Note: This will be a text based story, no news article style updates, headers, banners, or pictures. If you have FM Stole My Life, think of the Heidenheim Chronicles at the back. That's what this is based on. I've no idea how long this will last, but don't expect updates to be too regular and don't expect it to go and win Story of the Month - I really am just writing this for the sake of writing something.
He was finally gone, I read, in the local paper. After nearly 6 years of service, Hervé Della Maggiore had resigned, and packed up his stuff. FC Bourg Péronnas would now be looking for a new manager. No doubt they knew that the next man in wouldn't last so long. 6 years! I hadn't even been in Péronnas for that long. I had come from further north, from Rumes in Belgium, originally, but I had gone to University in London. I wished to become a PE teacher. So then, I moved to Péronnas in the Rhône-Alpes area in Eastern France. I found a little school out of town and began to work there, for 3 years, having arrived in 2011, aged 26. And I was still working there now.
Today, I was working with my Sixiéme students, the 6e's. That was the youngest age group in Collége, 11 and 12 year olds. We were doing football as we so often did. We had to change our normal teams for this match, because there was a new kid, named Charles, which would uneven the numbers. So we were going to send him with the easy group, for the people who can't kick a ball, but then he mumbled something, and having a defect in my left ear, I couldn't hear, so asked him to say it again. It transpired that he was better than all the others there - so good, in fact that he was signed to Dijon FCO's youth team, the club having scouts in the area.
Indeed he was fantastic. But it was something else that really struck a chord with me. When the class was going in to get changed after Charles had scored all of his team's goals in a 4-4 draw, he told me that he wouldn't mind having a coach like me as the under 13 manager at Dijon. I thought about that for a second or two, then remembered about Della Maggiore and then came to my senses. He had been there for so long - he was part of the furniture - yet still people disliked him and towards the end he couldn't work in that environment. So he resigned. No one would ever last, I thought, it's simply too ruthless. Even at grass roots and under 13 levels. You make the slightest mistake and you're out. Football is a dog eat dog world.
The bell rang. Break time, at last, I could go in for a nice cold drink in the staff room. It was baking outside. I walked in, and found one of my colleagues, Mathieu, already there. He tossed me a newspaper. I recognised it instantly, the local paper, that had reported about Della Maggiore."Thinking about applying for that, can't be hard, can it?", Mathieu chuckled loudly. Of course! Why didn't I think of it? Never mind that Dijon post, I could go for gold here - Péronnas were only one league away from Ligue 2, Dijon's league, so why not? I rushed out the room. "Where you going, Jean, you still owe me a couple euro!", shouted Mathieu into the breeze. I couldn't hear him. My left ear, remember? Mind you, it's not like I was eager to listen.
Dog eat dog world indeed.
On a more serious note, good luck with this!
Best of luck, Louis
I don't really remember how I got the job, to be honest. I can remember what happened before it, at the school, but the interview with the chairman Marc Hollé, who never got round to telling me his name - I only found out what it was on the club's press release - has escaped my memory. I can't really remember the headteacher's reaction when I handed in my notice, though I doubt he would have been too pleased. He knew what was going to happen to me and he couldn't understand why I went ahead with it. But I did because I knew if I didn't I'd never stand a chance in the future. And, as I would tell my players, you have to take your chances.
My first training session was startling. Monsieur Hollé had warned me the facilities weren't up to scratch. But not sufficiently. Barely a patch of grass that didn't need re seeding, broken nets, and almost invisible markings. One tiny building consisted of both the club offices and the changing rooms. I wasn't surprised to find they weren't heating and thanked God it was summer, before the thought hit me I wouldn't even be here in winter. Hollé didn't warn me about the players, either. They were only semi professional, but they didn't behave in the slightest way professional - when they realised how poor my hearing was they decided to whisper around me - but I eventually tamed them. Except the 34 year old striker Cyril Chapuis. It's not like you could blame him. He had played a Premier League game with Leeds United, joined Olympique de Marseille for €3.5m from Stade de Rennais and there was no player in our squad who had got anywhere near scoring 12 goals in Ligue 1. So surely he would love being bossed around my a PE teacher 5 years his younger?
