Udo Lattek: The man who made me a Bayern fan

I was first drawn to FC Bayern München in the spring of 1981, some three months shy of my tenth birthday. In the dark days long before the advent of cable and satellite television, my opportunities to watch the team in action had been few and far between, and although I would live through the pain of the 1982 European Cup final things would only really pick up in the following season – thanks to a wonderful television programme called Football Made in Germany.

By this time Udo Lattek, the coach who had turned FC Bayern from the nearly men into European Champions during the early 1970s, was back at the helm in Munich.

Born on 16th January 1935 the village of Bosemb in East Prussia – now Boże in Poland – Udo Lattek would be the man who would transform my relationship with the FC Bayern. In 1982 they were simply my favourite German club, my personal stick in the eye for all of those around me who supported the fashionable English club of the time, Liverpool. By 1984 they were much, much more than that. During the mid-1980s my love for the Bavarian giants would blossom, and the matchmaker was Udo Lattek. By the time of his leaving Munich at the end of the 1986/87 season, I was a fully-fledged FC Bayern fan.

It was with much sadness that I would hear of his recent passing at the age of eighty.

National team coach Schön and his assistant Udo Lattek together during a training session.
National team coach Schön and his assistant Udo Lattek together during a training session.

Udo Lattek’s career on the pitch had been a short one, playing for a number of local sides as a centre-forward before finishing at lower league VfL Osnabrück. His move into coaching was swift, and rather back to front: for five years from 1965 to 1970 he would serve as assistant coach to the German national team, working alongside Dettmar Cramer for Helmut Schön.

In the spring of 1970 Lattek would move to FC Bayern – a major surprise for many given his complete lack of coaching experience at club level. One of his biggest supporters was none other than Franz Beckenbauer, but when he arrived in Munich the thirty-five year old coach would have everything to prove. This he did, and more. In his five seasons with Die Roten, the East Prussian would take Bayern to three successive Bundesliga titles, one DFB-Pokal and the crowning glory, the European Cup – achieved with a memorable 4-0 replay victory over Atlético Madrid in Brussels in 1974.

A disappointing start to the 1974/75 season saw Lattek replaced at Bayern by his fellow international assistant coach Cramer, but rather than slink away into obscurity he would return to the fray with a point to prove. A move to Borussia Mönchengladbach the following year would lead to a seismic shift in the balance of power in German football, and after his three titles in Munich Lattek would achieve two further league titles with Die Fohlen. Despite Bayern’s two further European titles under Cramer, there was no doubt which side was the strongest in German football during the latter half of the 1970s. Lattek’s coaching trophy cabinet would also see the addition of the UEFA Cup in 1979, though a second European Cup would elude him two years earlier against the new rising power in European football, Liverpool.

Udo Lattek lifts the Uefa Cup.
Udo Lattek lifts the Uefa Cup.

Two barren years in Dortmund followed, but at the beginning of the 1980s Lattek would make the lucrative move to Spanish giants Barcelona. His two seasons at the Camp Nou failed to deliver domestic league success as rivals Real Madrid continued to set the pace, but a victory over Standard Liège in the 1983 European Cup Winners’ Cup would set a new record. After the European Cup triumph with Bayern in 1974 and the UEFA Cup victory in 1979, the successful capture of the Cup Winners’ Cup would make Lattek the only coach to win all three of Europe’s major trophies with three different clubs. Following the merging of the Cup Winners’ Cup into the UEFA Cup in 2000, it is a record that will never be equalled.

Lattek’s departure from Barcelona in 1983 would come at the perfect time for FC Bayern – and for me.

At the end of the 1982/83 season Bayern were no longer Germany’s top side, with their position being usurped by northern rivals Hamburger SV. Die Rothosen had not only won back to back Bundesliga titles, but had also become only the second German side to land the famous Henkelpott after a famous victory over favourites Juventus in Athens. Lattek’s first season back in Munich would see Bayern finish in fourth place in the Bundesliga – though only a point behind eventual winners VfB Stuttgart – after a dramatic four-way tussle that went to the very last kick of the season, but there would be a triumphant finale after a nerve-jangling penalty shootout victory over Mönchengladbach in the DFB-Pokal.

The DFB-Pokal final of 1984 would be my first real “title” as an FC Bayern fan (as I had started following the club in early 1981, the 1980/81 title didn’t really count), and the man who had made it happen was Udo Lattek – with a little help from Mönchengladbach’s Lothar Matthäus.

In a bizarre denouement to the penalty shootout, Matthäus – already set to be a Bayern player the following season – fluffed his spot-kick to give the Bavarians the trophy. The claims of irked Mönchengladbach fans and conspiracy theorists would prove unfounded, but it was for me a moment that would forever be burned into the memory.

While the final had provided its own drama, the semi-final of the DFB-Pokal against second division Schalke 04 had also booked its place in my memories of the Lattek era. Over the course of two epic matches, a total of seventeen goals were scored – including an unforgettable 6-6 draw in Gelsenkirchen. One of my most enduring memories of that incredible match would be the sight of the stoic Lattek, sitting stone-faced in the dugout and shaking his bald head slowly at every Schalke goal as the rain started to come down at a wet and grey Parkstadion.

