Relegation-threatened Schalke have drawn four and won two league games with Ralf Fährmann back in goal. - © Imago
Relegation-threatened Schalke have drawn four and won two league games with Ralf Fährmann back in goal. - © Imago

Ralf Fährmann on Schalke's revival ahead of the Revierderby against Borussia Dortmund, learning from Manuel Neuer and more


Unbeaten in six, Schalke can move out of the relegation zone with a positive result in the Revierderby against Borussia Dortmund. The Royal Blues' mini revival has coincided with Ralf Fährmann's return between the goal-posts - caught up with the veteran stopper ahead of Saturday's Ruhr district rumble...

Click here for the Schalke vs. Dortmund latest! What's the mood in the team right now?

Ralf Fährmann: "I’ve said a few times in interviews that I don’t think we’re playing in a way that’s 'usual' for a team in a relegation fight. I think we’ve been playing very solidly. We’re obviously fighting with the weapons we’ve got. We don’t have the quality in the team of the top clubs in the Bundesliga, but every opponent has really struggled against us. I think we’re playing with confidence, with fight and making it tough for every opponent, no matter who we’re facing.”

Watch: Schalke moved off the foot of the table with victory in Bochum on Matchday 23 You’re second bottom of the table, but unbeaten in six games. How have you found the last few weeks?

Fährmann: "I know how it is in football. There are lots of headlines, some people are more in focus than others. We’re keeping clean sheets, which speaks for me as a goalkeeper. Obviously I’m pleased I’m in focus in a positive sense. But it’s obviously down to the team. I think you can see with Mo [Moritz Jenz], the new centre-back we’ve got. We’ve got a new holding midfielder with Eder [Balanta]. We reinforced in the winter break. We also had a long winter break because of the World Cup, which meant we were able to work a lot together. And you can see that something has come together. I’m obviously pleased I’m playing my part in that, but it’s still a team thing. Unfortunately, that’s how it is. I’d like to take the praise for when don’t concede any goals, but that’s not how it is. The whole team is part of that. It starts from the front with the striker. I don’t think it’s just down to me but the whole team that we’ve become a unit. You can see and sense that everyone is there for each other. Even the guys coming on are itching to get on, they leave their hearts out there. I think you can sense that – not just the 11 playing, the 18 in the matchday squad, or all 30 in the squad, including those not involved. The whole stadium and entire region can sense it." The team’s performances feel different from what’s reflected in the table. Why is that the case?

Fährmann: "I don’t think looking at the table brings you anything. Obviously you do it from time to time, even if you don’t want to, but that’s a normal thought process. I think it’s just important that we know we’re fighting with the means we’ve got. We know we’re not the best team in terms of quality, but we know that if we leave our hearts out on the pitch, we can compete against every team. But the important thing is we perform at 100 percent, or even 105 and 110 percent, every week. Only then are we able to compete. Then we can win against every team. That’s how we have to go about things every week. You see after ever game that the guys have nothing left and need a couple of days to come back. We’ve got injuries after every game, like muscular issues or bruises or cuts. We kick and bite and scratch out there. That uses a lot of energy, but you can’t think three, four, five or six matchdays in advance. It really is one week at a time. Football is our daily business and I keep coming out with those clichés, but we really can only take things one week at a time, one opponent at a time. Each week brings a lot of time for the opponent, which means preparation and post-match analysis, looking at the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. We always prepare really well for that because we have to, because we don’t have the same level of quality as the opponent, but we have a bigger heart." The next Revierderby will be the 100th in the Bundesliga. What makes this derby so special?

Fährmann: "It’s just pure emotion. There are Bundesliga games where you try to push yourself, try to raise your adrenaline levels to get you up for it. But the derby is actually a game where you try to remain calm, not overpace yourself and get sent off after five minutes. You really notice the week before that there’s excitement. There’s something in the air. There’s often more fans at training. There have been training sessions before a derby where we were put under oath by fans in Gelsenkirchen. That doesn’t pass you by. You realise the resonance and the importance of this game for the fans. That’s why keeping calm is more the order of the day for this sort of derby." Your debut was a Revierderby against Dortmund, wasn’t it? Drawing 3-3 after leading 3-0…

Fährmann: "It was definitely a symbolic game. I think I experienced almost everything in one game, with a 3-0 lead and then 3-3. There was a goal ruled out for offside that shouldn’t have been. There was a handball that wasn’t a handball. There were two red cards for us. The second half in front of their main stand, the black and yellows. It was so explosive. I experienced almost everything in just one game. I think it almost describes my time at Schalke."

Watch: The top 5 Revierderby moments How old were you when you first played?

