Never heard of Hans-Gunter Bruns? Unless you were a fan of Borussia Moenchengladbach in the '80s, chances are you haven't. However, if it weren't for a twist of fate you would be recalling his name for when it comes to the greatest goal ever scored and not Diego Maradona.
Bruns starting out...
Bruns was a typical German footballer. Powerfully built, technically good, strong in the tackle, and tactically excellent. Exactly what you would expect from a guy who is hailed as one of Mö nchegladbach's players of all time.
The hulking blonde midfielder began his career in 1973 with Schalke 04 when the club was just coming off one of the biggest bribery scandals in German football history. An investigation in 1971 showed Schalke deliberately lost their match against Arminia Bielefield 1-0.
As a result, a number of high profile players were banned for life, including Klaus Fischer, Reinhard Libuda, and Klaus Fichtel—who were all with the German national team at the time.
Most of the sentences were reduced to smaller bans ranging from six months to two years after appeals from the club and players, but the scandal had a profound effect on the club and on what might have become one of the dominant German teams of the 1970s.
As Bruns joined the club they were just about to move to their new 70,000-seat Parkstadion in Gelsenkirchen. The grounds had been built in preparation for the World Cup in 1974, but with morale at an all time low at the club, it did not provide the expected spring-board that everyone hoped for.
Bruns moving on...
He stayed with the club until 1976, the year Schalke won the German Youth Cup, but only managed to play 20 games for the first team. In the summer of '76 Erhard Ahmann saw something in the midfielder and decided to bring him to SG Wattenscheid 1909.
Life at the 16,000-seat Lorheide Stadium was a far cry from playing with Schalke and as a result the expectations were lowered significantly. Schalke was expected to challenge for the title every year whereas SG Wattenscheid 1909 were always battling against relegation in the lower Bundesliga Nord.
Bruns was thrust into first team action almost straight away and during his two seasons at the club he weighed in with a fantastic 25 goals in just 58 games. The manner of his performances as a rampaging midfielder caught the eye of Udo Lattek and title chasing Borussia Moenchengladbach team who were dominating both European and domestic football at the time.
Lattek is one of the forgotten greats of the modern game. A coach of supreme standing who managed Bayern Munich twice, Barcelona and Moenchengladbach winning 14 major trophies over a 17 year period between 1970 and 1987 between the clubs.
Bruns only managed to stay at Moenchangladbach for one season, 1978-79. He was an important part of Lattek's team that won the UEFA Cup and finished 10th in a league that was won by Hamburg.
The season before Borussia shared first place with Cologne on 48 points and only lost the title on goal difference. Finishing so far down, despite claiming the UEFA Cup, was a bitter blow to Lattek's aspirations.
He resigned that summer to take over Borussia Dortmund and the legendary Jupp Heynckes took over as manager. Unfortunately for Bruns, one of the Dutchman's first actions was to sell him to Fortuna Dusseldorf.
Dusseldorf had won the German Pokal Cup in 1978 to qualify for the Cup Winners Cup in 1979. Against all the odds they made it to the final only to lose 4-3 to Barcelona in one of the best European Finals of the modern era. The 1979-80 season was to be an important one for the club and Bruns signing was seen as a major coup.
The move turned out to be a bad one for all involved. Hans-Gunter only managed to play 15 times all year in a season ravaged by injury and a lack of confidence.
Moenchengladbach moved up to 7th and Fortuna dropped to 10th. On the bright side, Dusseldorf did manage to win the cup for the second consecutive year beating Cologne 2-1 in the final, although Bruns didn't make Otto Rehagel's team for the final.
The versatile midfielder was going through one of the worst periods of his seven year career and was beginning to develop a name as a player who could not settle.
But that was to change in 1980.
Bruns moves "back" to Moenchengladbach...
As a player, Bruns was the type to make bursting runs from deep in midfield. He supported attacks, instigated moves and helped defend his back-line. German football in the '70s and '80s had plenty of great players in that position and Bruns did little to really stand out from the crowd until Jupp Heynckes saw something in the player no one else had.
Heynckes was unhappy with his team's defensive capabilities and moved to bring his marauding midfielder back, but wanted to use him as a libero in the Franz Beckenbauer mold.
It was to prove a stroke of genius as Bruns excelled in the position and stayed with Moenchengladbach for the next 10 years, gaining German caps and receiving wide praise for his style of play.
Moenchengladbach's golden era ended in the 80's when Bruns was coming back, as the club had to sell many of its best players to keep its finances in order. Heynckes did not enjoy the same levels of wage-spending or transfer-spending as his predecessors and had to achieve things on a much stricter budget.
With such small gate receipts coming in from the small Bökelbergstadion, Bayern Munich took their chance and stole the lead as Germany's number one team again. Going as far as to even sign players from Moenchengladbach like Karl De'Haye, who was sold to Munich without his consent and on protest.
Goal Difference, Euro '84 & The German Cup Final...
Even so, they managed to finish most seasons in the top seven of the league and, in 1984, they were part of a four way race in the Bundesliga championship, finishing one point ahead of Bayern, and tied on points with Hamburg and champions Stuttgart, but behind on goal differential. That same season Moenchengladbach lost the German Cup Final to Bayern on penalties.