I can't remember what the media thought of me when I first came, either. I don't recall them being particularly receptive. Della Maggiore was a hero having spent nearly 6 years at the club, and he had some good relationships with some important people in football journalism. They still wanted him and I was just some lousy Belgian who couldn't even teach 11 year olds, let alone professionals! But at least I impressed some sections of the media when I told 'em they were only semi pro. It was one way of keeping our feet firmly on the ground.
The first thing I noticed was that there was some decent players knocking about in the reserve teams. The second thing I noticed was that the two reserve forwards, 18 year old Algerian Mehdi Kadi and 19 year old Frenchman Jordan Akakpo, were both great target men. It was clearly Della Maggiore's favoured playing style, the lump up to the lumbering centre forward, and I saw no reason to change it. We would certainly be doing it with a bit more style in the first team though - the 3rd choice forward Thomas Duclos was good in the air but like the others was young and could be moulded into a more imaginative and creative player, whilst Chapuis and our best forward Lakdar Boussaha were best with a ball at their feet but could head it well, allowing me to get the ball up there with a direct but offensive system.
The midfield was the strongest. I allowed my assistant, Michel Lovre, to pick the tactics and the teams for the quick match we had in training. One side, I jotted down in my notebook, was controlling the game. The two central midfielders, playing a holding role, were repelling the opposition attacks with ease, blocking shots, finding passes, winning tackles. Michel informed me that these two were Jimmy Nirlo, a Réunionese-French ex Renne player, signed from US Creiteil-Lusitanos, and a Senegalese giant by the name of Lamine Diompy. These two, I decided, would run our game from deep. On the right wing for the other team was Patrice Dimitriou, a 30 year old who didn't seem pleased by my appointment was instantly impressing me with his runs down the flank and balls into the box who happened to be the only person Nirlo and Diompy couldn't chase down. That is because the raving Sebastién Definod was on their team, spraying passes around and peppering shots at goal like my childhood hero Enzo Scifo. Magic. I realised he would be wasted out wide and Dimitriou would be wasted in the middle, so I would need to play 5 in the midfield. I hadn't been told how much transfer money was available but I knew I would need a fair bit to sign a decent left winger.
Sadly that was not the only position I needed to strengthen. Even though the forwards were good, the keepers barely seemed to make any saves, not last year's number 1 Sebastién Callamand or his backup Mickaël Scanella in the opposite goal. It was not pretty. I decided to bring the 16 year old Marc Robinet into the fray to see if he was any better, and whilst he wasn't, he showed plenty of promise and persuaded me to keep him in the first team. I then knew that some money would have to be spent there too.
The defence wasn't too shabby either. Whatever the midfield couldn't stop, 19 year old Quentin Lacour did easily, never losing sight of his marker and never letting the ball past. Up the other end, Yannick Goyon, the veteran and captain from the previous season, also did well, but his sprightly age of 32 convinced me a stronger, younger replacement would be needed and rather sooner than later. On the left, though, was the quick Amar Benmelouka. He'd do a job, I'd decided, but it was less simple on the other wing. Should I go for the also fast Mickaël Alphonse or blood the young Florent Perradin out there? Michel suggested I try out Perradin in central defence which one of the coaches told me was his best position, but I declined, knowing that Lacour was a better prospect, and I couldn't possibly have two inexperienced defenders there where someone who knew what to do was required, someone like Goyon, but a bit younger that. Then, right when I was about to call time on the day's session, another young centre back, Réda Maarif tripped up Sebastién Definod inside the area. 19 year old midfielder Jordan Gaubey stepped up to take it. He took a long run up, never looked the keeper in the eye, and then walloped the ball over the bar, so high it flew over the mesh fencing behind the goal and onto the nearby road. "For Gods sake", I moaned. "That ball set me back 25€, Jordan, and that miss will set you back 30€. I motioned towards Michel and whispered, "Offer him out for loan."
Great start and good luck!
