S01E01 – DER JUNGBRUNNEN

PROLOGUE…

The date is May 2014, FC Schalke 04 are listed by Forbes magazine as the 14th most valuable football club in the world, they’re regularly playing in european competition and finishing as high as 2nd in the Bundesliga. Fast forward to the present day and they are rooted to the bottom of the league table with a grand total of 9 points from 21 games played. Let it be known they are onto their 4th manager of the 2020-21 season and at one point things on the pitch had gotten so desperate that they had come one game short of matching a Bundesliga record for most consecutive winless games, a streak which at the time had spanned 358 days and 30 matches. It’s not just on the pitch that Schalke has issues, in April of 2020 the club made it public they were threatened by bankruptcy due in large part to the Covid-19 pandemic. By February of 2021 relegation is a real threat for the club known as
“The Royal Blues” and this once great example of German football is slowly falling apart.

The real Bundesliga table as at 20/02/2021

With the luxury of technology we can rewrite some of these wrongs. We will be entering the game at the beginning of the 2020-21 season, just weeks before David Wagner was sacked, but also just before the club was embarrassed 8-0 by Bayern Munich on the opening day of the season. Before that though, how about a little background on the club we’ve selected…

THE HISTORY…

Fußballclub Gelsenkirchen-Schalke 04 e. V. were originally founded in 1904 as Westfalia Schalke in the Schalke district of Gelsenkirchen, North Rhine-Westphalia. Schalke have long been one of the most popular professional football teams in Germany. Home games are played at the 62,000 seater Veltins-Arena and the club holds a long standing rivalry with regional neighbours Borussia Dortmund. The derby officially known as the Revierderby is arguably one of the most well known and wide-spread in the nation. In their history, the club have won 7 German Championships, 5 DFB-Pokals, 1 DFL-Supercup and 1 UEFA Cup (Europa League). Schalke were also the first German Club to win a cup double in 1937. 

There is one other thing that FC Schalke are known for and that is the Knappenschmiede Academy. The club has a long history as one of the leading providers to the german national team, operating in the Ruhr region which has been labelled as the hot bed of Germany’s footballing talent. The club has been responsible for the development of German nationals such as Manuel Neuer, Julian Draxler, Mesut Özil and Leroy Sane among many, many others. Schalke now though seem to have become somewhat of a feeder club to the bigger teams in Germany.

It was during researching the club that I came across the Academy. The FC Schalke website is inundated with information regarding the mission, vision and development plan for the Knappenschmiede, detailing a players potential journey from their initial recruitment into the U9 team right up to the U23 and potential 1st team. At this point I felt that there was something that could be made of this absolutely staggering amount of information that had seemingly just fallen into my lap and that is the basis for this save although we’ll revisit the academy in greater detail in a later post.

A “Dream XI” from 2018 – detailng players to come through the Knappenschmiede academy.

THE PLAN…

If I’m being completely honest I went into this save on the basis of knowing how bad the situation had gotten in real life. The problem though, is that those real life conditions weren’t easily represented in game. The debt in real life is rumoured to be approximately €200m, in game there is a bank loan with a remaining balance of £158m, this is repayable at £2m per month for the next 7 years but the fact that the club are still projected to make roughly £72m this season negates the real life financial issues. Obviously Covid-19 isn’t going to cause the same issues in this save so we have to brush past that.

Detailing the debt as represented in game.

Things don’t look half as bad as they are rumoured to be in real life.

Also, seeing as the save will have us starting off as a brand new season the club won’t be bottom of the table after massively underperforming like they have in real life. With that in mind here are the aims that I have set for the save, these can be broken down into both short and long term goals:

Short Term :
1. Maintain Bundesliga Status
2. Clear Debts

Long Term:
1. Win the Champions League
2. Become the most reputable club in Germany
3. Reestablish youth success through the existing Knappenchmiede model
4. Become the leading developer of German talent

The save is titled Der Jungbrunnen, which translates to The Fountain of Youth in English. While my plan isn’t to have some sort of generic youth academy save I will be placing a lot of emphasis on the youth development side of the game. Whether that be via the clubs own youth intakes or whether I go hunting for my own talents to develop. Schalke are known for their academy and I asbolutely hope to continue to build that reputation over the coming seasons.

CLOSING THOUGHTS…

Seeing as this will be the first time I have ever blogged any sort of save, FM or otherwise, I’ve decided not to put a time limit on the save as I just want to have fun with it. I have met some brilliant minds during this game cycle who have completely changed my approach towards Football Manager. I hope to bring some of those inspirations to this blog whether that be in the form of data analysis or just highlighting certain techniques that I use whilst playing this wonderful game. FM21 is truly the best experience I’ve had throughtout my entire time with the CM/FM series.

So before I end off I want to extend a massive thanks to @adam_otbfm for giving me a spot on this brilliant blog of his and for the wonderful series thumbnail, the great @MattyLewis11 as it was his writing that really got me thinking about doing this for myself and of course I could not forget the fantastic little community we are building with @anz_fm for the Football Manager players downunder. If I’ve missed you then please don’t take it personally I’ll be sure to give you your due in a future post.

Finally thanks to you, for reading this. I’m not sure where I’m going with it but I appreciate you if you have reached this point and hopefully you’ll return, there is a lot more to come. Feel free to leave some feedback, be as honest as you like I can handle it it. You can either leave it here or you can find me @Chris_ANZFM

In the next post we will be a deep dive of the academy Knappenschmiede and how we will be implementing their way of doing things within the constraints of the game.

For now though, Auf Wiedersehen

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