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Sports

Schalke Sacks its Coach After Crushing Loss to Werder

Schalke 04 dismissed coach Mirko Slomka on Sunday, April 13, a day after the club suffered a heavy defeat at Werder Bremen. The team had slipped from second to third in the Bundesliga.

Mirko Slomka

Mirko Slomka was called "too nice" by some and now he's out of a job

The decision ends months of speculation that he would be replaced after a disappointing first half of the season, despite an overall successful record with the team.

The two final blows for Slomka, 40, were elimination from the Champions League by Barcelona and humiliation by league rivals Werder Bremen in a 5-1 loss on Saturday. Slomka left the club with immediate effect after leading a training session Sunday morning.

General manager Andreas Mueller informed Slomka that the directors of the Gelsenkirchen club had voted unanimously in favor of the dismissal.

Bremen celebrates a goal

Bremen celebrates a goal in the game that sealed Slomka's fate

"I had tended recently towards ending the cooperation with Mirko at the end of the season," Mueller said. "After the game against Bremen I came to the conclusion it would be better to bring the decision forward."

Slomka, who has reacted angrily recently to speculation about his dismissal, is not alone among coaches finding themselves out of work. He is the fourth Bundesliga trainer to be dismissed this season following Petrik Sander (Energie Cottbus), Ernst Middendorp (Arminia Bielefeld) and Hans Meyer (Nuremberg).

"Mirko did a good job and that's clearly documented by his successful record," said Mueller. "But during the course of this season we got the impression the team wasn't developing further. We came to the conclusion a new coach could do that better."

Admirable record

FC Schalke 04 logo

FC Schalke 04 logo

Slomka was appointed Schalke coach on January 4, 2006, moving up from the position of co-trainer after the club dismissed Ralf Rangnick.

Schalke reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup that season and last year with Slomka came close to claiming a first German league title for 50 years, only to be beaten by two points by surprise side VfB Stuttgart.

His position was weakened when he was publicly criticized in February by president Josef Schnusenberg, who said the club needed a coach with an international reputation.

Despite this the team climbed to second placed behind Bayern Munich in the league, before Saturday's defeat at Bremen moved them back to third, nine points behind Bayern who were playing later Sunday.

Frustration set in

Asked about his position immediately after Saturday's defeat, Slomka told Premiere television he was fed up with having to defend himself.

"The discussion is pretty much limited to certain groups that have something against me," he said. "We were in second place before the Werder Bremen match and made it to the top eight in Europe and yet there's still a discussion about my future. I don't have any desire to face this discussion every week any more."

Slomka leaves along with his assistant, Nestor El Maestro. Former players Mike Bueskens and Youri Mulder will be joint caretaker coaches for the remaining six matches of the season.

Both were members of the Schalke team which won the 1997 UEFA Cup. Bueskens is currently amateur team coach, while Dutchman Mulder has been working as a television commentator for the Dutch broadcaster NOS.

Schalke's Kevin Kuranyi

Schalke's Kevin Kuranyi

Schalke strike Kevin Kuranyi told the dpa news agency: "We are losing a very good coach, but Schalke have had a difficult phase recently."

Midfielder Jermaine Jones, who joined Schalke at the beginning of the season, also told dpa: "Since my first day of training in the summer, Slomka has been criticized. It's something I never really understood."

The Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported that the team has three candidates for the coveted jobs: Fred Rutten from Twente Enschede, Eric Gerets from Olympique Marseille and Dick Advocaat from Zenit St. Petersburg.

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