I looked at the thousands of happy shoppers and sighed. Every friday, saturday and sunday in Saint-Ouen is the flea market, drawing attention and of course visitors from across the globe whilst professionals run round trying to sell you their wares. The only thing I was interested in buying was a some better players. The opening game of the season had come and gone and it had not gone well.
In my first few weeks at the club, Michel arranged some practice games to be played against other French sides. I told him to take charge of these, and I would write down notes and become more familiar with the squad. 3 games were arranged, two at home and one away. The first was at our modern looking home, Stade Municipal de Péronnas, and it was against FC Aurillac Arpajon, from a lower division. It went reasonably well, finishing 2-0, with goals from Boussaha and Definod. Everything worked as I wanted. The next game went better though, as we demolished Racing Colombes 5-0. Tehy too were from a lower league, but we went 3-0 up after half an hour and controlled the game from there, adding two more in the second half, with Boussaha and Definod getting 2 each and substitute Thomas Duclos rounding it off. The last game was poor; away at AS Marck, we only drew 1-1 thanks to an early goal from backup winger Romain Barbet before they cancelled it out with 10 minutes left, though admittedly it was not our strongest side.
By the time of our first friendly, we had secured 2 new faces where we needed them. I first uncovered a 20 year old by the name of Jordan Hantz to replace Sebasitén Callemand between the sticks. Previously of FC Sochaux-Montbe, Hartz had been at a big club and performed well in his uncompetitive debut against Aurillac Arpajon. In front of him in central defence was an Argentine named Guido Milan who had broken into FC Metz's first team last year yet was available for a meagre 5,000€. Aged 26, he brought more experience and strength to the backline consisting mainly of youngsters. Just in time for the ill fated third warm up match, came in a new left winger, the determined Vincent Scotte. ES Uzés Pont du Gard had only just signed him for free, but I sensed they didn't think too much of him so I offered 7,000€ and the deal was done. Despite the result, he showed promise against AS Marck and was awarded the Man of the Match prize.
If I was still under any illusions over how tough management would be, that stopped on August the 5th, 2014. It was just 4 days until we would make our way to Saint-Ouest in Paris to open our season against Red Star. During a warm up jog I went inside for a quick chat with Monsieur Hollé. When I came back the physiopherapist was on the running track and Cyril Chapuis was down on the floor, writhing in agony. I was told he would be out for 2 months having strained his groin. It didn't take a genius to figure out that Chapuis' career may be over. Not often do you see someone recover from months out at the age of 34.
Having placed Chapuis in my provisional starting eleven for the Red Star game, that meant I needed to change the tactics. I opted to play Boussaha up top, but against a strong opposition I wondered if Thomas Duclos would be better, with his ability to win the ball in the air. I wasn't sure but with Michel having gone with Boussaha in the pre season he was less of an unknown quantity. My decision may not have been wrong, but it turned out that it certainly wasn't right.
It took just 10 minutes for me to start questioning my ability. Having arrived on a free from Amiens SC in the summer, today was Laurent Gagnier's Red Star debut and he was determined to make it a debut to remember. And he did, just 10 minutes in. The usually solid Jimmy Nirlo gave the ball away cheaply, and tripped up the Red Star attacker who had seized possession. A free kick was given, around 30 yards away from goal. Gagnier took it, and he took it well, firing the ball over the wall and past the flailing Hantz from miles away. The friendly matches meant nothing. I was 1-0 down in my first competitive game and it was that which mattered. A quarter of an hour later, Mourad N'Zif was given too much time by Mickaël Alphonse and crossed wickedly to the near post. Quentin Lacour was nowhere near and Gagnier steamed in to divert the ball into the corner of the net with his head. What a debut he was having. But why did it have to be against us? Angered by the poor defending, I promised to myself that I would give them the grandmother of all hairdryers at the break, When it did, I did.
