Happy Birthday Frank Gray
An Analysis of the European Champions Cup Final of 1975
“Happy Birthday Frank Who?”, you may ask. Well, let me explain.
Frank Gray was born on the 27th of October 1954 in Castlemilk, a southern suburb of Glasgow, Scotland. Little is known of his youth or his life outside of football, except that he spent most of his playing and managerial career in the shadow of his older brother, acclaimed Scottish international and Leeds United icon Eddie Gray. This, of course, and coupled with the fact that Frank, too, played for Leeds United, must have sparked inferiority complexes inside of him. Inferiority complexes that should ultimately lead to outbursts of rage, violence and an insatiable lust for blood.
Well, that last part may or may not be true as it is completely a product of my imagination, but it is an undeniable fact, that one fateful night in May of 1975, the 28th of, to be precise, Frank Gray committed a violent foul that should prove to be pivotal in the history of FC Bayern München: On 28th of May 1975, the night of the European Champions Cup Final between Leeds United A.F.C. and FC Bayern München, Frank Gray injured Uli Hoeneß so badly, that the latter had to end his career prematurely four years later at the age of 27.
A mere four months after he had played his last game, Uli Hoeneß took the job of Business Manager at Bayern München on the 1st of July 1979. The club was in heavy debt at the time (11 Million Deutsche Mark), but Uli Hoeneß, during the next three decades, should form it into the undisputed number one in German football and into a European powerhouse, feared even by elite clubs like Real Madrid, who call Bayern München “La Bestia Negra” out of fear of and respect for the Bavarians. Bayern’s finances are second to no other football club not only in Germany, but in the entire world.
Meanwhile Frank Gray should never step out of the shadow cast by his older brother Eddie. For example he never managed a team playing higher than in the Conference National (today’s Blue Square Bet Premier), while Eddie was still, as late as 2004, called up as caretaker of both brothers’ beloved Leeds United.
But chin up, Frank! We at FC Bayern will always have a place for you in our hearts for being so pivotal in helping Uli Hoeneß find his true calling. Thus, your part in making the FC Bayern into the club it is today, is not a small one.
Thank you, and Happy 58th Birthday, Frank Gray.
Now let’s take a look at the actual match, shall we?
Bayern started in a 3-5-2 / 5-3-2 hybrid with Bernd Dürnberger, Franz Beckenbauer and Björn Andersson as the back-three. Franz Roth completed our nominal five-man defense together with Georg “Katsche” Schwarzenbeck, who played in front of Beckenbauer in a position that in Germany is best known as “Vorstopper” (literally: pre-stopper). A Vorstopper usually man-marks the opposing No.9 striker, while the Sweeper/Libero (Beckenbauer) marks the zone behind the Vorstopper. Vorstoppers were traditionally very big guys, not very good with the ball, but very scary for strikers when they got near them. Their traditional shirt number was the number 4, and a German expression goes: “Kein Mensch, kein Tier, die Nummer vier!” (“Not man, not animal, the number four!”) It loses something in the translation and without the rhyme, but it should be clear what type of person was required to play a good Vorstopper. Examples of great German Vorstoppers include: Katsche Schwarzenbeck, Karl-Heinz Förster, Ditmar Jakobs and to an extent even players as late as Guido Buchwald and Jürgen Kohler.
With the advent of a flat back-four in the nineties the Vorstopper role fell out of fashion, as did the role of the Libero. Instead both made way for two zonally defending center backs.
In midfield Bayern played with Conny Torstensson, Rainer Zobel and Hans-Josef “Jupp” Kapellmann. Gerd Müller and Uli Hoeneß were our strikers, with Müller playing centrally and Hoeneß often drifting out wide and to the right.
Leeds, going into the match as the odds-on favorites, went into the game fielding a “true” 3-5-2 if you will, a formation that was very common in the seventies. And Leeds interpreted it extremely offensively that night. With Billy Bremner, Paul Madeley and Norman Hunter they used three center backs together with two extremely offensively playing wing backs. Namely Paul Reaney on the right and today’s birthday boy Frank Gray on the left.
