The Germans are marching on Wembley with the aim of conquering Europe. It’s going to be Totally Teutonic, an island of internecine rivalry in North London. Some of the Little Englander persuasion, always ready to laugh when Germany lose in the World Cup (having recovered from England’s own earlier exit) or even when they get “keine Punkte” in the Eurovision song contest, will declare they have no interest in the result beyond a wistful longing to see them both lose. Others will aver that it’s really none of our business, and we should just play the genial hosts to a world-class event and stand ready to clap the winners on the back, whoever they might be, and say “Jolly well done, chaps”. Wrong, wrong, wrong. This result matters – well it does if you’re a Leeds United fan.
Firstly, let’s not forget that the city of Dortmund is actually twinned with Leeds, so we have those ready-made links which can be dressed up as brotherhood should the occasion require. This occasion does so require. We Leeds fans should stand four-square behind our European partners and wish them all success against Bayern Munich on Saturday evening. It’s only right and proper – after all, what are twinned cities expected to do other than support each other? But there’s another, far more compelling reason for wishing Bayern misery at Wembley. In fact, there are two.
Rewind firstly to 1999 and the culmination of the jammiest season an English club has ever had. Everything went right for Man U that year, and they walked off with a highly fortunate treble, after a series of unlikely comebacks and distinctly fluky wins in various competitions. At the death, they were one down in the Champions League final in Barcelona, having been outplayed by a massively superior Bayern side who had been thwarted by the woodwork on at least two occasions. Then – as we know – they scored twice late on, the usual jammy bounces and ricochets, and we’ve all had to live with the memory of Ferguson’s smug “Football, eh? Bloody hell” quote ever since. Bayern let us down that night, and they should not be forgiven.
And further back even than that – all the way back to 1975 and the night Leeds United became Champions of Europe in all but name, a moral status we have defiantly hailed loud and proud ever since. That we don’t have the trophy on our sideboard is an open sore that festers still and will never heal – as great an injustice as that perpetrated in Salonika two years previously. Penalty claims, really clear-cut, but turned down flat. Beckenbauer, der Kaiser, the guilty man. Bayern totally out-played by a Leeds side pursuing their last hurrah, committed heart and soul to winning it for The Don who was watching on from the commentary box in the Parc des Princes. A goal for Leeds, struck powerfully and true by Lorimer on the volley, Maier beaten all ends up, the very least our superiority deserved. Then, der Kaiser persuades the referee – damn him for all eternity – to speak to his linesman and see if there wasn’t maybe some way this inconvenient goal could be disallowed. And of course that is what happened. Thrown, deflated, outraged, the Leeds United side were hit by two late sucker punches, and Bayern were the most undeserving Champions of Europe ever – even more so than those spawny gits of ’99.
Those two Finals – the win for Bayern and the loss for Bayern – are a thorn in the side of every Leeds fan who can bear a grudge as a Leeds fan should. If the two results had been reversed – if they’d lost (as they should have) in 1975, and won (as they should have) in 1999, then we might well now be abandoning our civic links with the good Burghers of Dortmund, and saying a sentimental prayer for Munich. We’d probably have shouted for them last year against those fancy dans from Stamford Bridge. But justice prevailed on neither occasion, and Bayern Munich is a name inscribed forever on the Leeds United wall of hate.
So come on Dortmund. Get into them and make ’em have it. Let’s hope it’s another atonement and – as with last year at the hands of Chelsea – Bayern end up with nowt to show for their showpiece appearance and crying into their beer. Fingers crossed.