Manuel Baum has become the second Schalke coach to be sacked this season amid a winless run of 28 Bundesliga games, the club announced on Friday.
The Royal Blues, Germany’s third-biggest club only behind Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, are in a desperate fight against relegation amid severe financial difficulties and inner conflicts at the club. Baum follows David Wagner in being dismissed by Schalke, after he was dismissed in September. Huub Stevens, 67, has been appointed as the caretaker coach for the final two games of 2020.
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Schalke are nearing Tasmania Berlin’s all-time record of 31 matches without a win, deemed unbreakable since it was set in 1966.
“It’s been part of our identity for so long,” Almir Numic, the Tasmania executive director and a Dortmund fan, told ESPN in November, adding that he hoped Schalke would not come nearer the record.
Schalke could break the unwanted record on Jan. 17 — exactly a year after their last win against Borussia Monchengladbach — if they fail to defeat Bielefeld, Hertha Berlin, Hoffenheim and Eintracht Frankfurt in their upcoming matches.
Debt-ridden before the coronavirus pandemic, the financial impact of COVID-19 has brought the club into major troubles off the pitch. The fan base, shut out by the Geisterspiele — matches played behind closed doors — watches with disbelief as the club’s downfall continues.
“The club is disintegrating. From a sporting, a financial and an ethical point of view,” Daniel Files of fan initiative Schalke nur als EV told ESPN. “The fans feel like being stuck in a remake of ‘Honey, I Shrunk The Kids.’”
Schalke had hoped to stop the fall with Baum, who replaced Wagner following his run of 18 consecutive matches without a win from January onwards.
The club plunged into further chaos last month after they sacked their technical director, suspended two players from the first team and parted ways with a third player who joined before the start of the season.
“German champion with the school team,” former FC Augsburg coach Baum told Schalke’s club TV when asked about his greatest success following his appointment in late September 2020 and he will not add anything of significance to that list.
Schalke sit at the bottom of the Bundesliga with just four draws from their first 12 league games. They came close to a win last weekend before 10-man Augsburg equalised in the third minute of stoppage time in a game which was overshadowed by Mark Uth’s head injury. The Germany international collided in the air with an Augsburg player and was knocked unconscious. The accident prompted a 10-minute interruption of the match as he was taken to the hospital and has been released since.
Schalke fell back into old patterns with a midweek’s 2-0 home defeat to fellow strugglers SC Freiburg. In his postmatch interview, Baum said he was “just angry” with the team’s performance, adding that he did not fear for his job and that the goal remained staying in the Bundesliga.
However, the sporting hierarchy did not trust Baum to turn around the season. They have now appointed Stevens, who was acting as a member of the supervisory board. Voted the club’s coach of the century for bringing them the 1997 UEFA Cup, he re-joins on an interim basis in what will be his fourth term at the club.
The 67-year-old, nicknamed the Knurrer (growler) from Kerkrade, will coach the club in the year’s final Bundesliga home game against Arminia Bielefeld, who have picked up only one point from their six away matches this term, and the cup match against fourth-tier side SSV Ulm on Tuesday.