Happy Birth­day, Matthias Brücken

The pro­mo­tion striker turns 70


Matthias, like many other promotion heroes you are also a regular spectator at the BayArena. How excited are you ahead of the new season?

Brücken: I'm still a passionate Bayer 04 fan. General enthusiasm for football has diminished over the course of recent years. But when I'm sitting next to my friends at the BayArena it quickly grabs me again. In terms of the current squad, experienced players like Granit Xhaka and Jonas Hofmann will be very good for the team. Xabi Alonso as the coach is doing a great job, he has all the necessary expertise and, of course, radiates great authority as a former world class player. I think he’s the right man at the right time in the right place. We'll have to wait and see what happens in terms of the squad but one or two players will probably leave the club. I'm very optimistic overall. We should be able to compete for a Champions League finish.

This time you will miss the start of the Bundesliga because you have something more important to do.

Brücken: Yes, I had an artificial knee operation a few days ago and therefore I'll have to spend my 70th birthday in hospital. It just couldn't be delayed. The operation went well. At the start of the season I will still be in rehab in Bad Ems.

Talking about the start of the season: Almost exactly 45 years ago on 29 July 1978 with the start of a spectacular season where you and your teammates made history.

Brücken: It's a long, long time ago (he laughs). Our 3-1 win in the South Stadium at Fortuna Köln was a sensation as the Cologne team were actually the big favourites to go up.

You were on the bench at the start but immediately showed your qualities off the bench and sealed the win by making 3-1 on 80 minutes.

Brücken: Our coach Willibert Kremer first picked the duo of Dieter Herzog and Peter Szech, the new signing from Neuss, up front. Back then Willibert said to me it was just a gut feeling. Well, I definitely wanted to show him that he could rely on me. And somehow I had the gift to be in the right place when I came on.



You scored two goals in the second match in the 5-2 win against Tennis Borussia Berlin and the first came one minute after you were brought on.

Brücken: I didn't need long to warm up and I had a good nose for a goal. Nevertheless, I was on the bench again in the next games. Willibert didn't like changing his starting eleven. At the same time, in a deal with the coach, I got the full bonus even if I only played for a few minutes (he laughs).

You came off the bench right up to matchday eight and scored five goals as a substitute. Then Dieter Herzog got injured and you came into the team in his place. In your first start against Wanne-Eickel on matchday nine you again scored a brace.

Brücken: Yes, it was our ninth win in nine games and we’d already scored 30 goals. A dream start. After that I was almost always in the starting line-up and a week later I scored in the 1-1 draw in Solingen when we dropped our first point.

You weren't a classic poacher like Gerd Müller or Klaus Fischer.

Brücken: That's right. I really admired the two of them in the way they always weaved their way through the penalty area. I had a good nose for a goal, could anticipate situations, was two footed and technically capable. And, of course, I had excellent players alongside me. But I wasn't good in the air. Perhaps that's to do with my grandad always warning me: 'Too many headers make you daft.' (he laughs) At six foot I wasn't the smallest.

The unique bond of the promotion team has endured through the decades right to the present day

But you did score at least one goal with a header.

Brücken: You mean the the second against Bayer 05 Uerdingen?

Exactly. And then you sealed promotion to the Bundesliga by making it 3-3. Was that the biggest game of your career to date?

Brücken: Definitely the most emotional. After that our fans flooded onto the pitch. They were the purest feelings of happiness. We certainly celebrated the promotion. And the best thing: The unique bond of the promotion team has endured through the decades right to the present day. Where else would that happen!

With all the success on the pitch you relatively quickly took a second path and planned your career after your playing career well as you hung up your boots at the age of 28.

Brücken: I never regretted it. I was doing Business Studies during my time at Bayer 04 and I completed the course when I played for Viktoria Köln. I then worked for the energy company RWE for 35 years ending up as deputy head of personnel. I never lost interest in football. I coached the first team at Frechen 20 and, for a long time up to a few years ago, I was the head of the youth section at my hometown club. An intense time. I never get bored even as a pensioner. My wife and I have a big garden behind our house and we look after it with lots of love.

Matthias Brücken (right) with Dirk Dreher (left) and Minas Hantzidis in the Schwadbud in November 2014.

You are also a fan of books and music. What do you read and listen to?

Brücken: I like John Grisham and Frank Schätzing as well as non-fiction by Sven Plöger who deals with climate change. An issue that increasingly unsettles me and my wife as people who like to travel. In terms of music: the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen and Udo Lindenberg – we've seen them all live and enjoyed it very much.

Did you know that Mick Jagger will be 80 three days after your birthday?

Brücken: (He laughs) No, I didn't know that. Ten years older and the man is still on the stage – respect!