The opening years of the 1970s proved to be difficult as our Bayer could not get going. Coach Theo Kirchberg was dismissed at the end of the 1971/72 campaign and the start under new coach Gero Bisanz misfired. Team goes on a run with no points out of a possible twelve - fear of relegation grows. 13 May 1973 proves to be a day of mourning. In front of 400 spectators the Bayer team beats Alemannia Aachen 4-1 but relegation to the amateur camp is no longer to be avoided. One banner read, "Now we take leave of Bayer 04."
Bayer 04 fans after relegation from the Regional League in 1971/72.
Relegation is always annoying but this time doubly so as there will be no team promoted from the then District League to the Regional League. The DFB is turning the five regional leagues under the top Bundesliga division into two Bundesliga second divisions, north and south, which means Bayer disappear into the amateur league for at least two years.
The 1973/74 season brings a surprising new signing: Gerhardt Kentschke joins us from Bundesliga club MSV Duisburg. He will make the difference in the next two years in the District League.
Gerd Kentschke on 16 March 1975 in a home game against Frechen 20.
Unfortunately, the team cannot secure the Middle Rhine championship in the first year but they do take part in the final rounds for the German Amateur Championship. SC Flensburg are knocked out in the first round but the second round is the end of the road for our team: Viktoria Hamburg are just too strong.
In the 1974/75 season, the last in the amateur camp, a striker joins us from Frechen 20 and his goals will play a big part in two promotions for Bayer 04 Leverkusen: Matthias Brücken.
Matthias Brücken on 6 October 1974 in a home game against DJK Westwacht Aachen.
Both in his first season with promotion to the Bundesliga second division as well as a few years later with promotion to the top Bundesliga he is top goalscorer in the league on both occasions. Goals from Matthias Brücken, assists from Gerd Kentschke who remained at the club for many years as assistant and reserve team coach, and the solid defence built around the circumspect libero and penalty taker Willi Rehbach secure another championship and the chance to qualify for the promotion games for the second division Bundesliga North. We play Arminia Hannover and Union Solingen in the play-off rounds. After the third game and a 3-2 win against the team from Lower Saxony in front of 10,000 fans promotion is celebrated throughout the city. Bayer are back in professional football.
Promoted to the second Bundesliga North in 1975 straight after the game.
Bayer 04 signed twelve new players in the first season in the second division in 1975/76 and some of them were well known and important for the coming seasons such as Fred Bockholt, Walter Posner, Rainer Klimke, Norbert Ziegler and Hans-Jürgen Scheinert. However, the newly promoted club found it hard going. Bayer are fighting against relegation from the start. After a 1-0 defeat away to bottom of the table Spandauer SV from Berlin the gap to a relegation spot is just three points. Then comes a change of coaches: In place of the luckless promotion coach Manfred Rummel, the club signed Radoslaw Momirski for a few weeks. Bayer never slipped down into the relegation zone but cannot completely break away from it.
Willibert Kremer takes over as coach on 5 April 1976 and achieves a change in fortune. Over the course of the following season's he brings consistency to the team and several new players also make a contribution. Players like Jürgen Gelsdorf, Dieter Herzog and Peter Hermann arrive in 1976, Matthias Brücken (returns), Klaus Bruckmann, Thomas Hörster and Harry Gniech extend the squad a year later. A team is slowly formed that will achieve the big step up into Germany's top flight. But first comes a slight dip. In 1977/78 all is not going well. In the second half of the season the team drops towards the relegation zone but Bayer are able to turn things round. After five games one team ends the season in a decent eighth place and builds confidence for the new season. With just three new signings – Peter Szech from Neuss, Klaus Schulze from Preußen Berlin and Willi Korth from Schwarz-Weiß Essen – Bayer 04 take off. Bayer our top from matchday two of the 1978/79 season and they are only defeated for the first time on matchday 21.
12 May 1979. The team takes the final step to the top Bundesliga division. Standing from left to right: Matthias Brücken, Klaus Schulze, Peter Klimke, Harry Gniech, Peter Szech, Hans-Jürgen Scheinert, Jürgen Gelsdorf, Klaus Bruckmann, Thomas Hörster, Fred Bockholt, Dieter Herzog
On 12 May 1979 it comes to big clash against rivals and second-placed Bayer 05 Uerdingen. The Kremer team needs one point to go straight up but, after 62 minutes, all appears hopeless with the side losing 3-0. An exciting chase begins in front of 15,000 spectators and it is finally rewarded on 85 minutes.
85th minute at the Ulrich Haberland Stadium. The equaliser scored by Matthias Brücken.
After Matthias Brücken levels at 3-3 the roof comes off the Ulrich Haberland Stadium. The modest Leverkusen arena turns into a madhouse and, at the final whistle, the fans cannot be held back and they stream onto the pitch.
Lap of honour
Promotion to the top Bundesliga division is achieved – now is the start of the apprenticeship in the hard world of Germany's top flight.