comment_190525

After the announcement of the pre-season friendlies in Germany, which Nick Draper will no doubt be rolling his eyes at, who else is better to ask about how to get around, where to go, and what to see in Germany, than our resident German, Mark Hendrikx? Well, Nena for one. But she wasn’t available. Believe us: we tried. And Boris Becker told us in no uncertain terms to shove it. There are no other famous Germans. So we’re stuck with Hendrikx.

So – it has been announced. Two PSFs in Germany. Kaiserslautern and Kickers Offenbach. Two mouth-watering ties, to be fair.

It is a great shame that Kaiserslautern will not be playing their match at their home stadium, the Fritz-Walter-Stadion, as it is a 49,780 capacity stadium and even though 1.FCK are in the third division in Germany, they still manage to average around 23,000 per home game. Instead, the Official Site told us that the match would be played at the “Weingarten Arena”. This is not to be confused with the Weingarten Arena near Ravensburg in South Germany. This match will be played at SV Weingarten and kick-off is at 7pm CET on Friday, 12 July.

The second match is against Kickers Offenbach. This will be a more tasty atmosphere due to the Sparda-Bank-Hessen-Stadion. A 20,500 capacity stadium, which coincidentally hosts the German National Rugby team’s home matches, averages around 8,500 a home game. Offenbach is directly next to Frankfurt am Main (not to be confused with Frankfurt an der Oder where one Benfica fan accidentally travelled to) and kick-off will be on Saturday 13 July at 3pm CET.

So, folks… if you’ve gotten this far, how about I make a few suggestions of how best to travel?

If you are contemplating attending both matches (Nick will deem you crazy), you have one of two options. Fly into Stüttgart, as it is slightly less of a distance to Weingarten than Frankfurt, and fly back to the UK from Frankfurt. Or you can fly into Frankfurt, take a train down to Weingarten and then fly back from Frankfurt. Please beware and do not book flights to Frankfurt Hahn. This airport is in the arse-end of nowhere. Fly directly to FRA (airport code).

So – if you are going to travel by train from Frankfurt or Stüttgart to Weingarten book directly on the German Railway website.

Before you go into details looking at Weingarten – bear in mind you will probably need to get a taxi from Lingenfeld station to the stadium. This will set you back around €15 each way.

Let’s take Frankfurt to Weingarten as an example. You will need to go from Frankfurt to Lingenfeld. This should offer you an ICE train (Inter-City-Express) via Mannheim and then you’ll need to get onto a local service to Lingenfeld. I have just searched online and found a return trip from Frankfurt to Lingenfeld for €47,80. This is a very good price, considering you’ll be on an ICE train. Outbound from Frankfurt (Main) at 15:06 arriving Lingenfeld at 16:41. Return journey would be departing Lingenfeld at 21:17 arriving at Frankfurt 22:58. Or you can get the return trip departing Lingenfeld at 23:00 and arriving at Frankfurt at 00:42. Same price at €47.80 (if you book in advance only).

Nearby to the stadium is the Gaststätte Zum Schwanen (the Guesthouse by the Swans). It gets good reviews with a decent choice of beer on tap and a good menu for dinner.

If you’re planning on staying somewhere nearby to this location, I would advise to get to Mannheim and stay there. It has better transport links to Frankfurt / Offenbach for the following match.

Offenbach is a completely different kettle of fish. If you’re deciding on staying in Offenbach, then grab the S8 train from FRA airport and disembark at whichever Offenbach train station nearest to your accommodation. It’ll cost you all of €5 to get to Offenbach from FRA for a 30 minute journey. If you’re on a budget, then look at staying somewhere in Offenbach. Frankfurt is very expensive in comparison.

At this point, I think I will leave you to your devices, choosing how best to travel, what accommodation you’ll be looking for and which match(es) you will attend. Let me finish with a few little pointers about German & German etiquette.

  • Don’t be a dick or you’ll get hit.
  • At bars and restaurants it is customary to tip. Just round up to the nearest €5 or €10 depending which is closer to 10% of the total bill.
  • If you are polite, people will be polite back. But the Germans are very pragmatic and to the point. If something says it is €15, it is bloody well €15.
  • Don’t break any rules … you will get fined on the spot if caught. And the fines are heavy handed.
  • Enjoy yourselves. Don’t bring up history. Chat football with the other fans and you’ll have friends for life.
  • And finally – it is very important to remember that if you cheers someone in Germany with a glass, you look the other person directly in the eye. There is a superstition about this which I won’t explain here (you can google it).

Enjoy your trip(s). It’ll be a blast.

// Mark Hendrikx – @MarkatCIFF

comment_190525

You may recognise that as Uhtred’s – Son of Uhtred – catchphrase from ‘The Last Kingdom,’ the third season of which I just happen to be watching now (think a Viking Wagstaff with his magnificent beard). It seems now prescient on the last 10 games since our last review of what history has shown us . . .

In our last article showing us how the past might show us what was going to happen, we showed that historically over the last 10 seasons, the average number of points required to avoid relegation was 49.

Looking at past results, with 10 games to go, it suggested we’d accumulate another 13 points (nine at home; four away) and finish on 46 points, below this threshold.

In reality, we got eight points at home but a massive nine points away. And that is why we are still in League One – our away form again came to our rescue.

Looking in detail at those games, the bonus of our unexpected home win against Peterborough was undone by our loss to Gillingham. However, for the other games everything went as expected: draws with Accrington and Bristol Rovers, and a win against Wycombe.

Away from home though, the win against Southend was not expected as we were meant to draw. Scunthorpe was also a given win but all of Oxford, Luton AND Bradford were expected to see us lose. So it is fair to say that drawing all those games – though not good for the nerves at the time – were ultimately the games that did get us across the line – with some help, it has to be said, from Accrington Stanley: by missing that penalty at Kinsgsmeadow, and then by thumping Plymouth 5-1.

So now we await the beginning of our fourth year in League One, with New Plough Lane, or NPL – is anyone ever now going to NOT call it that? – a year closer to being christened with League One football.

But what has happened before – say in the last five years – with teams that flirted so dangerously with relegation in the past?

Of the 21 clubs that have been in the next bottom six, 16 have been relegated. Only Gillingham, Coventry, Shrewsbury, Fleetwood, and ourselves have survived. Of those, only Gillingham have survived where they have had two consecutive seasons in this bottom six. All others have managed either to stay out of there or, if they have appeared twice, it has not been consecutive seasons.

So there is some hope there that our two consecutive seasons may not lead to a third, although Gillingham have managed to be in this position the most: 50 per cent of the time, in fact.

But it shows more than ever how a good start to next season is required to break this trend. Remaining unbeaten at the end of this season is worth psychologically a foot up for next, but we then need to start running on gas. We will see if this materialises!

// Jim Potter – @JamPot44