It was the return of football, but not quite as we’ve come to know it, as the Bundesliga staged matches behind closed doors at the weekend.

Rovers’ German midfielder Lewis Holtby, who returned to his homeland following the suspension of the Championship season to continue his rehabilitation, was an interested observer, with one of his former clubs, Schalke, in action.

The Championship hopes to follow suit, with clubs stating their intention to complete the season if possible, with nine games still remaining. Any matches would be played behind closed doors however, something Holtby admits will take some getting used to.

There were socially distanced celebrations, and substitutes wearing masks and sat 2m apart, but the action on the field was unchanged as Dortmund ran out 4-0 winners.

“It’s hard to prepare yourself for that,” Holtby said of playing without supporters.

“I’ve been playing in front of fans for the past decade and it’s always a different boost or energy level.

“I can’t imagine playing without fans to be fair. It’s going to be very quiet, you’ll be able to hear everyone shouting, you’ll probably be able to hear the gaffer shouting more than normal.

“There’ll be no excuses. If the gaffer says something, you won’t be able to say ‘I can’t hear you’

“It’s going to be different. I think we might need to have some training sessions inside the stadium, just to have a feel for a quiet stadium with no attendance.”

Holtby hired a private jet to return to Germany to train under the watchful eye of a physio after Rovers were forced to close their Brockhall training base when the season was initially suspended on March 13.

The midfielder was in the middle of his rehabilitation from a knee ligament injury that threatened to end his season, picked up in the 1-1 draw with Middlesbrough on February 1, as lockdown struck.

Holtby took it upon himself to return to Germany, with Rovers’ blessing, and is now back in the UK as he awaits a decision on a potential return date for training.

The EFL had initially stated May 16 was a possibility, but has now pushed that back until May 25.

The players will have to be tested for coronavirus 48 hours before returning to training, and then twice a week thereafter, with the hope that a string of negative tests will boost confidence so to allow numbers involved in the sessions to be upped.

They will initially start at five, and adhere to social distancing, but Holtby hopes the English game can follow Germany’s lead.

“They’ve been training in small groups for a couple of weeks now,” he added.

“They’ve been tested every day. I think there’s been 10 players in the First and Second Bundesliga who have been infected by the virus, but they’ve all got that under control.

“I think they’ve done some really good research and some good work about how to isolate and how to train properly.

“I think Paderborn, from the Bundesliga, were the first team to start with full team training, because they had two tests where everyone was negative.”

Rovers have stayed in contact with the squad throughout lockdown through the use of technology, with the players working to individual training programmes.

They have maintained their fitness through drills set by head of athletic performance Chris Rush, though were given three weeks off last month after the EFL suspended the season indefinitely in early April.

But Holtby says nothing can match the feeling of being around the squad every day.

“The first session together as a team, I think it will bring much more flair to the dressing room. Everybody can’t wait to be back training and playing and being around each other,” he told the club website.

“I’ve been in touch with the team and with officials from the club, and we’re just waiting on a definite date to come back.

“We have a WhatsApp group chat and we speak about certain things and possibilities, but no-one knows for sure what’s going to happen or when we’ll be allowed to come back together.

“It’s just speculation at the moment. Everybody wants to come back, no-one wants to stay at home anymore, everyone’s had enough of dish-washing and gardening, so I think coming back to Brockhall would bring a lot of joy to everyone in the team.”