A young up and coming midfielder by the name of Lothar Matthaus was learning his trade under Bruns at Moenchengladbach and missed the first penalty of the shootout that Munich went on to win. After the match it emerged that the two clubs had agreed upon a £2.25 million transfer of the future Germany captain prior to the final.
From that day on, anytime Matthaus played in the Bokelbergstadion he was greeted with "Judas" style banners. Moenchengladbach fans loath him to this day.
During Bruns 10 years with the club they only finished outside seventh twice, and managed to finish in the top four positions four times. In the modern era, these kinds of results would be deemed a huge success.
Heynckes moved to Bayern Munich in 1987 and this was to signal the end of Mö nchengladbach's flirtation with the title for some time.
The Greatest Goal Never Scored...
The moment Bruns will forever be remembered for happened in 1983.
Bruns was enjoying the game against Bayern immensely and was dominating from the back. He had just hit the crossbar with a thunderbolt of a shot when the now legendary moment happened.
Both teams were challenging for European places and were feeling each other out when Bruns won the ball on the edge of his area and sprinted into the right full position where he then turned and with pace, power, superb skill, and a bit of luck he beat three Munich players before reaching the half-way line.
He powered into the Munich half, frightened defenders backing off at every moment until he neared the goal for a shot. He dummied and played a brilliant one-two that put him free in the box where his placed shot easily beat the keeper only to come off the inside of the near post, roll agonizingly across the goalline, and clip the other post...and back into the relieved goalkeepers arms.
The greatest goal never scored... Click here to view the "goal" on YouTube.
UEFA Cup Misery...
In 1985 Moenchengladbach and Bruns fell to one of the greatest comebacks in European football history when they met Real Madrid in the third round of the UEFA Cup.
Moenchengladbach were hammering teams for fun back in Germany and met Madrid without any signs of fear. In one of Moenchengladbach's greatest ever performances they hammered Real Madrid 5-1 in the first leg, only to lose 4-0 in the return leg and crash out on the away goals rule (5-5 agg).
Crucially, Bruns missed the return leg after picking up his second yellow of the competition against Los Blancos and without their experienced sweeper at the back, Madrid ran amok.
Missing their leader, Moenchengladbach lacked organisation and although Madrid went on to score four and win the tie, Borussia had their fair share of chances to win the game.
Ewald Lienen and Frank Mill both missed glorious one-on-one chances that would have put the game to bed. With 15 minutes to go the game stood at 2-0, only for Mö nchengladbach to completely capitulate. An understandably angry Heynckes refused to talk to his team for days afterwards and it is possibly here his first seeds of doubt in his project were planted. Two years later he was coaching Munich to the title.
Bruns was in his prime during this stage of his career and was even called up to the West Germany team for the 1984 European Championships that was won by France. He didn't play and never again received the chance to add to his four caps.
Retirement, Rejuvenation, and Promotion...
Hans-Gunter Bruns retired after 17 years as a pro in 1990. His final game was a 0-0 draw away to Bayer Uerdingen that secured Moenchengladbach's status as a Bundesliga team where they narrowly avoided relegation by that one magical point.
During the entire length of his career he played 424 games with 301 of those coming in his second phase with Mö nchengladbach.
Many professionals go through their entire careers having achieved very little for when it comes to medals, but if anything Bruns' 17 years proves that even a career without trophies can have stellar moments.
In the year 2000, with the club turning 100 years old, fans of Borussia Moenchengladbach got to vote on their Jarhundertelf . Their XI of the past 100 years.
To no surprise, Hans-Gunter Bruns was named at number four, an honour he truly deserved.
After retiring from playing football Bruns initially worked as an insurance salesman but in 2006 he returned to professional football with Rot-WeiB Oberhausen after a brief stint in the amateur game.
The association was to prove a master-stroke as under Bruns' guidance the team rose from the fourth tier of German football to the second in just two seasons.
In gaining promotion back up to Bundesliga 2, Oberhausen and Bruns set a new German record. Never before had a team who had been relegated down to the fourth tier from the second tier in two seasons returned in just two seasons.
After overseeing one of the great stories in German football Bruns then decided to trade the head coaching role with the role of Technical Director and Jurgen Luginger and he swapped jobs for the 2009-10 season.
Initially things started well for Luginger as the club established themselves in their new league. However, a huge betting scandal broke in December when it emerged that over £1.1 million had been bet on the match between TSV 1860 and Rot-Weis Oberhausen for the match to finish 1-0 to TSV 1860.
Oberhausen player Marinko Miletic scored an own goal in the 69th minute to break the deadlock and leave the game on a very suspicious looking 1-0 scoreline. The DFB immediately launched an investigation into the game but found no wrong doing after studying video footage of the game.
After the game, players from both sides as well as the match officials and FIFA observers all claimed nothing untoward happened during the match and the end result was an unfortunate coincidence.
However, the investigation played a large part in Oberhausen losing their momentum and on the 22nd of April Luginger was removed of his duties as first team coach after the club had gone nine games without a win. Bruns stepped in to finish off the season keeping the team up by just five points.
From next year he will combine both roles at the club as they adopt a managerial system more at home in Britain than in Germany.
Bruns has built a reputation as a manager who likes to give youth a chance and fans of Oberhausen are looking forward to next season and to how the former Mö nchengladbach great will get on.
If his managerial career is anything like his playing career, it will be more than interesting.