Rupp will draw on Bundesliga experience during City’s daunting survival search
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Ahead of Norwich City’s clash with Leicester tomorrow night, David Freezer sat down with Canaries new boy Lukas Rupp to reflect on the midfielder’s career and experiences prior to his arrival in England.
Lukas Rupp was well aware of the difficult situation he was stepping into when he joined Norwich City on a permanent deal in January.
The midfielder has quickly earned the trust of head coach Daniel Farke since joining from Hoffenheim, in a deal reportedly worth an initial fee of around £500,000.
After a brief late cameo during the 1-0 win over Bournemouth at Carrow Road last month, the 29-year-old started on the right of midfield at Tottenham four days later, with Emi Buendia out with a thigh injury.
After a shaky start, Rupp twice went close to scoring during that 2-1 defeat at Spurs, before being thwarted by Burnley keeper Joe Hart in the FA Cup fourth round three days later, only for Josip Drmic to turn home the loose ball during that 2-1 win at Turf Moor.
All of a sudden the new arrival was in at the deep end but proving a steadying influence, as his introduction to the pace of the Premier League followed on from a campaign wiped out by a serious knee injury.
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That had restricted Rupp to just four Bundesliga starts during the first half of the season and after a solid start, the intensity seemed to catch up with Rupp somewhat during City's last two matches, looking hesitant when shooting opportunities came his way during the 1-0 defeat to Liverpool and Sunday's dispiriting 3-0 loss at Wolves.
The former Borussia Monchengladbach and Stuttgart man is hoping to prove he is capable of better than that - with help from his previous experiences of relegation battles.
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Prior to his injury Rupp had been part of a Hoffenheim squad which had finished third in the Bundesliga in 2018 and fourth in 2017, with 35 appearances across those two campaigns, mostly as a central midfielder - with minor injuries causing disruptions.
However, 2015-16 had been spent battling relegation with Stuttgart, often featuring as a right midfielder and claiming five goals and six assists during 29 games, but being unable to prevent relegation from the Bundesliga.
And it was a similar story in 2014-15, playing centrally most of the time but claiming four goals and two assists from 31 matches as Paderborn slipped out of the German top flight.
"In Paderborn there was the same situation," Rupp reflects, comparing that season to City's current plight. "The club knows that it's hard to stay in the Premier League and it was the same in Paderborn.
"Everybody was quite calm and it's the same situation now. The fans and the people around the club, they know it's hard."
Paderborn is a smaller club than Norwich, averaging around 15,000 spectators at home games and spending much of its history in the second and third tiers, but twice being promoted to the top flight in recent years.
It is also where Rupp first crossed paths with his new City team-mate Mario Vrancic, a very similar looking player - which caused a degree of confusion for commentators and fans when both started at Burnley last month.
"I know! Sometimes they say 'it's your brother' but it isn't," Rupp said with a laugh. "We played in Paderborn together for a year, so I knew Mario before, so that was helpful for me. He showed me around the city and some good restaurants."
On how he's finding life in England so far, he added: "At the moment, pretty nice. Of course we need some points but I found a property to live, I was in a hotel for the last month, so now I'm settled in very well."
Sporting talent is in the genes for Rupp as well, as his father Franz was a top-level handball player and coach in Germany, a game popular in central Europe which is played at the Olympics.
"I tried to but it was not my sport. My mum took me afterwards to football and I liked it more," the former Germany Under-20 international explained.
"My dad was a good player, he was in the first and second league, and afterwards as a coach.
"I have two brothers, they are both older and the one in the middle, he played as well. So we are a handball family normally but they are happy with me that I am playing football."
All of which has led Rupp to a huge challenge with the Canaries, sitting seven points adrift of safety with 11 games of the Premier League season left and trying to bounce back from a disappointing 3-0 defeat at Wolves on Sunday during another difficult game, when third-placed Leicester arrive at Carrow Road tomorrow night.
He is holding on to hope though, saying: "We have a good squad - very good players, younger players, some players with experience - we have to believe that we can stay in this league.
"We saw it today in training, everybody wants to fight. We were not ourselves last week."
With over 130 Bundesliga appearances on his CV, City will need Rupp to draw on every ounce of his experience if he is to contribute to a great escape which would now be of epic proportions.