Football is set to resume behind closed doors in Germany.
And FC Ingolstadt coach Mark Fotheringham hopes it paves the way for Scotland to follow suit.
Former Celtic, Norwich City and Fulham star Fotheringham travelled to Germany from his family home in Tayside this week to prepare Ingolstadt’s players for the resumption of their season.
Amid strict coronavirus testing and social distancing measures, the top two German leagues plan to restart matches in empty stadiums on May 9.
Ingolstadt, who are chasing promotion from the third tier, are preparing to return to action too.
And Fotheringham, whose playing days included spells with both Dundee clubs, is praying Germany’s closed doors experiment is successful.
He said: “I know the football world will be watching Germany over the next few weeks to see how things pan out here.
“Hopefully it goes smoothly, because I think everybody wants to see football being played again.
“The advantage we’ve got in Germany is that the authorities here are handling things really well.
“They are testing at high volumes and the medical facilities are fantastic.
“The hospitals have all the beds and respiratory equipment they need because the Germans are very meticulous, they plan ahead for everything.
“At the end of the day, as coaches, we’ve got a responsibility to our players.
“But if everybody is getting tested and everybody has been given a clean bill of health, I don’t see any reason why we can’t play games behind closed doors.
“All of our players and staff have been tested and all of them have come back negative. The same thing has been happening at the other clubs too.
“Hopefully, if we get back up and running in the next few weeks, the government in Scotland will take a look at it and see that it’s possible to do it safely.
“That would at least let the Scottish clubs and authorities get planning for starting next season – behind closed doors, if necessary – the same way the Germans have.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon sparked panic amongst clubs after suggesting football is unlikely to return behind closed doors in this country, citing a fear of fans congregating to watch games away from stadiums.
In Germany, football’s return is being viewed completely differently.
“It will be good for people to watch the games on TV,” said Fotheringham.
“The way the Germans work, if the government are telling them they’re in lockdown in their houses and they’re only getting out for an hour a day for exercise with their family members, that’s exactly what they do.
“It’s the way they are as people – they don’t mess about here.
“I can’t see anybody congregating outside stadiums here, or anything like that, when games get up and running again, because people here recognise the gravity of what’s going on.
“So, rather than football starting again being something the authorities worry about, it’s looked at in a way where, if the games are on TV here, that’s good, because it’s something extra for people to do while they’re in their houses.”
Fotheringham was taken to FC Ingolstadt by gaffer Tomas Oral, who was Felix Magath’s assistant at Fulham.
Oral also employed Fotheringham as a coach at SC Karlsruher three years ago – and during a brief firefighting spell at Ingolstadt at the end of last season.
The Dundee-born coach is relishing the opportunity to reunite with Oral for a third time – and can’t wait to put his work on the training ground into action.
“We don’t have a date to restart our season yet, but there are constant conference calls going on and the league and teams are taking all the official advice on board,” said Fotheringham.
“The schools over here are going back next week and a lot of the football teams are back too, including ours, and the rule is you have to train in groups of four – including the coach.
“The first group of players is coming in about eight in the morning and, from then, the coaches are on the pitch with different groups until about half-one without a break.
“It’s a tough shift for the coaches, but the main thing is we’ve got the boys on the pitch again.
“The players are driving to the training ground wearing their training gear, parking their cars, then going straight on to the pitch without going into the building, then they’re straight back into their cars afterwards and home.
“It’s a different way of working – and there’s a lot of hard work involved for the players – but this is why we’re here.
“We want to get this club promoted and, as soon as the matches are up and running again, that’s what we’ll be aiming for.”
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