Stuart Nichols is a 31 year old who lives in Barrow in Furness, Cumbria. He is currently the Independent Supporters Club Secretary; a post he’s been enjoying for almost 5 seasons. He helps organise travel for Barrow, and is the type of person that most football cubs rely on, yet take for granted. They’re behind the scenes, they get no glory when the coach breaks down on the M6 or when ticket prices are announced and it’s eighteen pounds to watch a bottom of the table Conference clash.
There are a number of people like Stuart using social networks – primarily Twitter – to scope out fellow UK fans that are interested in German club football. Stuart has only been to 5 Köln games, he’s never seen them win (can we arrange free flights for Saturday Unioner?!!) and lives in the north of England. It’s a funny old game. Here’s a brief Q&A. As ever, the words are partly mine and I take responsibility for any mistakes. I hope I have conveyed what Stuart wanted to get across in the interview.
Why do you support Köln? How long have you followed from afar? Can you recall your first game? Do you get to go to many games?
Köln was the first German city I visited in January 2010 when I went over for a long weekend and took in the game against Dortmund. Not to be soppy, but I fell in love with the place; the game itself was a cracker with Dortmund winning 3-2 after being two goals to the good. Köln had leveled late on before Dortmund snatched a winner in injury time. Epic stuff and a baptism of fire!
I have since been back three times, including a 3-0 defeat against Borussia Mönchengladbach in the Derby which was a mind-blowing experience for a non-league fan. I was hooked though so later in the season I returned for the Dortmund game which ended 6-1. Whilst the result was a huge disappointment these trips are about more than the result.
Another reason for loving the German fan culture. This season I traveled to Köln to watch us play St Pauli in September. We traveled with a couple of lads from the Yorkshire St Pauli Fan Club and that game ended 0-0. In November I was in Berlin for a Thursday night game with Hertha which ended 1-1. My winless run continues.
For the start of next season i hope to have the UK FC Köln fan club set up as there does seem to be decent number of Köln fans in the UK. I have also made numerous friends in Köln with who i meet up with when in the City and one of them even made a visit to Barrow this season to stop with me and watch a Barrow game. That’s what football is all about – the people you meet, the shared experiences and hopefully seeing the odd win!
Clearly the Bundesliga is fashionable at the moment. What is the appeal for you?
Fan culture is the central theme in Germany – this year especially with the 12:12 protests. Being able to stand on large open terraces and purchase cheap and affordable tickets while enjoying a beer with your mates in great stadiums is how it should be. The positive nature of the fans, the way they stay behind the team until the end with non-stop singing, no matter the result, is brilliant.
Everything I love about German football is the exact opposite to what is happening in England right now. Soulless grounds, rising ticket prices and a lack of atmosphere are a slur on the English footballing landscape. It should not be like this.
How have Köln played this season?
A season of rebuilding after the shambles of the 2nd half of last season; the season started very poorly with 4 defeats in the first 6 games picking up only 2 points and scoring only 2 goals which were both from the the penalty spot. The last of those defeats was at Union after going 1 up in the first few minutes.
Eventually the season started to improve as we went on a 5 match unbeaten run including wins against Frankfurt and away to Paderborn.
At Regensburg we were 2-0 down with only 3 mins to play and manged to win 2-3. A truly extraordinary fightback albeit against now relegation certainties. We we were also involved – as Union were on the opening day of this season – in a thrilling 3-3 game with Kaiserslautern. The 16th November heralded the start of a nine match unbeaten run as we gradually clambered up the table. This included a respectable 1-1 in the Olympiastadion against Hertha and another draw, this time at home, against league leaders Braunschweig.
That game finished 2-2. There is certainly goals in this Köln side. We just need to keep them out. The Union game, on paper, could be a cracker.
Stand out players?
The player that has stood out for me has been Christian Clemens, scorer of a few spectacular goals this season, including a spectacular free-kick in Hamburg on Monday night as we narrowly defeated St.Pauli 1-0. If he maintains this form he will be back in the Bundesliga next season as there has been interest previously from top flight clubs. Another player to watch out for is Anthony Ujah, on loan from Mainz. He’s had a great season so far scoring a number of crucial goals.
Can Köln Finish 3rd?
This is highly unlikely unfortunately. An abysmal start followed by too many draws, especially at home, where we have finished all square on six occasions, will cost us the chance to compete for 3rd spot. As will the fact we have yet to face Kaiserslautern away. The plus point is that Kaiserslautern still have to play the top two. I’d say Köln, Union, 1860 and FSV Frankfurt are well placed should Kaiserslautern slip up. There are still a lot of points to play for and there will inevitably be more twists and turns!