The second leg of the Bowles family’s German tour took them (and Wes) to Delbruck, to see City take on Union Berlin. So, minus further ado, we’ll leave you in their more than capable hands…
Monday was spent recovering from our travels to Gutersloh or “recreating after a heavy load” as Herr Farke would put it.
Tuesday: time to set off on the 164-mile journey to Delbruck. Unfortunately, we had over-recreated on Monday and neglected to re-fuel ‘Wes’. As we fired up the trusty VW Camper, on came the fuel light with an estimated range of “40 miles”. Not a good start to the day when you are staying in the middle of a forest which itself is just a nudge from being in the middle of nowhere.
Thankfully we found a garage 35 miles away so no need for any dramas. Note for diary: when planning to go on our next trip, the planning stage should involve some actual planning.
The journey from our base in the beautiful Eifel National Park to the Paderborn area where City have based their pre-season friendlies is pretty straightforward. Hop on the A1, fork onto the A2 at Dortmund and both Gutersloh and Delbruck are in easy reach.
This was our first experience of driving on the Autobahns and great fun it was. There is no speed limit for large sections of the motorway and many locals were taking full advantage of this. Even we were able to drive at speeds that at home would accumulate more points than a whole season of away games under Chris Hughton.
The Delbruck area reminded us very much of Norfolk: mostly farmland with red brick-built barns and outbuildings scattered across the mostly arable fields. In fact, the road from the Autoroute to Delbruck reminded us of the A47, meandering through North Norfolk especially as we were stuck behind a tractor for the last five miles.
We pulled into the car park of the “Stadion Laumeskamp”, Delbruck to the sounds of a German accented “na na na na na na na, Wesley Hoolahan, Hoolahan, Wesley Hoolahan” emanating from within the clubhouse. Unless Wes had signed for Dortmund overnight, it was a pretty good sign that we were in the right place.
The unknown, sprinkled with traces of the familiar, can be difficult for the autistic mind to cope with and so Jacob needs a while to “process”, especially as he had dozed off on the journey and awakened with a bit of a start. We are used to this on away games and liken it to booting up a pc.
At around 4pm, still two hours before kick-off, we ventured off to buy some tickets for the game. Prices ranged from €6 for terraces to €10 for the posh seats in the main stand or “Tribune”. We opted for the latter although for “seats” read “steps”. There was, however, a row of actual seats at the back of the stand reserved for dignitaries.
Then it was back to the van to finish off Jacob’s rebooting and watch the Union Berlin team arrive. The City bus then pulled up and Farke approached Jacob and thanked him for coming – cue another one for the photo album. The board and dignitaries then swept into the car park in a succession of black VW Transporters, like something out of an episode of the Norfolk Celebrity Apprentice.
The inside of the “Stadion Laumeskamp” resembled a boozy school sportsday complete with a beer terrace and a kid’s play area. We saw several City fans seeking shade underneath brightly coloured umbrellas, a smattering of yellow shirts and bright pink flesh. It was hot, nudging 30 degrees even in the late afternoon. Presumably, the plan for a 6pm kick-off was to allow the game to take place in cooler conditions than on Sunday. That worked well.
We took our place on the posh steps in the Tribune alongside the German Canaries and applauded politely as the teams came out onto the pitch. It’s a tiny ground but the oddest thing is the position of the dugouts. The City dugout was to our right, by the corner flag with Union Berlin to our left by the other corner flag. It would be great to do this at Carrow Road… The Snake Pit would provide a warm welcome to many an opposition manager.
We soak up the atmosphere (tinny German pop music, the smell of beer and cigarettes lofting our way from the 1970s) and wait for the game.
The odd layout of the ground meant that we were entertained by Farke throughout the game as he roamed up and down the touchline just a few feet in front of us. We were able to experience first-hand his coaching style as he flitted effortlessly from gently encouraging the inexperienced left-back, Max Aarons, like a personal trainer motivating a young protégé, to launching ferocious bollockings in German aimed at the more senior players.