Terry Yorath, Alan Clarke and Johnny Giles packed the center of the pitch (supported by their wing backs on the flanks) and the two nominal strikers Peter Lorimer and Joe Jordan tried to wreak havoc in and around Bayern’s 18-yard box.
(Hit “Esc” on your keyboard if you wish to stop the animation from playing on after watching it.)
Before we start with the actual analysis, I should mention that the first substitution for Bayern was forced a mere four minutes into the game after a vicious foul by Terry Yorath on Björn Andersson. A foul that should have gotten Yorath sent off, but whether the rules in the seventies were different or the referee was just bad, I don’t know. Fact is, that a second earlier he had already called the foul from Frank Gray on Hans-Josef Kapellmann, so when the challenge on Andersson happened we had a factual “dead ball” situation.
You can see in the animation above that after calling the foul on Kapellmann, the referee is visibly continuing to observe the action, and there’s no way he missed the recklessness of Yorath’s challenge. Today dead ball or not would not matter (and, to be honest, I doubt it did then), and Yorath would have been sent packing. Plus, he would have received a minimum of five games suspension. Needless to say, he did not even receive a yellow card and play went on without Björn Andersson. Josef “Sepp” Weiß replaced him for the remainder of the match.
Just as Hoeneß, Andersson, too, should never fully recover from this injury, and just as Hoeneß, Andersson, too, should take up an administrative position at FC Bayern München. A position that he holds to this day: Youth Coordinator.
Bayern Super Deep. Bayern Super Shaky.
Bayern started the game extremely defensively, routinely dropping incredibly deep during Leeds’ attacks. The screenshot to the right is from around the 8th or 9th minute. We see Giles with the ball and masses of space far inside Bayern’s territory. We see Bayern’s two strikers, Hoeneß and Müller deep inside their own half and (not all of them in the frame) a total of seven Bayern players in or very near their own 18-yard box.
To begin the game, Bayern looked incredibly shaky in buildup as well, often losing the ball in their own half or trying long balls to their strikers, who, in all reality, acted more like box-to-box midfielders than strikers. At that time, early in the first half, no one gave Bayern the slightest chance to win this game. While a very deep defensive approach like Bayern’s was nothing too uncommon in these days, it was the fact that they didn’t attack their opponents at all until they were already well within scoring distance, coupled with the inability to create anything offensively, that made them look like they wouldn’t be able to defend their title from 1974.
Even Müller dropping so deep was nothing too astonishing. This was 1975 and the football world was admiring the Dutch “Total Football” which routinely saw nominal Striker Johann Cruijff prototyping today’s “False Nine” role and dropping very deep in defense as well as during buildup. However Gerd Müller was not Johann Cruijff and Bayern would have done better to play him more as a classical number 9, while at the same time pushing higher up the pitch with the whole rest of the team.
Leeds Dominating But Not Forcing Enough.
Leeds had no trouble whatsoever to control every aspect of the match during the first half. They dominated possession and they were sound defensively. However they were unable to create a lot of forcing chances. They tried long-range shots from time to time and those were not completely without danger, thanks to the Bayern defense not interfering with Leeds’ movements in front of the Bayern box. All of those missed narrowly, though. Actually getting into Bayern’s box proved to be naturally difficult with Bayern packing it with six or seven players routinely.
However, twice they managed to create danger inside of the box. In around the 32nd minute a goal kick from Maier went directly to Leeds’ pivotal playmaker and excellently performing Johnny Giles who hit an accurate long ball directly onto Alan Clarke’s head on the edge of the box, who headed it to Joe Jordan. Jordan struck an accurate ball on target, However, there was one man left to beat. Sepp “The Cat of Anzing” Maier not only saved the ball brilliantly. No, instead of punching it away, he simply caught it like a boss.
The second time they got dangerously into the box, Clarke managed to get past Beckenbauer in the 39th minute and got fouled by him near the baseline. The french referee decided corner kick, but a penaltly should have been in order.
