As the dust settles on the 2014-2015 Bundesliga season we can look back at what has been one of the most entertaining seasons in recent memory and take stock of all that has happened – Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich steamrolling their way to a 3rd successive league title, Vfl Wolfsburgs emergence as a genuine force, Borussia Dortmund’s inexplicable 1st half of the season collapse followed by Jürgen Klopp’s confirmation that he will depart BVB when the season ends, FC Augsburg holding their own with the big boys and securing a maiden European appearance in next seasons Europa League, Hamburg’s continued struggles to stay as the only team to have competed in the Bundesliga since its foundation in 1963, but among all these stories the re-emergence of one of Germanys best known, best supported and most successful teams seems to have gone a little unnoticed – Die Fohlen (The Foals).
For those of you not old enough to remember Borussia Monchengladbach’s golden decade of domination in the 1970’s under legendary coaches Hennes Weisweiler & Udo Lattek, Gladbach won plaudits and fans from all over Germany and Europe with their brand of attack minded football, you might be forgiven for giving the same response a lot of my friends gave me when I spoke to them about this – “Oh really, I only knew they lost to Liverpool in the European Cup final”
The 1976/77 European Cup runners up who between 1970-1980 won 8 trophies, 5 Bundesliga titles including 3 in a row from 1974-77, 2 UEFA cup wins and were also runners up on 2 occasions, throw in a DFB Pokal for good measure and it’s not a bad return for a team who up to that point had only 1 piece of top flight silverware to their name (1960 DFB Pokal). However as with 99% of clubs in Germany in order to keep finances in order they were forced to sell their best players and without top class coaches such as Weisweiler and Lattek this European giant fell back into the pack where they remained until they suffered the indignity of their first of 2 relegations in 1999.
Lucien Favre was appointed in January 2011 with the team in a precarious league position and under the guidance of the Swiss coach they just managed to survive relegation by winning the relegation playoff game against Vfl Bochum with Marco Reus saving the clubs top flight status. The club has in recent seasons established themselves back as a mainstay in the Bundesliga, 2014/15 was the clubs 7th consecutive season in Germanys top league. In 2011/12 the club narrowly missed out on a Champions League group spot, after a surprising 4th place league finish. A crushing 3-1 defeat by Dynamo Kyiv in the playoff round brought Gladbach tumnbling back to reality and left their dreams in tatters. They followed that up with 8th & 6th place finishes respectively which led to direct qualification into the Champions league group stages this past season.
Favre’s team have built their success on a solid defensive approach mixed with clever counter attacking play similar to the Dortmund team of recent years, having the leagues 2nd best defensive record after FC Bayern. Favre’s men condeded just 26 goals and keeping 16 clean sheets, only losing at home twice all season which included a meaningless last day 1-3 defeat against FC Augsburg.
They are however no slouches when it comes to attacking either, having scored 3 or more goals in 6 of their 17 home games and only failing to hit the net in 1. They sealed 3rd position with the help of a 13 game unbeaten streak from February which included 10 wins and 3 draws with a 0-2 win at the Allianz Arena the highlight of their great season.
Of course securing Champions League qualification is one thing, doing it year after year is another. It has become customary for Europe’s top clubs and big spenders to raid the Bundesliga every summer. Gladbach themselves having lost Marco Reus, Dante, Roman Neustaedter and Marc-Andre Ter Stegen in recent seasons, and with Max Kruse already on his way to VfL Wolfsburg, and World Cup winner Kristoph Kramer on his way back to Leverkusen after a successful loan Favre could yet struggle to keep the nucleus of his talented squad together. However with the money that direct qualification into next year’s Champions League group stage brings, the club from North Rhine-Westphalia can afford to do a little cherry picking of their own this summer. Gladbach have already been proactive as Thorgan Hazard signed a permanent contract after his impressive loan spell from Chelsea while Hannover captain Lars Stindl who signed a pre-contract agreement back in March. Stindl is likely to be the first of several new faces coming to play at Borussia-Park next season.
With six teams realistically fighting it out for the four Champions League places next season and Bayern currently a class above every other team in the league, another top four finish won’t come easy for Gladbach. One would think a return to the champions league along with a good showing in Europe’s premier competition would be more than enough to satisfy the board, but who knows… maybe this season’s finish could be the spark to reignite the classic Bayern/Gladbach rivalry from the 70’s. While my head says probably not, my heart holds onto a glimmer of hope that maybe…just maybe…. and after all isn’t that what being a football fan is all about – year after year always holding on to those little crumbs of hope.
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