Less than a month ago, we were greeted with this lovely little message from Schalke sporting director Christian Heidel on Haji Wright.
“The kid is on a very, very good course, but he’s just missing something that would allow him to be able to really have a chance at breaking into the team and playing for us. It’s difficult for him because of his position as a striker. However, we’re of the opinion that Haji is definitely in need of playing time, and so the manager has decided that it is best for him to remain with the U23s – or better – play in the 2. Bundesliga in order for him to acquire more match experience at a high level. We’ve got a loan move in mind, and so we agreed that it wouldn’t make much sense for him to make the journey to the training camp in Mittersill.”
There was nothing problematic in it, nothing to suggest Wright was on the outs, so to speak, with Schalke brass. Simply that Wright had little to no chance of securing first team minutes for the 2017-18 season. Which, fine. He’s a 19-year-old striker at a club with youth depth and options. The question then was whether he’d be able to find a loan or if Schalke would take BVB’s Junior Flores route; stashing him away with the reserve team to languish.
Thankfully, we got confirmation this week he’s on the former track. Wright’s going to SV Sandhausen in the 2. Bundesliga for the next year.
This is good. It’s even better because Schalke attached a rider to the deal that makes it impossible for Sandhausen to buy out his contract if he performs well. Schalke plainly wants to see him back.
Wright isn’t even the only American at Sandhausen, which has a stadium that seats 11,000 more fans than the town has residents. Andrew Wooten, one of Jurgen Klinsmann’s Germericans who had a single brief USMNT appearance in a friendly in 2015, has been at the club since 2015 and has 23 goals in nearly 100 appearances. This should smooth the transition for Wright, who’ll train alongside Wooten in the same position drills.
Beyond that, this is precisely the sort of loan Wright so desperately needed. The 2. Bundesliga is a good level for young players, and 36-year-old coach Kenan Kocak has a good track record of playing young players. This no doubt helped grease the wheels for Schalke.
Sandhausen is the smallest professional club in Germany, and it was only promoted to the 2. Bundesliga for the first time in its history in 2012. Last season was the club’s best ever, and its 10th-place finish was its highest in the German system since its foundation more than 100 years ago. So while the club may be a small fry in a geographical sense, it’s now firmly entrenched in the second division.
This most likely means good things for Wright’s potential playing time. Sandhausen’s been improvisational to get here, and so handing over playing time to a 19-year-old Schalke loanee isn’t exactly beyond the pale. And that’s precisely the sort of experience and situation Wright needed. A quality season in southwest Germany and Wright should heartily improve his future stock at his home club.