Stevens replaced as Schalke boss

Stevens replaced as Schalke boss

BERLIN - Agence France-Presse
Stevens replaced as Schalke boss

Huub Stevens is sacked from his post in the wake of Schalke 04’s 3-1 home defeat to Freiburg. The club will continue with Horst Heldt as caretaker coach. AP photo

Schalke 04 yesterday sacked coach Huub Stevens in the wake of its 3-1 home defeat to Freiburg which left the team with just two points from a possible 18 in its last six Bundesliga games.

General manager Horst Heldt said the decision was taken on the night of Dec. 15 and Stevens was informed yesterday morning that he has been “sent on leave” and relieved of his duties.

“The plan had been to continue with Huub Stevens during the winter break and talk about the future, but the board met last night and took the decision,” said Heldt with Schalke having dropped from second to seventh in the league.

“[Stevens] stayed 100 percent loyal and gave everything for the club. But it’s clear the Bundesliga is fundamentally important for us - regardless of our cup success.”

Former under-17 coach Jens Keller took training on yesterday morning and will be in charge for tomorrow’s German Cup last 16 match at home to Mainz and until the end of the season.

“Tuesday’s game is the most important thing now,” said Keller, whose previous experience as coach was two months at VfB Stuttgart at the end of 2010.

“We can then prepare for the second half of the season during the winter break,” he said.

Schalke chairman Clemens Toennies said it had not been an easy decision to sack Stevens.

“No one likes to dismiss a coach just before Christmas,” Toennies told broadcaster Sport1.

“But I am firmly convinced that we have made the right decision. Stevens could no longer connect with the players.”

Main task
Heldt’s main task over the winter break is to extend the contracts of striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and midfielder Lewis Holtby, who are both rumored to be set to leave Schalke for England’s Premier League in early 2013.

Schalke, who will learn its Champions League Last 16 opponent on Dec. 20, is in free fall in the Bundesliga.

Its last Bundesliga win was back on Nov. 10, since then it has earned just two draws and suffered four defeats with fans shouting “Stevens Out!” after the home loss to Freiburg on Dec. 15.

The 59-year-old Stevens had led the Royal Blues to their best league start in 41 years, until results fell away.