It is fitting that the legendary 1997 UEFA Cup winners face FC St. Pauli at Schalke 04 on Saturday (8:30pm, with Sports 1 And Sky ticket [Anzeige]) to mark the anniversary and perhaps a decisive step towards promotion to the Bundesliga.
A quarter of a century ago, for most Schalke 04 residents, this was their greatest moment in their connection to the Revierklub, and strangely enough, many are now reminded of those sugary days from the spring of 1997. Coach Mike Buskins explained when about 10,000 Schalke 04 players took over the small arena in Hardtwald in Sandhausen scored a winning goal in extra time: “I saw 25,000 fans with Schalke when they won the UEFA Cup in Milan. But today Milan was second.” If only they had just become German champions. “That’s what made Schalke the way it was and should be again.”
After somewhat dreary years and a disastrous collapse during the pandemic, FC Schalke’s hearts turn to them once again. There are reports of young sympathizers who suddenly became true fans. And instead of the players of yesteryears in the Bundesliga, who were more professional than their association with the club, people like Darko Churlinov and Rodrigo Zalazar, who are passionate about Schalke, are now playing for promotion. And that could already be improved on Saturday night: after a second-place mistake by SV Darmstadt 98 (1:2 in Düsseldorf), the Royal Blues could celebrate their comeback early with a win over St Pauli. Athletic Director Reuven Schroeder and the board surrounding Peter Knabel have made amazing feats in the past 12 months.
Schalke 04 does not play well and does not play football well. There is a gurgling and squeaking sound when the team tries to advance in front of the opposite goal. But they have the amazing Simone Tyrodi, who keeps scoring goals, and all those players who do their job with the utmost dedication. “All season we didn’t get anything, we worked hard for everything,” Schroeder said before the match against FC St. Pauli. With very little money and a lot of smart ideas, the Sports Director has put together a successful team fit for this league and this location.
Sports director Knäbel is excited and lauds the “extraordinary network in the transfer market” that Schroeder is moving into: “You only get players like Ko Itakura or Thomas Ouwejan if you’re completely networked, you’ve seen these guys five times, you’ve wanted to get them before and know what It is the contractual situation and the ownership and management structure around it,” he said recently. And come to Schroeder “The thing about the cake is that he’s a very emotional, down-to-earth and natural person who simply fits in here.”
After controversial Supervisory Board Chairman Clemens Toennis and long-time chief financial officer Peter Peters left the two influential men of the Bundesliga’s past years, a new culture has emerged at the club. CFO Christina Roll Hammers regularly explains what a difficult economic situation looks like frankly and understandably. The Supervisory Board, which was run authoritarian under the leadership of Tounes, is now working together in a calm, professional and transparent manner. Schalke came out stronger from the crisis phase that led to the separation from coach Demetrius Grammozis. The prospects for promotion are good, even if Buskins, who will return to the assistant crew in the summer, warns: “We still have two tough games ahead. We’ll stay here and now.”