Fährmann: "I think I was 18, really thrown in the deep end, but it was an amazing experience for me. It was when Manuel Neuer broke his metatarsal, Matthias Schober was also injured, so I knew the week before that I’d be playing in the derby. Obviously I was excited but tried not to let it show. But I think when you’re making your professional debut at 18, as a goalkeeper, in Dortmund, in the Revierderby – anyone who says they were relaxed there would be lying." Was it more of a curse or a blessing that Manuel Neuer was at Schalke at the same time?

Fährmann: "No, I think I was able to learn a lot from him. I’m just grateful I was able to train with him. Manuel Neuer is the best goalkeeper in history. He completely revolutionised the goalkeeping game. We Germans sometimes struggle to celebrate our own, but I think when you have a player like him… He’s in a category with the likes of LeBron James, Tom Brady. We made him at Schalke. I think we can all be proud of that."

Fährmann (l.) was at Schalke with a young Manuel Neuer (r.), progressing from the U17s to the pros. - Imago Even crazier than the 3-3 draw was the 4-4 comeback a few years ago. What was that like?

Fährmann: "I think those are games that are always brought up in the week before a Revierderby. You can always talk about them. I can only do so from my perspective. It was just an amazing game. We were 4-0 down at half-time. I think anyone who’s played football knows what that means. It felt like things were over. For me personally, I knew I was going on Sportstudio that evening and you just think what else can happen. You have little thoughts that you can’t even smile when you say ‘hello’ because it’ll immediately be construed in a negative way. We came into the changing room and were a bit speechless, didn’t really know what had just happened because we had actually – even though it sounds completely silly – started well. We had a couple of chances. Dortmund didn’t have that many but just scored a goal from every chance. That meant they started to dominate the game more. It was quite quiet in the changing room. Our coach, Domenico Tedesco, did the exact opposite of what I think most people would’ve done. I think most people would’ve just gone in on us and made us all really annoyed. He just spoke very calmly to us and said there was actually still a chance. He appealed more to our honour, our hearts and our pride to just go out there again and try everything. He didn’t say we could turn the game around, can win it or that we will do so. But he awoke something inside us to make us go out there with confidence again. I I actually think if there had been another five or six minutes left in that derby that we maybe could’ve turned it around. But that’s obviously wishful thinking and I’m talking from a blue-white perspective there."

Watch: Relive Schalke's stunning derby comeback from 4-0 down How important is it for the team that an experienced Schalke veteran like you has a say in the changing room?

Fährmann: "I think football has developed in a way that players come and go more quickly. That’s not just the case with us but everywhere. I think the important thing is just that the players who come have to settle in because Schalke has a very different charisma to most clubs in Germany or across Europe. I think Schalke is just a small religion. That’s often said. Players come in and feel something is different here. And I say, yes, the fans are different, the story is different, but you automatically pick up on that when you come here as a player. The media presence is far greater, fans come to training, there’s a Schalke Day at the start of the season when hundreds of thousands of people come here just to see us. You see it with away games when 10-20,000 people isn’t a problem. You see how big it all is. And you can add to that that we’re basically on historic ground. Next to our training ground is the old Parkstadion. The fan scene in Gelsenkirchen has managed to get a floodlight that lights up at night. There’s a whole lot of history in the club. It’s easier for me because I’m sort of the commentator and can explain it a bit, but it doesn’t have to come from me because the players who come here can feel it and immediately want to know what really happened, what the history is. On top of that, we’ve got the Schalke Meile in the city with the Glückauf-Kampfbahn, where you can really go back into the past. The club has a lot to tell, even away from all the emotion you feel every day." Is it the case that Schalke fans will always support you when they see you’re fighting and trying hard?

Fährmann: "Definitely. There’s the slogan ‘Einmal Schalker, immer Schalker’ [once Schalke, always Schalke]. It’s one thing saying that, but when you’re in the stadium – and especially if you followed the last few games – you can see, whether home or away, that the whole region is behind us. I think if you go a bit deeper in the mindset of Schalke fans, you realise what region we’re in. It’s the socially best area, but an area with problems, whether it’s employment figures, childhood poverty, school results. You then know how much emotion there is in Schalke supporters, how much emotion we as players can give to the people in the stands or watching on TV. And it’s exactly that emotion, if you manage to give that back to the people, meaning you fight, work your backside off for the badge, leave your heart out on the pitch and just give everything. That you slide, bite, fight, spit - to exaggerate. The people repay that because they see that you’re just giving everything and working your backside off for this club. That’s totally appreciated by the fans."

Schalke fans are among the most dedicated in German football. - DFL What do you think of your Dortmund counterpart Gregor Kobel?

Fährmann: "We’ve never had any personal interaction, but I think he’s having a very good season. He’s managed to continually progress over a short period of time. I think he gives a very cool and commanding impression in goal. I think he’s a symbol of their success right now and he backs that up week after week. As a goalkeeper, I can only congratulate him for those performances. I wish him all the best, but not for the derby."