His frequent calls to his team to “press harder”, “work harder”, “up your game” in the searing heat seemed a bit harsh to us holidaymakers sweating buckets sitting in the shade, but this is clearly the standard that is expected of this team.
Farke’s mannerisms were a joy to watch: he was pensive at times, like a football philosopher; he was encouraging and then he was angry. Very angry. Towards the end of the first half, Ben Godfrey found the net only for the ref, after a bit of a delay, to rule it out. Farke erupted into a tirade of parental advisory advice for the ref, all in his native tongue whilst gesticulating wildly.
His mood wasn’t helped when the tannoy promptly awarded the goal and then issued a retraction.
As the half-time whistle blew, Farke marched onto the pitch and remonstrated with the officials like a tanned and moustachioed Neil Warnock.
During breaks in play, Farke could be seen putting his arm around players, like a scene from Trainer! (If you haven’t seen Trainer!, you really should. It’s a film about German managers in the Bundesliga B and features a cameo appearance from Mario Vrancic.)
Halftime arrived and it was 1-0 to Union Berlin; a loopy header leaving Remi Matthews stranded and City fans slowly shaking their heads. ‘He ain’t no Angus bruv’.
It should be clear by now that we have no pretensions of being football pundits, but we are troubled by City’s keeper situation as we edge closer to the new Championship season. Is Remi a good keeper? What makes a good keeper? The honest answer is we don’t know.
Our sum knowledge of the art of goalkeeping came from a few hours spent in the company of Dean Kiely. This was at the end of 2025/16 season dinner when we joined on our table by Mr Kiely and Declan Rudd. (we didn’t actually know who he was, but Jacob announced: “That’s Dean Kiely. He was born in Salford and played for Coventry City (1987–1990), Ipswich on loan 1989, York City 1990–1996…” and so on, casually reciting his career from memory).
Mr Kiely was so impressed that we knew who he was (ahem) that he bought us all a drink and spent the rest of the night explaining goalkeeping and answering our questions. It sounds dull, but it was really interesting and Dean is a really nice bloke.
Anyway, having graduated from the Dean Kiely school of goalkeeping we can say that Remi looks short of whatever it is that is required. Whatever that is. We never saw Bryan Gunn in action between the sticks but were fortunate enough to meet him several times last season and he clearly had bucket loads of what’s required. He probably stopped a few with his huge personality. The goalkeeping gene was obviously passed to Angus, but Remi seems to lack something.
Dean Kiely had spoken very highly of Remi, so he is clearly a talented lad, but maybe needs time for it to flourish.
Anyway, we are standing minding our own business at halftime when we are approached by Norwich royalty. None other than Delia herself who was interested in our thoughts on the first half. “Well, it’s Remi… Er… not sure he’s ready”, we stutter, and Delia raises her hand
“Don’t worry,” she says, “Stuart will look after him” with a knowing nod.
Clearly, there are plans in place, no doubt they will emerge over the coming days, but whatever they involve will hopefully resolve the concerns some have over our keeper. Whatever you say about Delia, the fact that she and the majority of the board take the trouble to actually approach and talk to random fans speaks volumes about them.
With the second half underway, Farke seemed to have calmed down a bit. Jordan Rhodes popped up for a standard Jordan Rhodes goal and Timm Klose loses his own-goal cherry. Its 2-1 to Berlin as the ref blows the final whistle.
Polite applause all round ended a physically demanding workout for the Canaries. Christophe Zimmermann trotted over, thrust out a hand, thanked us personally for coming and apologised for losing the game. He looked genuinely upset at the result. Timm Klose then tells us he’s really annoyed at scoring his first own-goal but seemed chipper a bit later. He came up to us to have a look round Wes the campervan, which was parked by the team bus.
He is so charming – we thought about taking him home with us.
Back on the autoroutes and home for 01:30, having taken the time to stop off, eat, have a nap, and marvel at German motorway toilets (they even have glossy brochures in English to explain how they cater for your toilet needs!). Blyth services, take note…
Another day of recreating for us, and a trip to the garage, before the trip to Barsinghausen on Thursday.
Andy, Sharon & Jacob