brücken, Hans Benzler, Friedhelm Renno, Wilhelm Haag, Fredy Hennecken
Another highlight of the season is the DFB Cup first round tie against FC Nürnberg, league leaders in the top flight. The game against the team top at Christmas is played on 27 January 1968. After tough struggle Bayer 04 lose 2-0 but for the first time have the feeling of being able to compete with the big clubs in German football.
The decade ends – contrary to hopes – with a disappointing eighth place. Everything is supposed to get better in the 70s. And that's what will happen in the end but the path to that point is very stony and arduous.