Watch one of the greatest matches ever played in the DFB Pokal in full length.

The following season saw the first of yet another three Bundesliga titles, taking Lattek to a total of six with Bayern and eight in total – another record that still stands. While 1985 would see Bayern blow their chances of a first domestic double for sixteen years with a shock defeat in the Pokalfinale against unfancied Bayer 05 Uerdingen, the following year would see Die Roten snatch the league in dramatic fashion before completing the domestic double with a 5-2 thrashing of VfB Stuttgart in Berlin.

The Bundesliga campaign of 1985/86 had provided yet another momentous finale, with Werder Bremen blowing their chances of winning the Meisterschale with Michael Kutzop’s last-minute penalty miss. With the possible exception of Bayern’s maiden European Cup triumph in 1974, the double of 1985/86 was arguably Udo Lattek’s finest moment in his long relationship with FC Bayern.

Lattek had already decided to retire from coaching for a few years at the end of 1986/87, and would almost better his achievements of the previous season. A record-breaking Bundesliga campaign with only one defeat would secure his second hat-trick of Bundesliga titles – making him the only coach in the league’s history to achieve the feat twice – and everybody was expecting a final swansong for the much-loved coach in the final of the European Cup in Vienna.

Billed as the pre-match favourites against Portuguese champions FC Porto, the evening would start well for Bayern with “Wiggerl” Kögl’s early strike. As the match went deep into the second half a fourth European crown for the Bavarians – and a second for Lattek – was inching ever closer. However, there would be a nasty sting in the tail. As the match entered the final quarter of an hour, two goals for Porto in the space of three minutes from time would turn things completely on their head – including a cheeky backheeled finish from Algerian Rabah Madjer.

The look on Lattek’s face at the sound of the final whistle suggested that he might have wanted the world to swallow him up there and then, but despite the defeat there would be nothing for Bayern fans to complain about. Dignified as ever, the Bundesliga’s most decorated coach would head off into retirement. Not on the high he would have wanted, but forever as a much-loved legend at FC Bayern.

Udo Lattek and Bayern celebrating the 1986/87 Bundesliga title in the Bavarians dressing room.
Udo Lattek and Bayern celebrating the 1986/87 Bundesliga title in the Bavarians dressing room.

While Lattek might never be considered the greatest tactician of his era, he would prove to be the master in building great teams. The Bayern squad of the early 1970s would bring together what would become the core of Germany’s A-List: Franz Beckenbauer, Sepp Maier, Uli Hoeneß, Paul Breitner and Gerd Müller. The Mönchengladbach squad of the late 1970s would boast such names as Berti Vogts, Rainer Bonhof, Herbert Wimmer, Allan Simonsen and Jupp Heynckes. The team I would grow up with during the mid-1980s would be built around midfield dynamo Matthäus and include the like of Jean-Marie Pfaff, Klaus Augenthaler, Søren Lerby and Ludwig Kögl.

Lattek would briefly come out of retirement for very short stints at 1. FC Köln and Schalke 04 during the early 1990s, but would quickly return to a life in the media as a commentator and pundit – with a chilled beer always close to hand. Even then his life as a coach was not quite over. Called in to help save Borussia Dortmund from relegation in 2000, the then sixty-five year old would guide assistant Matthias Sammer in ensuring the survival of the Westfalian giants. One thing was certain: Lattek was never predictable.

Living in a retirement home in Köln after a stroke in 2012, Udo Lattek would pass away on February 1st 2015. As the only coach to win the three major European trophies with three different clubs, he will always be in the record books. With six Bundesliga titles including an as yet unmatched two hat-tricks, he will forever be a Bayern legend. With a total of eight Bundesliga titles – unmatched even by such greats as Ottmar Hitzfeld and Jupp Heynckes – another record looks set to stand for many years. For me however, Lattek will always be the man whose Bayern side provided me with those first truly memorable moments: the man who made me a Bayern fan.

Coaching Record

1965-1970: Assistant Coach, DFB
1970-1975: FC Bayern München (DFB-Pokal winner 1971, Bundesliga winner 1972, 1973, 1974, European Cup winner 1974)
1975-1979: Borussia Mönchengladbach (Bundesliga winner 1976, 1977, UEFA Cup winner 1979)
1979-1981: Borussia Dortmund
1981-1983: FC Barcelona (Copa del Rey winner 1982, European Cup Winners’ Cup winner 1983)
1983-1987: FC Bayern München (DFB-Pokal winner 1984, 1986, Bundesliga winner 1985, 1986, 1987)
1991: 1. FC Köln
1992: FC Schalke 04
2000: Borussia Dortmund

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London-based but with his heart firmly in Fröttmaning, Rick Joshua's love of German football goes back more than thirty years and has witnessed everything from the pain of Spain '82 and the glory of Italia '90 to the sheer desolation of Euro 2000. This has all been encapsulated in the encyclopaedic Schwarz und Weiß website and blog, which at some three hundred or so pages is still not complete. Should you wish to disturb him, you can get in touch with Rick on Twitter @fussballchef. This carries a double meaning, as he can prepare a mean Obazda too.

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