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‘Generally it was seen as a positive restart’ - Canaries fan on Bundesliga’s return

Paul Standley with a German Canaries flag as Norwich City took on Schalke during their pre-season tour of Germany last year 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Paul Standley with a German Canaries flag as Norwich City took on Schalke during their pre-season tour of Germany last year Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Paul Chesterton

Following the restart of the Bundesliga last weekend, David Freezer spoke to Paul Standley from the German Canaries supporters group to get an insight into how the game’s return has been greeted.

Football’s return may have been largely welcomed in Germany but there are plenty of fans who are yet to be convinced, according to one of the members of the German Canaries supporters group.

Paul Standley, who is originally from Norfolk, is part of the group of Norwich City supporters which was founded in 2002 and has been keeping a close eye on the Bundesliga’s return from his home in west Germany.

The lifelong Canaries fan moved over in the late 1980s and lives in Sankt Augustin, near Bonn in the North Rhine-Westphalia region, south of the city of Cologne - who had been due to fly over for City’s top-flight clash with Southampton in March, prior to the game’s suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic.

With FC Köln his closest team and an affection for Borussia Dortmund, he watched last weekend’s return to action from home with great interest - knowing Norwich are hoping to follow suit next month.

“I think generally there is as mixed opinion as there is in the UK, or even more so in the UK,” Standley explained. “I think there is a fraction which says that football without fans just isn’t the same and everyone can see when you watch a game, as we saw at the weekend, that it isn’t the same, there is something clearly missing.

“But there are those who say on the other hand that it is a business as well and we all need to get back to work somehow or other, that at least accept that we need to find a sporting solution to end the season.

“I think generally it was seen as a positive restart, even though there is obviously some very strange elements to it.”

Canaries loanee Philip Heise featured as a late substitute for Nuernberg in the second tier, coming on in the 79th minute during a 1-0 loss at St Pauli, as the fifth substitute. New regulations allow a bench of nine to be named and although five substitutes can be brought on, it has to be in three groups, to prevent the extra numbers being used for time wasting.

The German Canaries are among the supporters groups who have followed City's pre-season tours of Germany in recent years Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus ImagesThe German Canaries are among the supporters groups who have followed City's pre-season tours of Germany in recent years Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Dennis Srbeny, who City sold to Paderborn in January, played the majority of a 0-0 draw at Fortuna Dusseldorf but the lone striker saw little of the ball as two struggling top-flight sides battled it out.

Standley also highlighted two other former Canaries players in Bundesliga Two, former academy defender Dario Dumic and a centre-back from the early stages of the Daniel Farke era, Marcel Franke.

“Dario is playing for Darmstadt this year and was at Dresden last year,” he said, speaking to the Pinkun.com Norwich City Podcast. “I think he played most of the game, although Dramstadt lost (2-0) at Karlsruher. I think he’s still under contract to Utrecht but has been out on loan to Germany for the last one and a half seasons.

“But Marcel Franke’s game for Hannover, that was quite interesting, because Dresden who they were due to play have had two infections and their local health authority decided that the whole team needed to go into quarantine, so couldn’t play last weekend and also won’t be playing this weekend.

“That’s the only setback so far that there’s been in the top two divisions.”

MORE: City players past and present in action as football returns in Germany

Germany’s lockdown has been eased in recent weeks, with a coronavirus death toll of over 8,000, compared to over 35,000 in the UK, with the UK’s total deaths per million people during the pandemic among the worst in the world at around 525, compared to around 97 in Germany.

Social distancing guidelines and hygiene precautions remain of paramount importance of course however, to avoid an outbreak among the 36 clubs in the top two divisions in Germany.

A banner for the German Canaries in front of City players, coaches and fans during a friendly against Union Berlin during pre-season in Germany in 2018 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus ImagesA banner for the German Canaries in front of City players, coaches and fans during a friendly against Union Berlin during pre-season in Germany in 2018 Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

“There’s a very strict definition of who can be in a stadium and who can be in the realms of the pitch, who can be in the stands, mostly journalists and a few others, and then some stewards outside,” the German Canaries member continued.

“It does go up to a maximum of 300, that’s very organised, as you would expect over here, and there was certainly no trouble with groups of fans trying to get anywhere near the ground. Any celebration you heard was from those few people associated with the teams within the grounds.

“I did feel that there was a bit of pre-season about it but I think generally you could see they weren’t all fit, around 75 minutes the games deteriorated, but it was very much Bundesliga football, just without the fans around the ground.

“The quality was similar and the teams that were good beforehand are still good now. That was my take on it. You have to get used to it but it was as good a start as you could have hoped for.”

MORE: Premier League encouraged by lack of fan issues during Bundesliga return

The UK government and English football authorities are watching Germany’s progress closely, ahead of a reported resumption date of June 12 for the Premier League, although there have been suggestions in recent days that may move back to June 19.

Standley, like all City fans, is eagerly waiting to see whether Norwich are able to resume their survival scrap.

He concluded: “Having followed it here in Germany with the Bundesliga, I think it has shown it can work but it has also shown it’s very dependant on the situation in the country itself.

“I know Germany is a bit ahead in the timings of the virus and Britain has been affected more, so you really have to look at the environment and the country you’re in as to how well it could work, but certainly two or three weeks ago the teams were starting to come back and doing this small group training without contact.

“If the Premier League can build up and continue in the same way, set the rules similarly to the Bundesliga, that feel right for them, then I think it can work.

“We have to really make the best of the situation, you can’t have everything as it should be at the moment, unfortunately. So I would look forward to a start but obviously only if it’s as safe as it can be, or as is possible, as in any other walk of life, once they do start up.”

This weekend will see Heise and Nuernberg host Erzgebirge Aue on Friday (5.30pm UK time), while on Saturday it will be Hoffenheim at home for Srbeny with Paderborn (2.30pm) and St Pauli are the visitors for Dumic with Darmstadt (12pm).

- Standley was a guest on the latest edition of the Pinkun.com Norwich City Podcast, which can be listened to above.

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