"Right, guys, this is poor. This is dire. Sort it out. I don't care who we're playing or how many people expect them to win the league. We have been crap. You need to work harder, all of you, I'm going to have to point fingers, I will shout at all of you. I don't care how Della Maggiore did it, because when I came you lot were the most unprofessional people I've ever seen and you're playing like that. This is where you make a name for yourself guys. This is the kind of fixture you need to raise your game for." The players looked shocked. But they got the message. No messing about. Do it 100% or don't do it at all. And the second one wouldn't be an option for them if they wanted to keep their jobs and it wouldn't be an option for me if I wanted to keep mine.
Fortunately the second half went well. To an extent. I tried to make amends for my mistakes in team selection by putting on Duclos in place of Boussaha. Then I put Yannick Goyon on to shore up the defence with some knowhow, some experience, but it was not going to win us the game. In fact, Gagnier got a 3rd just minutes after half time. But it had been disallowed for offside. I was pleased, because we had been working on it on training, and they put it into use effectively. So that was one positive. But there wasn't many others except the weather. 2-0 was the final score.
The next day, the game was all but forgotten and we were either thinking to the future or reminiscing about the past. Firstly, our 32 year old midfielder Sylvain Bailly announced that this year was to be his last; afterwards he would hang up his boots. I didn't pay it too much thought. He wasn't one of our best players and didn't even travel for the Red Star game. Perhaps that affected his decision, realising there was nothing left to add. To the fans, it meant the world. H was a legend - he had made his debut aged 17 and had spent his whole career at Bourg-Peronnas. He had played nearly 150 times for the club.
Later that afternoon I made another new signing, Kévin Crépel. A 20 year old goalkeeper like Jordan Hantz, I planned to switch between the two to ensure both developed to the maximum. A Lille OSC fan, previously playing for ASNL, I thought that Crépel would be a huge part of our future as would Hantz. Then the Ligue 1 season began with the world watching, but our attention was turned to our next match against Gazélec FC from Ajaccio. They were 13th after a 1-0 loss to begin the season which was ahead of us but I knew that if I got the tactics right we would win. It was a big if.
Soon enough our first home game rolled round, against Gazélec FC on Saturday 17th of August. A week later we'd be away again against Vannes OC, and then we'd finish the month off at home to US Dunquerque. The game against Vannes in particular would be tough, but the others weren't going to be easy wins either. I no doubt wanted one against Dunquerque or Gazélec to impress the fans in our house.
Firstly, more transfer deals were agreed. This time, nothing major, but Jordan Gaubey was loaned out to a lower division side, joining Mehdi Kadi, Yoann Collet, Jordan Akakpo, Jérémy Laborde and Renaud Rodrigues. The plan was for him to get first team football whilst Definod hogged the syarting place and Rafik Bouderbal kept him off the bench. We made a new signing in Kévin Crépel the day after our loss to Red Star ourselves, but his debut would wait as I opted for Hantz in the Gazélec match.
At least that proved to be a good decision. We lost 1-0 at home, to a Julien Francois goal after half time. We always seemed to switch off after the break! Only Nirlo, Diompy and Hantz played well. The defence were passengers and we were lucky it wasn't more. Again the attack was ineffectual. Again! How? We had some great players in attacking midfield and up front! They just weren't getting into the space to get service.
In the hours after the second loss of the season I realised we needed a new left back so set about trying to secure someone good, but sadly failed to find anyone. My only solution was to promote 17 year old Renaud Dreyer from the youth side, in place of Benmelouka. My assistant Michel advised me against it - the other reserve team left backs William Pogba and Vincent Dabo were better, he said, pointing out Dreyer's lack of any form of tackling ability. But I persisted with him and chose him for the game between first - Vannes - and last - us. I also selected Crépel to start. Hantz had played all of our games so far, so I gave Crépel a chance. He'd be wishing I hadn't as we succumbed to a 5-1 loss. 4 of the goals came from headers as our centre halves just refused to challenge in the air, and the 4th was a free kick given away by Maxime Moisy who got a rare start in midfield. After they scored one it seemed we tried to give them as many free kicks as possible, but at least there was a positive in our goal to make it 2-1 in the first half, when Vincent Scotte was hauled down and Thoms Duclos fired home the resulting penalty dor his first senior goal. Yes, I had started Duclos after Boussaha's failures in the previous two matches and I was persuaded to stick with him now. And that didn't do me much good.
