In 1907 a separate football section was formed, which caused a split within the club. The football, athletics, handball, fistball and boxing players went with the footballers to form SV Bayer 04 Leverkusen in 1928.
The club started playing third and fourth division football at the Ulrich-Haberland-Stadion, which opened in 1932, before reaching Oberliga West in 1951. They were relegated five years later and did not appear in the 'upper' leagues until 1962. After the re-organisation of the football system in West Germany, 'Werkself ("Factory Squad")' were placed in the Regionalliga West, tier II.
After a promotion and relegation, Bayer played in what is now 2 Bundesliga in 1973 and in 1979 they reached the Bundesliga. The side gradually progressed as an established top flight club and in 1984, the two sections that had split back in 1928 came together to form TSV Bayer 04 Leverkusen e.V.
In 1988 Bayer lifted the UEFA Cup after a dramatic two legged final against RCD Espanyol. Trailing three nil from the first leg in Catalunya, Leverkusen won the second leg by the same scoreline before lifting the trophy after a penalty shoot out.
Later that year long serving executive Reiner Calmund was appointed General Manager in an excellent move that saw some astute player recruitment to move the club forward. Following the reunification of Germany in 1990 Bayer signed East Germany stars Ulf Kirsten, Andreas Thom and Jens Melzig as well as building contacts in Brazil.
The German Cup (Pokal) was lifted in 1993 with Bernt Schuster scoring a wonder goal. Other big names to join the club included Rudi Voller, Jorginho and Paulo Sergio. At the same time the team reverted to playing in its historical colours of red and black.
After a near relegation, new boss Christoph Daum came in and built an attacking side featuring Lucio, Michael Ballack and Emerson. Daum's reign came to an end after a drug scandal. Leverkusen continued to improve and in 2000 had the title in their grasp. They only needed a draw against SpVgg Unterhaching in the final game but they went down two nil with Ballack scoring an own goal, allowing Bayern Munich to overtake them.
In 2002 the club had treble misery. They blew a five point lead with three games remaining as Borussia Dortmund won the league. The DFB Pokal Final was lost against Shalke 04 and Real Madrid beat them 2-1 in the Champions League Final at Hampden Park.
The era had seen the stadium rebuilt as the Bay Arena but leading players left including Ballack to Bayern Munich. The club fell from top finishes so had to compete in the UEFA Cup and then the Europa League. Managers came and went as the Bay Arena was further developed in the hope of being chosen as a venue for the 2006 World Cup. Unfortunately the venue was overlooked as well as the German team reneging on using it as their training base for the event.
In 2009 the highly experienced coach, Jupp Heynckes took over as first team boss with Ballack returning from Chelsea a year later as the club finished runners up in the Bundesliga in 2011. In May 2011 retiring defender Sami Hyypiä was appointed as the new manager. Hyppia took the side to a third place finish at the end of the 2012-13 season.
Hyypiä was sacked in April 2014 to be replaced by caretaker boss Sascha Lewandowski as the team finished in fourth place before Roger Schmidt took over as head coach. He took the side through the group stages of the 2014-15 Champions League before going out to Atlético Madrid.
Another fourth place finish ensued aided by the goals of Karim Bellarabi and Son Heung-min led to another Champions League campain in 2015-16. This time Bayer finish third in their group to be transferred to the Europa League where they went out in the round of sixteen to Villareal.
Bayer 04 Leverkusen will compete in the Bundesliga for the 2017-18 season.
Bayer 04 Leverkusen 4 Vfb Stuttgart 2 (Sunday 20th February 2010) Bundesliga (att: 28,851)
We purchased the great value ticket which covered up to five people for 36 Euros in advance on the Friday. It could be used on any regional railway as many times as we wanted on one weekend day. In a rare occurrence our train was running fifteen minutes late.
The train went through the mining towns of Westphalia and the Ruhr valleys as we passed the stadiums of MSV Duisburg and SG Wattenscheid 09 as well as many local grounds, which Carl pointed out would do for the homeless Scarborough Athletic. We gradually entered the wide part of the Rhine Valley, went through Dusseldorf and Leverkusen before alighting in Koln. The journey had taken seventy five minutes.
Most establishments seemed to just cater for meals with drinks. We just wanted a couple of quick beers to fill in a bit of time. We found a pub at last, which looked a bit of a den of iniquity if truth be told, but the bloke behind the bar was friendly enough.
It was then time to enter The Corkonian Irish pub for our first taste of football for the day. We had time to watch the first half of the Celtic v Rangers Old Firm game and enjoy a few drinks. Sadly the pub didn’t do Sunday lunch as was part of our plan but it was better than nothing.
Actually I’ll have to change that sentence. I was surrounded by Celtic fans, plus Carl acting as Agent Provocateur as Rangers put in a pitiful first half showing, much to the delight of everyone else in our part of the pub. We headed to the station, just in time for our train with Colm in jubilant mood and me grumbling along.
Fifteen minutes later we arrived at the rather basic station at Leverkusen. The city’s main reason for its existence is that it is the home of the huge multinational chemical works of Bayer, the makers of aspirin among other things, as well as its employees.
The home side went ahead through Stefan Kiessling after just seven minutes and it was soon apparent that both defences were not exactly watertight. Bayer would go second in the league with a win, with Stuttgart starting in the relegation places. They certainly travelled with attack on their minds.