More of the Same, and Some Good Old “Bayern Dusel” to Boot
The second half really didn’t bring a whole lot of change. Bayern tried to close down just a tad earlier, but it’s really not worth mentioning. Leeds still enjoyed a massive amount of space and all the time in the world inside the opponents’ half of the pitch. They kept dominating and it seemed only a matter of time until they score. Also, in the 58th minute it should have been Katsche Schwarzenbeck who should have been sent off with at least a second yellow (which was straight red back then, as there was no such thing as a yellow/red card). He committed a dangerous challenge from behind on Joe Jordan near the touchline, but got away with a very stern warning by the overall poorly performing referee Michel Kitabdjan of France.
In the 65th minute a freekick from the left reached Leeds’ skipper Bremner on the edge of the 6-yard box, who had one man left to beat. You might have guessed it. Sepp Maier, once again, held on to Bayern’s clean sheet with his incredible reflexes.
Only a minute later, however, it was Lorimer who was free near the penalty spot after a set piece, and his excellent volley slammed into the back of the net in a way that not even Maier could prevent, and Leeds were deservedly 1:0 up.
Or Were They?
The referee ruled goal, but then “Kaiser” Franz Beckenbauer, Bayern’s captain, started talking to him insistently. He kept pointing to the linesman, claiming it was offside. After consulting with his linesman, Kitabdjan eventually reversed his decision and ruled offside. On the one hand the correct decision, surely. On the other hand this was not exactly the moment in the match where he cemented his authority or control over the match.
Then in the 71st minute, Bayern, in what felt like the first time in the second half, crossed the halfway line with the ball. Bayern’s nominally most offensive player, Gerd Müller, received the ball in defensive midfield and played a long ball up to Torstensen on the edge of the box, who saw Roth free to his left. Roth placed the ball into the far corner, past Leeds’ keeper Stewart, and from one second to the Next Bayern were 1:0 up. Completely and utterly against the run of play.
Now, 1:0 down and feeling betrayed by the referee, the rage had built up too much in the stands behind Maier’s goal, where Leeds’ supporters ceased the opportunity to start a good ol’ fashioned football riot inside the stadium during a European Champions Cup Final. Ah, those were the days. In the 75th minute the French referee even interrupted the match because of objects that were thrown onto the pitch into the direction of Sepp Maier.
Play resumed shortly thereafter, though, and amidst the first Leeds supporters trying a pitch invasion, manager Jimmy Armfield sent in his Last Hurrah: The aforementioned older brother of Frank, Eddie Gray, was to replace Terry Yorath, to maybe turn it around in the last minutes of the match.
But, alas, it just wasn’t meant to be that day. Merely a minute after the substitution, Kapellmann delivered a low cross into the box, where Gerd Müller, for a change, was actually positioned (and excellently so, I might add) to make it 2:0 and bury all of Leeds’ hopes to turn this game around.
And so it came that FC Bayern München “Parked the Bus” in a European Cup final, at a time where that term wasn’t even invented yet. So the next time, my fellow Bayern fans, when you feel yourself loathing the likes of Chelsea or any other overly defensive team, snatching victory from the favorites, hold your punches and show a bit of humility. Bayern were, by far, the worse side in this final, yet they did come up on top in the end to make it 2 for 2, which should ultimately end up 3 for 3 one year later in Palotai, Hungary, when they beat AS St. Etienne in their third European Champions Cup Final in a row.
And what was it with Frank Gray and Uli Hoeneß, you might be asking yourself. Well, to be honest, I do ask myself this a little bit, too. I had written that first part a few days ago, before I had watched the game. When you research Hoeneß’ injury on the internet, all you find is this “vicious” challenge by Frank Gray (no pictures of it, of course, much less video). I have to say, I didn’t see an overly hard challenge by him, and I have now watched the entire game (twice actually). Hoeneß had to be treated on the sidelines twice in this game, and one of those times was after a 1on1 with Gray, yes, but I can’t see anything vicious in that scene, sorry. Maybe something happened that wasn’t captured by the cameras, or maybe it’s just one of these myths. The results are more important, anyways. We won the cup, and Uli Hoeneß led us through three decades of glory and beyond. And the rest, as they say, is history.
I hope you liked my first, longer than anticipated, article for this blog, and if you have made it to here, I have to congratulate and thank you for reading until the end.
Until next time,
Commodore, signing out.
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