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The club built on fan power

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Dan Roan | 12:24 UK time, Tuesday, 26 April 2011

‪With a Champions League semi-final beckoning, most clubs would be forgiven for adopting something of a siege mentality when it comes to their pre-match preparations.

Heads would be down, the barriers up, the drawbridge raised. But not at Schalke 04.

On a beautiful spring day in the Ruhr valley and ahead of the biggest match in the club's history, Schalke had flung open the doors to their fans.

As one might expect from arguably the most popular club across Germany, with a staggering 94,000 paid-up members, 1,300 supporter groups worldwide - including two in England - and the sixth-highest average home attendance in the whole of Europe, some 2,000 loyalists had turned up to watch.

The day was proving a tough one for Schalke's fans. Their favourite son, Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, had just informed them via social networking site Facebook that, after 20 years at his hometown club, he would not be extending his contract, almost certainly resulting in a transfer to Bayern Munich.

But even that news could not spoil the mood.

Just yards from the pitch, supporters enjoyed lunch at the dedicated members' club, while players chatted and signed autographs before leaving to get changed.

Nothing special. This is simply how it is at Schalke.

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