November 18, 2017

Christian Heidel casting his shadow over the Royal Blues

What a difference a week makes. Ahead of the Englische Woche Andre Breitenreiter was once again facing massive criticism. Sky Sports News HD had reported that the coach had fallen out with several of the staff members at the VeltinsArena and some of his players there had been an unease about how Schalke’s Rückrunde was progressing. The new enthusiasm that the former Paderborn coach had managed to bring to the club at the start of the season had vanished after the discussion was steered towards conflicts within the club, a limited tactical arsenal and repetitive training sessions that allegedly some of the players weren’t liking all that much.

After seven points from three matches and a jump to 4th in the table (with additional added bonus of being able to overtake Hertha if the Royal Blues beat the Old Lady on Friday), one would expect that some peace would settle over the club. But, this is Schalke. Quite frankly, one has a better chance of finding calm and no noise whatsoever at a rave party.

Last week’s big talking point came after another Sky Sports News HD report that claimed Christian Heidel, the man who is going to take the reign next season, had met with Lucien Favre. Those who know the current Mainz manager well know that he won’t hold onto a coach if he doesn’t believe in him. Before Heidel hired Kaspar Hjulmand in May, 2014 to replace Thomas Tuchel, Heidel had scouted him extensively. Additionally the 52-year-old always kept a litany of good and most important innovative coaches employed in the club’s youth section and second team. This is how Heidel was able to produce Thomas Tuchel when he wasn’t convinced that Jørn Andersen was the right man to lead the team in the Bundesliga (firing the Norwegian even before the season had started). Current Mainz coach Martin Schmidt is another example of how the Mainz manager of 25 years was able to replace a coach in the wink of an eye when it became abundantly clear that Hjulmand wasn’t up to the task.

The inconsistent results, the reports about Breitenreiter’s difficult stance at the club and the somewhat weak tactical displays by the coach are going to give Heidel reasons for concern. Being prepared and having no hesitation in firing a coach if there isn’t any sort of belief in the coach’s work are certainly the qualities the Schalke board must have appreciated when they brought Heidel aboard.  A lack of long-term vision and the failure to improve the team an iota is what in the end lead to Horst Heldt’s demise at the club. Breitenreiter is another coach who has yet to produce consistent results during Heldt’s ending era at the club.

One shouldn’t forget that Heidel developed a blue print for taking Mainz to the Bundesliga in a hotel room on Cyprus as his team was fighting against relegation in the Bundesliga 2. One can safely assume that such an ambitious man is going to be happy to aim for a Europa League finish or to be in with a chance for a third place finish. Schalke have the third biggest budget in the league and have the second most club members of any Bundesliga team.

Even if the reports about Breitenreiter’s difficult standing at the club aren’t true, the performances the team have put in on the pitch have provided more than enough reason to doubt that Breitenreiter is going to be the man who can deliver good results over a longer period of time. If Heidel isn’t convinced of the coach’s quality it might be the fairest thing to do for all sides to get rid of Breitenreiter at the start of the season instead of waiting for a series of a few bad games to have a reason that might seem legitimate in the public’s eye. It’s a bit like holding on to a dying dog. Instead of waiting for the misery to get worse, just put the old poodle out of his misery in order to spare him for a lot of pain.

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 30-year-old football writer and podcaster who has been following the Bundesliga and German football since the early 90s. You can follow him on Twitter, @normusings, and listen to his opinions on @TalkingFussball and on the @AufstiegPod.

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