Young Shrimpers in German Exchange

Last updated : 19 October 2008 By Robert Craven

German duo Stefan Winkel and Petar Filipovic have spent seven days on the southeast Essex coastline, staying at Blues' youth team hostel, with Gordon Rieck and Kyle Asante making the return trip to Hamburg next week.

St. Pauli currently sit in mid-table in the German Second Division, although the club are famous for their fanatical support and anti-fascist stance which has seen their fanbase regularly sell-out their 32,000-capacity Millerntor Stadium, even during their recent spell in the third tier.

Jan Rieck, who helped to instigate the partnership, takes up the story: "Even in the Third Division, St. Pauli averaged 30,000 gates. This development is not simply a player exchange, though. Over the coming months, we hope to arrange a coaching exchange whereby Ricky Duncan will be able to learn different methods and gain experience of techniques in a different country."

Duncan agreed the deal with Joachim Philipkowski, the St. Pauli youth co-ordinator, and scout Marco Feldhusen when the St. Pauli officials visited Southend-on-Sea in September.

Philipkowski explained the move from a German prospective when talking to his club's official website, "The players improve their English and learn lessons for life. The care and the sporting facilities on site at the training ground are excellent. The players are accommodated in the youth hostel, which lies close to the town centre and offers a marvellous look at the Thames."

Winkel and Filipovic arrived in England last Sunday, and watched Southend's reserve side lose 2-0 at Ipswich Town on Tuesday before seeing wins for the Under-18s - sending Ricky Duncan's teenagers top of the Youth Alliance table - and the first-team this weekend. At half-time of the Roots Hall clash with Swindon Town, the pair were introduced to the Shrimpers crowd to mark the link-up.

"It was a good game in a nice stadium,"
Winkel revealed of his trip to Portman Road. "This morning's match was also good - the game is much faster than it is in Germany." Filipovic was equally observant: "The referees are a lot more lenient here!"

"The manager from St. Pauli recommended us for this trip, and we are very happy to have come to England,"
the defender, who can play at left-back or centre-half, continued. "I like the way the game is played here. We have trained with the youth team and that has been really good."

Midfielder Winkel is hopeful of further trips in future: "It has been really nice, and I expect that there will be chances for others to come to England. I would very much like it if I could come back."

First, though, will be the chance for Rieck and Asante to visit St. Pauli next weekend for a similar period ahead of the arrival of the German club's Under-19 and Under-17 coaches to the British Isles in January. The partnership is similar to that between Blues and CD Javea of Spain, where Dan Harvey and James Lindie are currently enjoying their development seasons.