In recent years we’ve brought you Blogs from across the Geordie diaspora and this time we are delighted to bring you the first in a regular Blog from Germany, written by Neil Cranswick, an exiled-Mag now living in Berlin. We’ll let Neil introduce himself ….
I guess the best place to start this is with a question: Who am I?
My name is Neil, I’m a Geordie (North Shields-born, grew up in Whitley Bay), and I moved to Germany over four years ago.
I’ve finally got a ‘proper job’, am about to get married to the missus, and am about to hit the big 30, which the missus takes great joy in reminding me about – although she’s shut up about it recently since she was called a MILF on the street by a young Turkish kid. She was devastated.
Anyway, off and on I’ve written letters, a blog on the 2010 World Cup (or WM as they call it over here), and a few articles for the spot-on lads at true faith, and they’ve asked me to give my thoughts on Newcastle United, football, Germany and all sorts of other shite. So, here goes.
Do I love football? I’m not actually sure. The only English games I watched last season were United matches, which is a hell of a change from someone who used to watch all of the football he could. I don’t want to come across as a football hipster or elitist, but I just don’t enjoy watching English football. To be honest, I’m not even sure I enjoy watching The Toon, although, then again, I guess it’s the same for most of you reading this right now!
However, I have to say that I do love watching German football. It’s an oft-repeated fact, but the games are more open, the atmosphere is much better, and there is a lot more exciting young native talent on show. It’s a lot cheaper as well but that’s a whole subject in itself.
When I moved here in 2009, I faced the classic expat dilemma. How to choose your ‘local’ team?
I already had a fondness for Dynamo Dresden, having been to a few of their home games and the fact it was the favourite team of a lot of my missus’ mates (although not her, for some reason). The atmosphere was intense, and their fans have a hell of a bad reputation, but standing on the old K-Block was an exciting, and thoroughly intimidating experience.
Other than Dynamo, who were in the Third Division when I moved here (although have since been promoted), I started out with the 36 Bundesliga teams (first two divisions) and decided to watch enough football so it would eventually narrow itself down.
How am I going with this?
Not very well, to be honest.
I disliked Bayern long before I even moved here (too much success and a bit of a Man Utd aura about them), and since then, I’ve only really taken a dislike (and that is probably too strong a word – maybe disinterest is a better word) in Hoffenheim (as close as you will probably get to a Chelsea situation here) and Wolfsburg (no idea why) in the First Division.
In the Second Division, aside from Dresden, I don’t really care either way. I like the East German teams and St Pauli, but otherwise, no-one really stands out.
I had thought that Dortmund was becoming my team (aside from Dresden). And what’s not to like? Young team, highly skilled, playing fast attacking football and sticking it to the man (Bayern). But then something strange happened. In the last game they played against Schalke, I found myself cheering for the Königsblauen. Schalke 04!
No idea is the honest answer. I can give you the usual shite about likeable and talented young players, quality older players, and that Gelsenkirchen is twinned with Newcastle upon Tyne. But, I honestly have no idea. It just seems right.
I find that, as with my first love, a team chooses you. I’m a Geordie, therefore the default setting is that I will be a Mag. My missus and her mates are from near Dresden, and it was my first game over here, so I have a soft spot for Dynamo. And Schalke? Like I said, I have no idea why I like them really, but they obviously speak to my subconscious on some level.
Obviously I’m on Twitter, and there are a load of opinions flying around. Maybe it’s just the people I follow (I don’t really keep an eye on the #NUFC tag, which is probably a blessing), but the majority (I guess about 60%) wanted Pardew out at the end of the season. Don’t get me wrong, I think he had a dire season, but we, of all clubs, should realise that chopping and changing managers is not the way forward.
We have to give Pardew one more season to see what he’s really all about. And to avoid rushing into appointing someone shite!
Obviously the main story this off-season over here (in fact, since it was announced early in the year) is Pep Guardiola choosing to join FC Bayern.
Once it was announced, it was admirable how Jupp Heynckes – the incumbent coach – managed to get the players to retain their focus and complete an extraordinary treble. Despite not liking Bayern at all, it was hard not to feel quite happy for the guy, who handled the whole situation with dignity and still won everything in sight. How Guardiola can top that, I have no idea.
I’ve spoken to a few Bayern fans, and they seem to think Guardiola is not just there for immediate success (although Paul Breitner once said that it was impossible to enjoy winning at Bayern, such is the level of expectation), but to infuse the whole club with a self-sustaining and successful culture. Mind, it’s not like they didn’t already have that. And the players they can’t produce, they can just buy from their rivals.
Still, it will be interesting next year, with Dortmund also making moves to replace Götze and (probably) Lewandowski with exciting replacements. And Schalke should also be a bit less haphazard next season and will hopefully push them both all the way, alongside Leverkusen.
It promises to be an interesting season.
What many of you possibly don’t realise is that, to put it bluntly, it gets fucking hot over here in the summer. Aye, it’s not the Mediterranean, but temperatures here can push the high thirties in summer. And there’s no wind to ease it, which makes it weird that Germans wear coats all the time! I mean, as soon as it breaks past 20, I’m in shorts.
However, the lord giveth and the lord taketh away. In winter, it gets bastard cold. My first winter here we had a month of around -20. It almost makes you wish for it to be wet and windy, but at least it’s relatively stable.
Anyway, the point I’m making (I think) is that the summer here is just starting to heat up. Just like the transfer market.
Let’s hope Joe Kinnear does us proud.
I had to end it on an optimistic note.