They levelled after sixteen minutes with a fine finish from Austrian Martin Harnik, which saw fans on all part of the ground celebrate. It was some turn out considering Stuttgart was a long distance away. I warmed to them. I liked their style of football and as a kid I took a fancy to their kit in the Subbuteo sets. They fact that they once thumped Leeds 3-0 in the European Cup also helped with my affinity towards them.
|The clubs' previous logos|
The end to end football continued as Gonzalo Castro restored the home lead before half time before the coaches tried to explain the principals of defending during the break. Sammy Hyppia was leading the home rearguard, not very well it must be said.
During his career he never seemed to have stopped whining and diving. But the annoying thing about him is that he could play when he really wanted to. He decided this was going to be his day as he took control of the midfield. Both sides continued to squander chances before Stefan Reinartz put Bayer ahead nine minutes from time.
The visitors poured forwards frantically looking for an equaliser when Stanley Sam broke clear for Leverkusen on a long run from his own box before teeing up Kiessling to finish the game off. It had been cruel on Stuttgart, but it had been a tremendous game. I dread to have thought what Alan Hansen would have made of it when analysing on Match of the Day!
We managed to get seats upstairs on the busy train back to Dortmund. Everything had gone relatively well over the three days. My only real concern was that we caught the 6.04 train that we were now on. This would give us reasonable time for our taxi from the centre of Dortmund to the airport for the 8.55 flight.
We stood still for a while when the PA broke into life. I hadn’t a clue what was said, but the facial expressions of our fellow passengers suggested that it wasn’t good news. After no action another announcement was made. The towns of Wattenscheid and Essen were mentioned, followed by groans. This was not good. We didn’t know what was happening and time was of the essence.
We were making frantic calculations and had given up more than once on catching the flight. We were saying that we’d need to get a refund from the railway towards the cost of a room for the night. Poor Colm was on a training course in Stoke the next day. It wasn’t so urgent for Carl and me with days off.
We went through Bochum and we were by the doors as the train halted in Dortmund. It was gone 8pm. We sprinted through the station as fast as our unfit bodies could carry us, down to the left luggage lockers and to the taxi rank. I’m not sure exactly what Carl told our driver, but I heard the word “schnell”.
The word hit home as our driver took off like an older Michael Schumacher, as he went around the inner ring road and then hit the autobahn swerving in and out of traffic. We gave him a good tip but he was worth every cent. We ran in through the terminal doors to be greeted by four officials who told us to relax. We had made it!
I was back in Germany with my two pals Karl and Carl for a long weekend, this time staying in Dusseldorf. The fixtures for our stay didn't offer us much scope, so we plumped for a return to the Bay Arena.
The previous evening had been an eye opener in Dusseldorf as we'd unbeknowingly arrived during the climax of the regions Karneval. It had been a tremendous evening out, although the locals told us that it was quiet! After a walk into the city, where they were setting up for the street parades we headed for the station. We managed to work out how to buy a day pass for the three of us, and I bought our tickets for the following day to Aachen.
The platform was packed with revelers, many of whom were in fancy dress, heading for Cologne and the fun on offer down there. Some even got out in Leverkusen, although from previous experience I'd have been surprised if they found much entertainment there.
We walked though the precinct, which was busy enough. The bar we found tweleve months previously was shut, so we ended up eating in McDonalds and heading to the stadium. As we neared the ground, a group of away fans were being led away by the police in a tight cordon, with full filming taking place.
They didn't seem very happy! We went in through the same gates once again as we had seats in nearly the same place. I topped up the Arena Card and got the beers in. Free programmes were once again in the racks for all fans to take. Karl was most impressed thus far, and even more so when we got into our seats.
We took our photos and settled down. Although it wasn't too cold at street level, our seats were on an open corner so we got any wind in the air making it quite chilly. A group in suits and top hats were near to us, who turned out to be a stag party from London. They were well behaved, but the language and singing coming from a similar party from Birmingham reminded me just how embarassing Englishmen can be abroad.
Bayer were the better side in the early exchanges without threatening too much on goal. They had been defeated at the Bay Arena in midweek against Barcelona, so they were probably still lacking a little confidence.
Bottom side Augsburg were a typical side for their league position. They were full of effort but not too much else. Bayer went one up after Stefan Kiessling headed home unchallenged from a corner.
At half time we were still full of food, so we settled for a warming gluhwein. Five minutes after the break Ja-Cheol Koo walloped home a superb equaliser from the edge of the box. Any thoughts of a shock result were soon put to bed as Leverkusen scored three times through Kiessling again, Gonzalo Castro and Andre Schurrle.
The home side put some lovely moves together as the Augsburg defence and midfield fell apart. It was only because Bayer relaxed later on that they didn't go back to Bavaria on the receiving end of a real hiding.
We headed back across the parks past the training grounds and got back to the station with ten minutes to kill before our train home. We managed to get seats for the twenty minute journey and then work out which tram dropped us near our excellent Hotel Furstoff. My early research paid dividends as we ate an excellent meal in the highly recommended Bar Vossen.
After a rest we were ready to see what the Aldstadt of Dusseldorf had to show us on a busy night. We were not disappointed! What a wonderful day out in great company.
The porter/receptionist was an absolute star and mind reader to boot when he suggested that I may fancy a couple of beers before I headed to my room? They didn’t last long. What a day out. I wouldn’t have swapped it for the world!
To see a brief video of the atmosphere inside the stadium during the match, please click here.