Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Schalke - blood in the dressing room may lead to the front office


There is an old saying in English that warns of exposing your dirty washing in public. The smells emanating out of the Schalke 04 dressing room were such that it would have been best to keep the door firmly closed until laundry day.

Last Sunday’s malodorous display against FC Köln in which the Königsblauen were reduced to a smear has prompted Schalke’s sporting director (a man for whom the expression under fire barely does his position justice) to suspend three players, two for the duration of their contracts and another for a week.

Midfielder Kevin Prince-Boateng (above) and attacker, Sidney Sam are the two players placed on gardening leave for the duration of their contracts. Marco Höger is suspended for a week while the club judge his commitment to the team.

The Prince has never come across as a true blue and his suspension is the least surprising in what is a pretty unexpected turn of events. His performances have been inconsistent and at time he has genuinely appeared uninterested. The club has made it clear that he will not be returning.

Sidney Sam's expulsion is slightly harder to fathom. The German winger who joined last summer has contributed little but has spent much of the season on the treatment table. Presumably, this decision is based upon his impact in the dressing room. It certainly can't be on the basis of his on the field presence.

If this trio of players have created a bad smell in the team then it's quite appropriate to deal with them accordingly. It's not uncommon for players to be dropped or sent to the reserves or put on the transfer list before being quietly shuffled out of the club at the earliest opportunity.

But to go public with what is a matter of internal discipline is surprising to say the least. For one thing the value of these players in the transfer market is reduced drastically as potential buyers know there is a motivated seller. It also speaks to the insecurity at the top of the club, namely from their sporting director, Horst Heldt.



Heldt took over at Schalke in 2010. In his tenure he has seen head coaches Felix Magath, Ralf Rangnick, Huub Stevens, Jens Keller leave the Veltins Arena. As each coach departs the sense that the club's status has diminished, grows.

Heldt sacked Keller despite his respectable performance and qualification for the Champions League on two consecutive seasons. He was not seen as suitably inspirational which led Heldt to select a high profile coach in former Chelsea boss, Roberto Di Matteo in October of last year.

The change in management has not resulted in an improvement in the club's prospects. Despite the wealth of young talent bursting through the ranks, S04 are easily the most boring team to watch in the top half of the Bundesliga. They are lousy in transition and their cautious approach has cost them wins, especially against 10 man Bayern Munich in February.

Indeed, the Gelsenkirchen club have managed only one win in the last seven game and now sit in 6th place, the final Europa League qualifying spot. The Royal Blues are out of the Champions League which is a blow to their pride as well as their wallet.

Worse still, they have hated rivals Borussia Dortmund threatening to overtake them. This would be beyond the pale given the problems BVB have had this season.


Granted Schalke have lost key players such as Julian Draxler (above) and Klaas Jan Huntelaar through injury. But this doesn't appear to mitigate matters in the eyes of many supporters and Di Matteo's approach make him a deeply unpopular coach.

And now this latest affair which has led some fans to ask why, amidst all the player suspensions, Heldt himself should not be considering his position. From the outside, this looks like the final desperate act of a man who knows that if the team does not get six points from their last two games against relegation threatened Paderborn and Hamburg, nothing will save him or his coach.