So, at least we managed a draw when the Dunquerque game came about. Hantz was back in goal, Milan and Goyon were back in defence, Amar Benmelouka returned and Lamine Diompy replaced Maxime Moisy. Duclos had a great chance early on which he headed over, but then on 37 minutes Sunquerque took the lead with Guise's header. The team came out slowly after the break again, and only after I subbed Duclos for Boussaha and Definod for Bouderbal did we get going. It was Boussaha who got the late leveller; dancing through the defence and picking his spot he got his first of the season. OK, 1-1 would do me. A point. The fans didn't see it the same way though.
Arvind: I wouldn't like to eat that
Pompey: High praise indeed
I really enjoyed the story in FM Stole My Life
so I will read this for sure, been great so far mate
The day after the Dunquerque game saw the end of the transfer window worldwide. Except for in France. The regular window may have been over but now came the Joker Transfer Window - where clubs may only sign players from other sides in their league or from lower divisions. We wasted no time in bolstering our squad. To solve the Boussaha-Duclos dilemma, or at least help solve it, I purchased 21 year old Yannick Dogo from Poiré sur Vie for 20,000€.
The other thing I did to help out the forward line was to draw up a new plan. Instead of the 4-2-3-1 we had played before, we went to a more basic 4-4-2 or 4-2-2-2, depending on your interpretation, The defence and midfield would stay the same, except for the lack of a central attacking midfielder which Definod had played before. This man would be moved up to the attack and Dogo would play here, picking up scraps after Duclos, the other forward, wn things in the air and with his strength. I also decided to scrap pressing. We weren't very good at it and were tiring ourselves out, hence the change. Realising one of my best players would be left out as Definod wouldn't play out wide, I instructed Michel to retrain him on the left wing as so far, Vincent Scotte had been ineffective.
But without the pre season to test it out, the new system was to be thrown in at the deep end. We would still be looking for our first win and sat down in 17th with one meagre point. Second bottom, that was, and I didn't like it. I wanted to be in mid table. But I hoped that this had just been a slow start. 3 losses was nothing. Drawing each would only get us 3 more points. And we could get 3 more points by beating our opponents in the next match, Orléans Loriet.
And to say that Orléans Loriet were a poor side would be an understatement. They may have been ahead of us, but they had lost as many as us and were only ahead having won their first game against US Colomiers, whose only win had come against the bottom side, Poiré dur Vie. We had the chance to secure a win in front of our own fans for the first time with me in charge. And that's what we aimed to do. Without doubt it was easier said than done.
Not having the time to integrate himself with his teammates, Yannick Dogo would only make the bench, to the anger of the fans who wanted to see the new man in action. He had only played two senior games before so how could we know how good he was? We knew, but I opted for Boussaha as a poacher and Duclos in his favoured target man role. Rafik Bouderbal replaced the stuttering Patrice Dimitrou on the right wing and again the left back was changed, this time to Aurélien Faivre, the 35 year old previously of Amiens SC. The tense first few minutes were dominated by Orléans. We couldn't really get a grip on the game, but soon the tides began to turn. Despite their dominance they never came close to scoring. Then the Orléans defender and captain Julien Delonglée lost his footing. With the space open Duclos made a run, found by Bouderbal, and he beat the Orléans left back and entered the penalty area. Boussaha was screaming for him to square it but he took the ball further right as if to try and round the keeper. Would he shoot? Would he pass? He did neither. As his right foot was about to make contact with the ball when Delonglée raced in and brought him to the ground. The referee pointed straight to the spot. Penalty kick! And Delonglée received a yellow card for his efforts.
I still wonder to this day what was going from Lakdar Boussaha's mind as the crowd nervously crept to their feet. Despite Duclos' goal earlier in the season he was the designated taker, and he took a long run up. Shaping to shoot powerfully, he sent the keeper the wrong way and chipped it into the air, down the middle of the goal. The goalkeeper didn't stand a chance. We were ahead! And we would stay ahead. We saw the game out well from then, wven though it was the 36th minute. They came close with a free kick but otherwise didn't truly threaten though we managed a few shots at Orléan's keeper, Renault. 1-0 it would finish. We had a home win and more importantly, a win.
