The demands and expectations at FC Schalke 04 are huge, but so often the achievements are wholly below-par. Christian Heidel, appointed manager in 2016 to help bring long-overdue success to the Ruhr club, is under pressure to deliver, but is already facing the wrath of the Königsblauen faithful.
Sunday’s 3-1 win over VfB Stuttgart at the Veltins Arena was the second home win of the new season, but despite the three points, the fans took the opportunity to vent their anger/ frustration at the man tasked with restoring their club to glory.
The Nordkurve unfurled a number of large banners during the weekend match taking exception to the sale of fans favourite Benedikt Höwedes and seemingly pointing an accusing finger at Heidel.
Despite Schalke buying Amine Harit, Bastian Oczipka and Pablo Insua this summer, as well as turning the loans of Nabil Bentaleb and Yevhen Konoplyanka into permanent deals, it has been the sale of former club captain and World Cup winner Höwedes to Juventus that has irked the supporters.
And their banners showed it:
- “70 Mio ausgegeben und dabei 70% der Identität verloren” (70 million spent, but 70% of the club’s identity lost) read one of the prominent banners and that wasn’t a one-off with further banners unfurled along similar lines.
- “Die Wurzeln achten und nicht vernichten” (Look after the roots, don’t destroy them).
- “Identitätsverlust stoppen, Knappenschmiede stärken” (Stop the loss of identity, strengthen the youth academy).
- Then there was the more personal “Vom Autohändler zum Identifikationsschänder” (From car salesman to violator of our identity), which is a dig at Heidel’s former career in Mainz.
So are these banners justified? Is it fair for the fans to target Heidel so early in the season? Well Heidel himself feels a little hard done by telling Bild: “Naturally the banners hurt me. I’m also sorry that our fans have a false impression about the transfer of Benedikt. We didn’t want him to go.
“As before in Mainz, I now identify 100% with Schalke. I am one of the biggest football romantics, but I don’t reproach the fans. New heroes take time to create and they arise through success and there has been too little of that in the past seasons.”
Replacing Horst Heldt at the start of last season, it has to be said that the 2016-17 Bundesliga campaign didn’t go to plan with trainer Markus Weinzierl fired at the end of a disappointing season where Schalke finished 10th having spent more on new players than ever before.
Heidel’s stated target for this season is European qualification- more likely to be the Europa League than the Champions League, but whether new coach Domenico Tedesco has it in him and his side to improve by three league places remains to be seen.
Another reason to be concerned is the future of some of the club’s key young players with Leon Goretzka, Max Meyer and Thilo Kehrer all holding back on signing new contracts with the club. Sead Kolasinac left for Arsenal for free this summer and it would be terrible for this trio to follow suit.
Speaking after his appointment to the role he said the club’s image should not be connected to “flops, failures and fumbles” and that “typical Schalke” must instead refer to “passion, fan loyalty and a successful footballing philosophy for supporters to identify with.”
Judging by Sunday’s displays from the Nordkurve, the fans are going to hold Heidel to his word.
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