Provided plenty of continental memories
1 May ~ Ask fans of Aberdeen, Everton or Rangers which match epitomises their club's European trophy win and it's not always the final. More often it's the night when, on their way to that final, they beat Bayern Munich at home. If Bayern finish the job against Barcelona this evening they would reach their first final at Wembley – long overdue for the club who provide the marquee continental memory for so many British supporters. It could be Norwich and Raith Rovers taking dramatic 1990s leads in the Olympic Stadium.
Or it might be George Osborne and John Terry jumping on the back of Didier Drogba's Allianz Arena heroics in last season's Champions League final. But whether it's playing Rangers, Coventry and Liverpool in a single Fairs Cup campaign or exiting to British teams in all three competitions over five straight 1980s seasons, Bayern have dealt out as much joy as pain here.
Prior even to the endless repeat fixture that is the Champions League group stages, certain clubs just kept visiting. Since the 1960s Valencia seem to have been drawn against any British club ever setting foot on the continent. Leeds have an apparent fixation with playing in UEFA competitions at every venue in Scotland. But what grants Bayern at least one soft spot in the heart of their countless UK adversaries is a benevolent sliding scale – the objective importance of each clash matches the subjective need of their opponents.
Raith lost home and away to them in the second round of the 1995-96 UEFA Cup but what a tie with which to complete your only European campaign. Seven years earlier, Hearts went out to the Bavarians in the same competition but the Jambos – historically bigger and more successful than Raith – did it in the quarter-finals and managed a memorable home victory. Iain Ferguson's first-leg winner remains as precious for their supporters as Danny Lennon's second-leg opener does for Raith fans. Similarly, Coventry's fourth and last European game to date was a memorable win at Highfield Road in November 1970 after a 6-1 humbling in the first leg; but Aston Villa's historic zenith saw Nigel Spink and Peter Withe stunning Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Paul Breitner in the 1982 European Cup final.
Munich, of course, features in Old Trafford folklore for vastly differing reasons. But while Manchester United's first European Cup win, against Benfica at Wembley in 1968, provided some catharsis for the air crash of ten years earlier, the dramatic 1999 victory over Bayern in their second European Cup final confirmed Alex Ferguson as the Matt Busby of the Sky TV age. Liverpool may be the exception to the “golden memory” rule. Probably because they've never played Bayern in a final, although they met three times in Europe from 1971 to 1981, and are the only UK club to have won the continent's top prize more often than them.
Leeds lost unpleasantly to Bayern in the 1975 European Cup final but associate the Germans with the night they played in the biggest club game of the lot. And should Bayern again reach that match themselves, against another German club, in London, it will complete a cycle for Bayern and for the city of Munich. Bayern's first and last European finals came against British sides in Germany. And when they beat Rangers in Nuremberg in the 1967 Cup-Winners Cup final, it was going one better than TSV 1860 Munich, who lost the same final to West Ham two years earlier – at Wembley, natürlich. Alex Anderson