The next day we had a day off training as a rest day, then we returned to our usual schedule on Tuesday. And I made sure Lakdar never tried a Panenka again. If he had missed it...
After our first win we knew we had the potential to win games. We wanted to go on a sudden burst of form, beating every team that dared try to score past us. It was fortunate for us and of course, our fans, that our next game wold be a trip to Western France to play Poire sur Vie, who despite their drawagainst Vannes OC in their last match sat bottom of the Championnat National. An easy win was on the cards.
Alas, nothing is so simple. Especially not football. From beginning to end we were crap. Nothing but crap. The only consolation was that Poire sur Vie were almost as crap. ALMOST. But not quite as bad as us. 2,000 fans paid to see the game, but nothing happened on the pitch that kept anybody awake during the game and even I was fighting back the will to just slump on the chair beside me and nod off. Then the game changed hugely. With just 9 minutes left on the clock, Guido Milan dived in rashly on the opposing forward. No hesitation for the officials. How many times was the referee going to point to the spot in our games this season? I was already losing count. And Hantz had no chance from the spot kick. How were we losing to the worst team in the league? We weren't for much longer, as Lamine Diompy launched a beautiful ball into the box from a set piece which Thomas Duclos leapt to head in, off the post. It was to be our only shot of the game. That was an acceptable result. 1-1 it finished.
Our next game was to be played against Fréjus Saint-Raphaël at home. They were in 12th, just a point ahead of us, yet had managed draws against oth Vannes and Red Star who had defeated us. Fréjus were familiar to me, too. Michel Estevan, their boss, had rang me up before the start of the season enquiring about Sebastién Definod. They offered a reasonable sum, which by now I regretted rejecting as he was currently struggling to make it into my starting lineup. He would play this match, however, as I returned to the 4-2-3-1 which had been used earlier in the season. Mickaël Scanella made it onto the bench for the first time too, as did Cyril Chapuis, who had been placed on the transfer list. The inconsistent Vincent Scotte also missed out on the starting eleven as Rakif Bouderbal took his place. Luckily for him, Romain Barbet had twisted his knee on Thursday and if he had not, Scotte would have been out of the squad altogether. Barbet would sit out for 3 weeks, and Scotte, the least effective or my signings, would have that long to prove himself.
We were better this time out. We defended strongly, repelled the Saint-Raphaël attacks and generally had a better time of it that against Poire sur Vie. We deserved much more than we had deserved then and instead we got less. We lost 2-1 in front of 1,094 passionate home fans. We weren't great but we improved and deserved a result. But on 48 minutes Lamine Diompy ruined the game. Why did we always falter after half time? He was booked for a foul inside the area whoch gave them a penalty and then the lead, as it was converted by Scarpelli. We came back at them and ten minutes later it semmed Lamine had redeemed himself. He received the ball from Duclos - who was guilty of some dreadful misses - and fired home from outside the box. That meant we were level and Saint-Raphaël's plan of seeing the game out had failed. Alas, they had made some irreversible changes which meant they would have to just settle for the draw. And they did just that. Then, in the last few minutes, Diompy, who had been booked for the penalty incident, pushed over Scarpelli. The referee reached for his pocket and pulled out both the yellow card and the red. Our key man was off, our key area was lacking, and Scarpelli, who had been quiet since his goal, caused havoc. He got into space, closed down our defenders, won the ball, played the passes and most importantly, in injury time, scored the goal. 2-1. 0 points. Another loss. And now we dropped behind Poire sur Vie who had won. We would have to play our next match, against SR Colmar, without our best player, Lamine Diompy. Thank God the ban was only going to be for one match. The day after that game the footballing world was shocked by the news that Wayne Rooney had asked to leave Manchester United - and I was shocked by the news that someone had actually put in a transfer offer for Cyril Chapuis.
You are reading "[FMH] FC Bourg-Péronnas - A Mountain to Climb".