Steven Skrzybski: Like winning the lottery!
Only a few weeks ago, when Steven Skrzybski talked about FC Schalke 04, he did so as a fan. Now, he plays for this wonderful football club, the best club in the world, and he is immensely proud of that. The 25-year-old spoke to us about his childhood dream coming true, his career so far at Union Berlin and the talks with a former coach of his and his new manager.
Steven, your first week as a Schalke player is behind you: a performance test, your first training session with over 2000 spectators and your first goal in China. How do you feel?
I am thrilled to be here and am just enjoying every minute of it. The squad, the coaching staff and the fans are all simply brilliant. The China tour has been very exciting so far, scoring in my first game was obviously a nice story.
Have you been to the Middle Kingdom before?
No – I’ve been on holiday to Thailand twice, but we generally never travelled this far with Union Berlin (laughs). I’m enjoying it here; it’s always fun getting to know new cultures.
The fans are certainly happy to get to know you all a little better. Especially now you are one of them! You’ve always been open about your support for Schalke from a very early age and that you always crossed your fingers for the club. How did you react when you received the offer from Gelsenkirchen?
It was an easy decision straight away. Schalke is the club I love. I played for Union Berlin for 17 years and now it’s time for me to take that step out of my comfort zone. It has always been my aim to one day play in the Bundesliga – the fact that I will now achieve this with Schalke is like winning the lottery.
Schalke is the club I love.
It was said that other clubs had interest in you.
That’s true, even though I didn’t take all the offers as seriously – I’d built too much of a life in Berlin for that. But when Schalke called, it wasn’t a tough decision. Obviously I talked about the transfer with my family first, and I got the thumbs up from everyone – they were all happy for me.
Have you found somewhere to live in the Revier yet?
Yes – I’d sorted everything out before the first training session. We found a nice flat which my girlfriend Anja will be moving into at a later date. I’m very grateful to her for joining me on this journey – her family is from Berlin and she works there as well. I do not take it for granted that she’s left her life behind there for me, but she too is looking forward to a new chapter at Schalke.
Did you used to go to the VELTINS-Arena as a fan?
Unfortunately just the one time, since the Bundesliga matchdays and those in the second tier get played at pretty much the same time. It’s not always easy when you play for a different football club (laughs). That game was against Köln.
In the Nordkurve or seated area?
Seated. I didn’t have such good contacts at Schalke back then. I was just happy to get a ticket at all. Last season I did manage to watch the DFB Pokal game against BFC Dynamo.
What are you hoping for from your first season at Schalke?
There’s always a fine line between what you expect and what you get. I am looking forward to all the experiences I can have here. I want to get to know my new teammates and everyone else around the club, I want to drink in as many wonderful moments as possible. However, I am not just here for sightseeing. I want to play as many minutes as possible.
You had a bumpy ride into the first team in Berlin. You made your professional debut in 2010 and spent the next few seasons moving between second division football and the U23s.
Yes, that definitely took a while. My career started very early, but I faltered for a while after that. I only really got settled in professional football in the last two or three years.
So that will have been during former Schalke coach Jens Keller’s spell at Union Berlin. Would you describe him as your biggest supporter to date?
It’s hard to talk in the superlatives. It wouldn’t be fair on the other people who did a lot for my career either, but Jens Keller definitely gave me the final push. I developed into a much more mature player under his management.
I was extremely impressed at how well-prepared Domenico Tedesco was for our first talk.
Did you speak to Jens Keller when you got the offer from Schalke?
Jens Keller was always fully aware of my love for the Royal Blues and I obviously knew about his past with Schalke, so we had always spoken about the club; about how it works, how it is structured and also how big it is compared to Union Berlin. The fact alone that three times as many spectators fit into the Arena than into Berlin’s Alte Försterei shows that. We didn’t have to say much after the offer came in – it was a clear decision for me, I didn’t spend a long time thinking about it. We spoke again after it had been completed and Jens Keller congratulated me on the move.
You did speak to your new head coach Domenico Tedesco though. How did that go?
It was something very special. I was extremely impressed at how well-prepared he was for our first talk. He knew a lot about me: a lot from the time when he was manager of Aue in the second division, but also a lot about my performances last season, despite us not having any direct contact as opponents at all. All that, and his vision with me for the future have made me raring to go at my new club!