It was June 2017 when Schalke plucked Domenico Tedesco from the relative obscurity of 2. Bundesliga minnows Erzgebirge Aue and appointed him as their new head coach.
The inexperienced Tedesco was only 31 at the time and not the person many would have expected to replace Markus Weinzierl.
Fast forward a year and it appeared that Sporting Director Christian Heidel, the man who appointed Jürgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel during his time at Mainz, had pulled off another masterstroke.
Schalke finished second in the Bundesliga and Tedesco rightly received the plaudits for his debut season in charge of the Royal Blues.
Despite the loss of Leon Goretzka and Max Meyer, a summer of quiet optimism followed. But fast forward again, to the present day, and Schalke sit precariously above the relegation play-off place.
Schalke, once difficult to break down and tough to beat under Tedesco now concede freely, are tough to watch and look completely devoid of confidence.
Tedesco, once hailed alongside his friend Julian Nagelsmann as the future of coaching, now treads on very thin ice. Heidel has already resigned his position from the Veltins Arena and the question now is, will Tedesco follow him out of the door?
Following the humiliating 4-0 defeat at home to Fortuna Düsseldorf, Tedesco went to the fans to apologise.
Should he depart, Tedesco has plenty of time to dust himself down, evaluate the experience and learn from it if he is to develop into the coach he promised to become last season.
For Schalke, the threat is they go the direction of Hamburger SV; a big club chasing consistent success but failing to find the right blend of sporting director, head coach and playing staff. They flirted with relegation for a few years before finally succumbing to the drop.
The right people in charge, a clear philosophy, the players to carry it out and a period of stability is what Schalke need.
The swift appointment of Jochen Schneider as Heidel’s replacement could be a move in the right direction. Schneider is well respected in the role, spending 16 years as VfB Stuttgart Sporting Director, during which time they were Bundesliga champions.
Schalke sporting director Jochen Schneider says head coach Domenico Tedesco's job is safe for now https://t.co/b57DOzERdI
— World Football Index (@WorldFootballi) March 9, 2019
He comes to Gelsenkirchen having been involved with the Red Bull football ‘franchise’ since 2015, but says he had no hesitation in leaving that position when he get the call from Schalke.
The initial response from Scheider and the Schalke board was to back and support Tedesco ahead of their trip to Werder Bremen on Friday night. Judging by the first half performance, the Schalke players were playing for the coach as much as many were arguably playing for their own futures at the club.
Breel Embolo returned to the starting line-up and was causing Bremen problems with his strength, pace and trickery. It was with little surprise that he was the one to give Schalke a deserved lead that crowned a positive opening spell for the visitors and provided a much-needed confidence boost.
Werder responded well and a smart finish from Milot Rashica brought them level on the half-hour mark of what was a thoroughly entertaining first half.
The second half began quite evenly but turned after 50 minutes when VAR intervened on what appeared to be innocuous incident. Schalke understandably felt hard done by as the referee awarded a penalty which Max Kruse duly tucked away.
Schalke continued to show spirit, but Bremen displayed why they are in contention for a Europa League place and Kruse, in particular, was impressive for the home side.
Rashica scored his second goal, and Bremen’s third on 73 minutes to seemingly put the game out of reach. However, Schalke battled on and Embolo was again on hand with five minutes left on the clock to give the visitors renewed hope.
As Schalke threw everyone forward in the closing seconds of the game, a Bremen break away lead to Martin Harnik sealing the match and all three points for Bremen.
It’s another defeat for Schalke and inevitably brings further pressure on Tedesco, but he should take heart from the improved performance and the fact that his team showed a fight that has been lacking for much of this season. There was also an attacking threat not seen since last season.
For all the encouragement that the fight, spirit and determination shown will have brought Schalke, the reality of their situation is they need to start picking up points, and fast.
They sit precariously above the relegation zone and although Nürnberg and Hannover look certainties to stay in the bottom two, they hold a slender lead over Augsburg and Stuttgart for the play-off position.
Bremen extend their unbeaten run in the Bundesliga to 8 games 📈
Schalke meanwhile? They're now winless in their last 7 📉 pic.twitter.com/sYZK1o3Hrb
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) March 8, 2019
Stuttgart travelled to title-chasing Borussia Dortmund, and in the pouring rain and battled hard for an hour before conceding a penalty that Marco Reus slotted home.
Ten minutes later Stuttgart took advantage of some slack Dortmund defending on a free-kick for Marc-Oliver Kempf to head home.
Dortmund enjoyed a lot of possession, but it was passing without penetration, until Paco Alcacer stabbed in a loose ball from close range. A Christian Pulisic goal in injury time sealed the points and ensured Stuttgart remain in the relegation play-off spot.
For Augsburg, a credible goalless draw away to RB Leipzig meant they moved three points clear of Stuttgart. Not only do we have a close title race, we also look to have quite a battle ahead to avoid relegation; and with teams like Hamburg, Köln, Union Berlin and St Pauli at the top of 2. Bundesliga, that relegation play-off is not the formality it has often been in previous years.
Augsburg, Stuttgart and Schalke are all in a scrap and the pressure and focus will primarily be on Tedesco to guide his side away from trouble.
It looks like we’re in for an interesting few weeks ahead at both ends of the Bundesliga table.