Schalke 04 fans can be, like most soccer fans, fiercely loyal to their team and always prepared to defend its honor come hell or high water. However, after fives years as a fan, I have come to discover one other thing: Schalke 04 fans are eternal optimists who, nonetheless, always see the glass as half empty.
To every other person, we keep our chin up and our predictions positive. In private conversations (well, on Twitter), we are constantly convinced that at any point, even up by 4, Schalke can — given the right circumstances — still blow the game. I always wondered why it is we think this way. In fact, at first I just thought it was my own particular quirk. But alas, no. The more Schalke fans I have become friends with online — from the United States to the United Kingdom to Down Under — we all seem to have the same approach: Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.
So why is that? Well, I’m not quite sure I can blame it on one thing, but this season alone does seem to represent (in a broader sense, at least) what I have come to expect from the Royal Blues. Looking back at the last 13 games, a pattern begins to develop, a roller-coaster pattern of wins and losses, of low-score squeakers and high-score blowouts. It might be easy to look back at these wild mood swings and pinpoint a cause — an injured player, a change in coaches, a new goalkeeper. But, to the untrained eye at least, that just doesn’t seem to be the case.
The beginning of the season seems a long time past now, with Ralf Rangnick in charge and Ralf Fährmann in goal. Schalke lost its first game 3-0 to Stuttgart, and most of us fans thought, “Well, here we go again.” But then, out of nowhere, Schalke came back the next week with a 5-1 blowout over Koln. Huh? But I was prepared for a season of disappointment. What is this? Hope?
And so it would continue: Win, Win, Loss, Loss.
Then everything went wonky. Rangnick was out and Huub Stevens was in. Fahrmann is injured, Timo Hildebrand is signed, but it’s Lars Unnerstall making some magic in goal. When they’re not rollercoastering on the field, they’re taking us for a wild ride off.
And Schalke’s season since Stevens? A bit better. Win, Win, Loss, Win, Win, Draw, Win. Again, what is that I smell? A small bit of hope?
Ah, but we are Schalke fans. Surely there must be something lurking, just outside the lines, waiting to sneak in and snatch any sense of victory from us. And there it is….
Jefferson Farfan is injured on international duty with Peru, out for at least six weeks with a torn ligament in his knee. Captain Benedikt Höwedes is also out for who-knows-how-long after a ligament rupture while on international duty with the Netherlands.
Fortunately Schalke has had Lewis Holtby, Teemu Pukki and Unnerstall on hand to fill in for the injured (including Klaas-Jan Huntelaar out for a game with a broken nose). Already sidelined — Ralf Fahrmann with a bad knee tear and Peer Kluge out after meniscus surgery on his left knee.
All of this comes as Schalke faces a wicked schedule before the end of the year — four Bundesliga games, two Europa League matches and the third round of the German Cup.
And there it is. The half empty glass. Yes, we will always have hope, we will always predict the win, but…wait for it….
Header photograph courtesy of bundesliga.de