Schalke have parted ways with Swiss coach Christian Gross after Saturday's defeat to VfB Stuttgart left them rooted to the foot of the Bundesliga.
Gross took the reins from Manuel Baum at the end of December, becoming the Royal Blues' fourth coach of the season after David Wagner and Huub Stevens had also sat on the bench during the first 13 games of the Bundesliga season.
Having picked up just five from a possible 30 points since the turn of the year, the Gelsenkirchen-based club decided another change was necessary as they seek to avoid relegation to Bundesliga 2. In addition to Gross, the club's sporting director Jochen Schneider and team manager Sascha Riether have also been dismissed, along with Gross' backroom staff of Rainer Widmayer and Werner Leuthard.
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The club's technical director Peter Knäbel has been handed the responsibility for sporting aspects until the end of the season, with the support of U19 coach Norbert Elgert and Mike Büskens, who will also assist in the planning and preparation for the 2021/22 campaign.
The club's athletic coaches will lead training from Monday, until a new head coach is appointed.
"The decisions we have taken were unavoidable in view of the disappointing performances against Dortmund and Stuttgart, said chairman of the board Dr Jens Buchta. "Let's not beat about the bush: the sporting situation is clear, which is why we have to think beyond the end of the season with regards to every personnel decision we now take.
"At the same time, the team must now accept responsibility for finishing the final third of the season as well as they possibly can. They owe this to the club and the fans."
Büskens has stepped into the Schalke hotseat several times before and, in assisting Knäbel, he will bring that experience to the table as the club seek to stave off the threat of relegation.
In 2007/08, one of the club's legendary 'Eurofighters', who won the UEFA Cup as a Schalke player in 1997, guided them to a third-placed finish in the Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League qualification with a record of five wins and one draw in the final six games of the season after replacing Mirko Slomka.
In the following season, Büskens was called upon again as a replacement for Fred Rutten, although he moved to Greuther Fürth following the end of the season and guided the Bavarian club into the Bundesliga for the first time in their history in 2012.
In 2018/19, he returned to Gelsenkirchen as assistant to Stevens for the final few months of the campaign, before re-joining the club as part of the same constellation for their final two games of the 2020 calendar year – a 1-0 Bundesliga defeat to Arminia Bielefeld and 3-1 DFB Cup win over Ulm – before Gross was appointed.
Schalke's next fixture could be crucial in their hopes of avoiding relegation, as they host 17th-placed Mainz on Friday night. Nine points currently separate Schalke from safety, with a tough trip to Wolfsburg and clashes with European-football-chasing Borussia Mönchengladbach and Bayer Leverkusen to follow.