Chief Bosun enters the torpedo room, which has been dressed up as a red light room
Chief Bosun: QUIET IN THIS WHOREHOUSE!
the crew falls silent
Chief Bosun: Bad news, men.
Ario: What’s wrong?
Chief Bosun: [pause] Schalke lost the game. 5-0. No more chance of making the semi-finals.
Ario: [throws a can at the bulkhead] I can’t believe this shit! – on board U-96, 1941. Das Boot, 1981.
Even during the celluloid version of World War II Schalke 04 were getting their fans’ hopes up then dashing them with something stupid despite being so near yet so far from glory – the demise of U-96 is spookily juxtaposed with the club in recent times.
The U-96 crew can’t hide their leidenschaft
Fast forward 70-odd years and the return of the 2013-14 Bundesliga after the winter break saw Schalke sitting in fourth place on 34 points – 19 off pacesetters Bayern Munich.
Even a cumbersome 3-0 win over the ailing dinosaur of Hamburg wasn’t convincing on their return, although the ground out victory over Wolfsburg was particularly pleasing.
Yet a hardcore S04 fan wouldn’t have admitted the title was over for another season, and to be brutally honest, the only way Pep Guardiola’s then side could be displaced was if the team bus was hijacked and the squad spirited away until the awards were handed out.
But the optimist would have suggested that a second, third or fourth spot was within the grasp of the Gelsenkirchen side – consistency was the key.
A few seasons ago Schalke narrowly avoided being dragged into a relegation dogfight, four points was all that separated them and eventual play-offees Borussia Mönchengladbach, this was coupled with a fantastic Champions League run and a DFB Pokal demolition of dreadful Duisburg.
Some will say that was the price for success, but it was an S04 side built on an oxymoron: it was one of the best entertaining worst XI’s in recent memory.
Superlatively phenomenal on the big stage and bordering on dire when they needed to knuckle down and grind out the results.
From memory, there hasn’t been the correct balance of players and managerial staff in a Schalke side since the mid-naughties, although Jens Keller was halfway to succeeding – if he could get the time do so.
Many a time I’ve experienced the highs, lows and down-right frustration of following Die Königsblauen in their campaigns over the years.
But the old motto of Einmal Schalker, Immer Schalker/Once Schalker, Always Schalker still rings true.
And one match that still sticks out to this day was during the 2006-07 season, as high-flying Schalke hosted Bayern Munich aka The Big Red Machine at the Veltins-Arena on 5 November – Bonfire Night.
And it was explosive.
Schalke fielded an impressive side that included Mladen Krstajić, Marcelo Bordon and Kevin Kuranyi, while Bayern’s Galaktische were straight out of a Football Manager 2006 Dream Team.
Oliver Kahn, Philip Lahm, Martín DeMichelis, Willie Sagnol, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mark van Bommel, Roque Santa Cruz, Claudio Pizarro and Roy Makaay.
* I can’t understand why I missed the whole run up to the Stimmungsboykott protest, maybe I wasn’t paying attention, but the fans decided to ‘keep quiet’ for 19 minutes and 04 seconds, the date of the club’s creation, and then there was something about Frank Rost’s position between the sticks being challenged by young upstart Manuel Neuer.
I vaguely remember the banners with In Rost vertrauen wir/In Rost we trust and some supporters annoyed about the inclusion of the relatively inexperienced Neuer by the insistence of gaffer Mirko Slomka.
And as in all well planned situations, Peter Løvenkrands opened for Schalke in 13 minutes to the sound of a support in turmoil, do we shout? do we stay quiet? and some sagely head nods, then Levan Kobiashvili rocketed one in from distance in 20 minutes – to a raucous home crowd that had ripped out its gag.
An unbelievable start.
But in typical Schalke fashion they collapsed. Bayern’s Andreas Ottl halved the deficit right on half-time and the prolific Makaay levelled soon after the break.
Afterwards, Rost was punted to Hamburg during the winter shutdown and well, you know what happened to the career of the talented Herr Neuer.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom for Schalke, as they pushed surprise package Stuttgart all the way but stumbled during the final furlongs and eventually just missed out on the title by a sickening two points.
And that Schalke v Bayern clash was possibly THE defining moment in their 2006-07 campaign, within touching distance, and it was the closest since 1957-58 when they lifted their seventh and last Die Deutsche Meisterschale.
Since then, Schalke have see-sawed and flattered to deceive with many campaigns following the same three acts. Such start. Very promise. Much Failure.
2006-07 Second (lost by two points)
2009-10 Second (lost by five points)
Sure, the latter stages of continental competitions and the glittering silverware of domestic cups takes the edge of another inadequate season, but soon it won’t be enough for the fans.
Schalke have been like an awful first date, they meet their fans in the pub, whisper sweet promises in their ears, share some drinks, laugh at their jokes, go to the toilet but in essence, end up running away and leaving the fans to pick up the hefty bar bill.
But paradoxically, this season has been a revelation under the guidance of Domenico Tedesco, the young and talented manager who arrived from Erzgebirge Aue in the summer on a two-year deal.
He’s galvanised the team and had an impressive hinrunde which included a comeback from 4-0 down to BVB in the Revierderby, making it one of the games of the season – it’s even worth a rewatch to witness true bouncebackability.
The rückrunde opens this weekend with Schalke nine points off leaders Bayern in second place, with rivals BVB two away in third and Bayer Leverkusen in fourth.
Schalke have no European campaigns to continue, whereas the teams around them will be distracted and this is the time for them to quietly aim for the title.
Come Saturday 12 May 2018, Schalke will host Eintracht Frankfurt at the Veltins-Arena and maybe, just maybe, their 60 year wait to lift Die Deutsche Meisterschale might be a reality, and they can finally shake off that bridesmaid tag.
* Apologies if any of the information is incorrect. I am only recalling from memory and I am far too lazy to Google or Wiki and correct myself.
Stimmungsboykott: Schalke v Bayern highlights: