Gladbach it’s all over

Brian Parish, the man being the Daggers Diary swaps the FA Cup 1st Round potential pain with a trip to the home of proper football – Germany.

I recently completed ten years service at my current place of employment. In all that time, I’ve travelled extensively, taking in not only football, but also participating in the odd marathon here and there. One of the good things about the place is that while there are the obvious arrivals and departures in the staff, many stick around for a number of years, and so there is a wealth of experience in not only my department, but all around the company. People don’t tend to just stick for a couple of years and then move on.

Which means that most know my habits when it comes to football. They know, for example, that I will sometimes disappear into Europe for a weekend to take in a game or three. Even when the primary reason for the trip has nothing to do with football, I will try to find a game to get to. It’s the law, isn’t it?

Somehow, and despite the fact that this has happened before, when I casually announced that I was off to Germany for a game, the first question was for how long I would be gone. About twenty-eight hours or so was the reply, which bought on looks of surprise, and why on earth would you travel all that way for one game. Then I was asked what my flight times were. That’s easy, I replied. Neil’s driving.

It’s hard to describe just how much of a legend Neil is. Having driven around much of Germany during the 2006 World Cup watching games, it’s almost taken as a given that Neil will get the car out and pound the autobahn in pursuit of the beautiful game, Bundesliga style.

In fact, this is our third trip to Germany in 2012, having already been to Köln in February, as part of our four games in four countries trip (the sequel to follow soon), and then to Leverkusen in April. On that occasion, it was literally a day trip, as we left early on the Saturday and we were back in Blighty about twenty or so hours later. At least this time, we have an overnight stay, although that’s because today is Neil’s 30th birthday, hence the trip.

With Dagenham Dan proving to be a bit of a whiz when it comes to arranging tickets for our European jaunts, he was left to sort those out, while Neil booked the train, and arranged our overnight stay. As for me, I just sat back, and paid whatever it cost me to go along on the trip.

While Dortmund proved to be frustratingly out of reach once again (Dan couldn’t find three seats together, which given the stadium holds about 80,000, is some going), Monchengladbach proved to be more than an adequate choice with us, and so we were on our way to one of Germany’s more successful clubs.

In his excellent history of German football (Tor!), Ulrich Hesse details the struggle in the 1970’s between Gladbach and Bayern Munich. From 1970 to 1979, the club won the Bundesliga on five occasions, won the German Cup in 1974, and also won two UEFA Cup finals, as well as losing to Liverpool in two other finals, which included the 1977 European Cup final. With teams containing Bertie Vogts, Gunter Netzer and later Allan Simonsen (eventually of Charlton Athletic), Borussia were seen as an attractive side to follow, becoming many peoples second team. In the book, Hesse even likens the two clubs to the Star Wars film, portraying Gladbach as the good guys, while Bayern were the evil empire, although on the pitch, the empire won. Continue reading