Ligue 2 (15th round). Guingamp – Le Havre, this Saturday (7 p.m.)
You are both sports director of Le Havre, television (Amazon Prime Video) and radio (RMC) consultant. How do you carry out all these activities?
It’s ok, I have complacent heads! I comment on the Amazon matches on Friday or Sunday, depending on the ones in Le Havre on Saturday. I’m at every Le Havre game. I try to spend at least four days a week there. I live at the Stade Océane, in a hotel that belongs to the club, with Nico Douchez (the goalkeeping coach, ed).
In Le Havre, we tell you very close to the ground…
I’d rather be on the lawn than in the office (smiles). There are four different positions in the HAC. I try to switch from one to the other. I watch the U17s, the U19s, the N3s, the U15s too. It is important to know well the young people who are in the club. Before hiring from outside, you need to know what you have at home. Especially here, where the previous training and training has been carried out for years.
We believe that you are moved by logic, rationality…
The club’s DNA, even before we arrived (with Jean-Michel Roussier as president, editor’s note), is being trained. The central came second behind Lyon, last year, is not trivial. We need to build on this and try to make further progress so that young people can more easily reach the professionals. We are a Ligue 2 club. Financially we can’t do anything. When you invest in a 15-year-old boy, it’s to go even if you’re never sure of anything. There is also the screening of young people, their support up to the first team. You must also have this consistency when it comes to professionals.
When you arrived in Le Havre, was there a sense of untapped potential?
Yes, completely! When you’ve been in Ligue 2 for a long time, it’s not always easy to avoid fatigue. It’s not a dream championship on paper even if I find it interesting. The Stade Océane (opened in July 2012) has never known Ligue 1. There were some adjustments to make, some people to wake up.
Have you been seen differently since becoming Ligue 2 leaders?
It changes the appearance of many people around, but not ours. We started a process a few months ago, with a guideline. Then, if there’s an uphill climb at the end, so much the better. But if it doesn’t happen this season, then we’ll work to make it happen next season and so on. There, we are happy, people come back to the stadium, they enjoy it. We take it upon ourselves. The players too.
Your first big choice was to appoint Luka Elsner as coach. why him
I met him when he was a player (at Amiens). He is a great professional who has a great football culture. He is determined, he works hard. He is a passionate person. And then, he’s one of those new generation coaches as we’re almost the same age, he’s only three months older than me. We have a fairly common view of top-level football.
I have no doubt that Steph (Dumont) will have a great coaching career.
Among its precepts, the intensity necessary to ground…
Yes, it requires a lot of intensity, try to have possession of the ball, dominate events rather than suffer them. And then, I think you get it: He insists on having fun in every game. His arrival gave some players some motivation, others needed a confidence boost. A race doesn’t matter much.
What is the role of data in your recruitment?
Honestly, the summer transfer window was an emergency transfer window. We arrived on the 20th of June, recovery took place on the 24th. I brought players I knew, both for their human and footballing qualities. It was corroborated by data and then validated by staff. During the next transfer window, stats will take on a bit more importance. This allows you to clear the ground when looking for an accurate profile. We are currently looking for a centre-back as Zakaria Diallo has terminated his contract (for personal reasons). Data is a tool, but the next transfer window doesn’t start until January 1st. We’re entitled to a joker and we still don’t know which position we’ll favor.
What memories do you have of your five months in Guingamp, from January to May 2017?
It’s a club that I liked, the family, on a human scale. We had made a semi-final of the French Cup (0-2, in Angers) and finished 12th in Ligue 1. There was a great team. It was a great experience.
What game are you waiting for this Saturday?
It’s not easy! Guingamp is not an easy team to play against. He is not having much success at the moment, there are a lot of injuries. But it is still a dangerous opponent, with quality players and a very good coach. With Steph (Dumont), we have a special history because we were together in Lille’s bedroom. We played four seasons side by side, I have no doubt he will have a great coaching career. But I also know his deputy, Pascal Braud, with whom I started in Caen. Also Thibault Giresse with whom I played at Guingamp and Jérémy Sorbon when we were at the training center in Caen. I’m going to see a lot of people. They are all reliable and hardworking people.