‘LITTLE GERMANY’, that grand collection of warehouses and imposing buildings in the centre of Bradford, has long been one of Yorkshire’s historical gems.
Built in the 19th Century thanks to the vision of civic leaders and the money of German wool merchants, this living museum remains a reassuring presence in a city centre that has suffered more than its fair share of architectural vandalism down the years.
It is perhaps fitting, therefore, that Bradford City, like neighbours Huddersfield Town, have undergone Germanification in recent months, which has built on already strong foundations.
Edin Rahic and Stefan Rupp, two German investors, bought the Bantams last May and, like David Wagner and the influx of Bundesliga players up the road at the John Smith’s Stadium, they have made an immediate impact.
Stuart McCall’s appointment, the new owners’ first big decision following Phil Parkinson’s shock departure, has proved a master stroke in ensuring continuity by appointing a man familiar with the club while also providing a fresh on-field approach.
So, too, was the decision to bring Greg Abbott back to Valley Parade as head of recruitment and City host Rochdale today sitting third in League One.
Continuing the German theme against Dale will be Rouven Sattelmaier, who is in line to make his league debut for the Bantams due to first-choice goalkeeper Colin Doyle being away on international duty.
“I am really looking forward to the game,” the former Bayern Munich goalkeeper told The Yorkshire Post.
“I have played in the Checkatrade, but it will be special to play in front of a big crowd. That is why we all play football, for things like this.
“These are the best games. I want to play in front of 20,000 people, that is why I came to this country.”
Once a colleague of Manuel Neuer at Bayern, the 29-year-old has had to be patient since moving to Valley Parade last summer. Doyle, called into the Republic of Ireland squad for today’s World Cup qualifier in Austria, quickly established himself after Bradford bought out the token £1 release fee in his contract at Blackpool.
Doyle’s first 14 appearances in League One saw just nine goals conceded and although that record took a battering in City’s last two games as Sheffield United and AFC Wimbledon netted a combined five times, the Cork-born goalkeeper remains McCall’s first-choice goalkeeper.
This, though, is not something that fazes Sattelmaier, who after signing for Bayern due to being impressed by then manager Louis van Gaal failed to make a first-team appearance in two years.
A problematic shoulder injury proved a major hindrance, as did van Gaal leaving towards the end of that first season he was at the club. Nevertheless, Sattelmaier has few regrets about swapping SSV Jahn Regensburg for Bayern in 2010.
“I was really excited when I signed for Bayern Munich,” said the goalkeeper, who was on the bench in the Bundesliga and travelled with the squad to key Champions League games, including the 2012 semi-final against Real Madrid in the Bernabeu. “It was very different to go from the third division to the top club in Germany.
“But to play with those great players was really exciting. Unfortunately, I had a big problem with injury. My tendon in my shoulder was not right and I was injured for a long time. That made things hard. I didn’t have much luck there, but I was on the bench in Hamburg and that was a great experience.
“I went to Madrid for the semi-final as part of the squad. Jorg Butt had an injury and was struggling so I went with the team. I was not on the bench because Borg was fit, but it was still great to be part of a big club like Bayern Munich in such a big occasion.
“There is big pressure at a club like Bayern. The club was struggling a little bit when I signed because (Borussia) Dortmund had done really, really well in the Championship.”
Sattelmaier had an unsuccessful trial at Rangers after leaving Bayern and it seemed his hopes of playing in Britain had gone. Then, though, came last summer’s takeover of City by Rahic and Rupp.
“I had a call from the agent at the end of May,” he said. “I was told a club in England with new owners might be interested.
“He said I had to go for a trial. I was fine with that. I had told my agent that I really wanted to play in England. This was my big chance. I said ‘yes’ to the trial straight away.
“But then things started to take a really long time. It wasn’t easy because I also had another offer on the table from Germany.
“They wanted me to sign, but I wanted to wait, I saw this as my last chance to get a move to England and I wanted to try. I had to be patient, but I am really glad that things could get sorted.”
Five months after joining the Bantams, Sattelmaier feels settled in England – no doubt helped by the presence of so many fellow countrymen just 10 or so miles away in Huddersfield.
“I played last season against (Town defender) Michael Hefele,” he added. “He was skipper at Dresden last season and they were promoted from the third division. They are a really big club in Germany.
“Since moving to England, I have met him and (Terriers striker Elias) Kachunga two times in Leeds. We had a coffee.
“Huddersfield is not so far from here so it is strange how all these German people have suddenly arrived. But it is good for us all.
“I do get asked by a lot of people in Germany if there is much difference between football in England and at home. I just tell people to come over and watch a few games, then they will see. It is definitely more physical because of the referees. Here is also less tactical, it is quicker and some teams are direct. But I do love how the game is played.”