The 2019 Women's World Cup sees England reign supreme as Amie leads the Lionesses to their maiden title. Now she has captured attention in the men's game and has been hired by French side US Boulogne. Will Amie have what it takes to succeed?
Started on 13 January 2020 by ScottT
Latest Reply on 29 April 2020 by Justice
17. Randal Kolo Muani | 20 y/o (05/12/1998) | ST(C) | French | / (On loan from FC Nantes)
Wage: £850 p/w | Expiry Date: 30/06/2020 | Value: £500,000
11. Arnold Garita | 24 y/o (18/06/1995) | ST(C) | Cameroonian | / (On loan from Royal Charleroi Sporting Club)
Wage: £1,200 p/w | Expiry Date: 30/06/2020 | Value: £125,000
No1VillaFan: Appreciate it! Justice: Inventive... one of your better puns. Well done. Jack: The transition between the women's game to the men's game will be interesting to observe. You're absolutely correct when you evaluate the difference in stature between the clubs Amie has previously managed in comparison to Boulogne. It's significantly different. They certainly need a revolution, so hopefully she can be the person to do it. Seb: Indeed. It's quite disappointing given the number of years they've existed as a football club. They only happen to have one year's experience of top-flight football in Ligue 1 too. A 19th place finish sent them straight-back to the second-tier in the 2009/10 season under Laurent Guyot.
Nice to get a look at the squad before you really kick off with them. A decent group indeed with a couple of standouts, namely, Muani, who will be big for you on loan I believe, whilst I like the look of Frikeche and Shamal. Good luck for the season ahead!
US Boulogne initially began their pre-season preparations ahead of the 2019/20 without a head-coach in place following the departure of Olivier Frapolli to Stade Lavallois, another side housed within the third-tier of French football. Les Tangos are seeking to return to Ligue 2 after a three-year absence. A fourth-place finish last season suggested the foundations are there for a return to the second-tier despite the disappointment of failing to secure a play-off spot which ultimately cost François Ciccolini his job.
This prompted his assistant, Alexis Loreille, who opted to remain at the club to take charge on an interim-basis until the arrival of Amie Belshaw. Loreille would revert to his role as number two alongside the former Lionesses head-coach as she took charge for the first-time in a convincing victory against INF Clairefontaine.
Loreille guided Boulogne to stalemates against both fourth-tier opposition in Entente Feignies Aulnoye and fifth-tier opposition Tours following their demotion from the third-tier last season as a result of an administrative decision from the DNCG, confirmed by appeal merely two days prior to the game between the two sides. A narrow 2-1 loss to Ligue 2 side Chamois Niort was hosted at the Stade de la Libération inbetween the two games as a first-half strike from Said Idazza was later cancelled out by goals from Ibrahim Sissoko and Goduine Koyalipou.
Belshaw's contact-book was swiftly brought out upon her arrival as she hastily arranged a trip to the national football centre that specialises in training and developing French talent in Clairefontaine-en-Yvelines. The trip marked her first game in charge as first-half goals from defender Jackson Mendy and Said Idazza were added to by Steve Shamal and Maël Illien in a comfortable 4-0 victory against the academy squad.
The visitors dominated proceedings as perhaps expected with Belshaw's side having twenty-three shots on goal with nine on target, maintaining 55% of possession.
Three days later, Boulogne made a return to the Stade de la Libération as 1,111 including three visiting supporters welcomed their latest head-coach to the club. Boulogne-Billancourt made the 326 mile-round-trip as they fell to a 2-1 loss with Belshaw succeeding in-front of an appreciatory home crowd.
Said Idazza continued his fine-form to pre-season with a tidy finish to give his side the lead within fifteen minutes, but Billancourt swiftly equalised through Jaouad Jouini. Randal Kolo Muani ensured Boulogne would restore parity within just four minutes though as he opened his account for the club following his loan move from Ligue 1 side FC Nantes.
A 0-0 scoreline at Paris Saint-Germain's training centre of the Stade Municipal Georges Lefèvre didn't quite reflect the entertaining nature of the clash between Boulogne and the youthful Paris-Saint Germain reserve squad compiled by manager Jochen Sauer. Belshaw's men were tested in the second-half following the dismissal of Steve Shamal on the stroke of half-time but maintained their structure excellently to oversee a strong performance overall.
Finally, a 3-2 victory against fifth-tier opponents Stade Portelois concluded proceedings for Boulogne ahead of their opening-day clash with Pau. Said Idazza bagged a brace with his second coming from the penalty-spot as Randal Kolo Muani also celebrated a first-half goal. Sacha Essombe and Theo Delestrain both netted for the visitors as they sought to level the scoreline come the full-time whistle but failed to do so despite a spirited performance.
As mentioned, Boulogne begin their Championnat National campaign at home to Pau before Olivier Frampolli leads his Stade Lavallois team into battle against his former employers. USL Dunkerque then make the short trip down the A16 to take on Amie Belshaw's side before the month is concluded with Boulogne travelling to US Créteil-Lusitanos. Aaron: There's some decent players surprisingly hidden in the depths of the third-tier of France. Kolo Muani will be an excellent addition to the squad for the season ahead. Seb: I wholeheartedly agree with you on Frikeche. His role is perhaps not the most attractive, but he's certainly very good at what he does.
Three wins and a draw from the your first games is a great boost to the morale of everyone. There is a great spine to the team at this level which could prove pivotal to success in Belshaw's debut campaign in the men's game.
Amie Belshaw; the former Lionesses head-coach that took England to their maiden World Cup title in France who has swapped success in the women’s game to transition into the men’s game where she hopes to record similar success. Her departure from the women’s game opened up the latest opportunity in her career with Championnat National side US Boulogne, a side who play in the third-tier of French football and have been confined to the division since their relegation from Ligue 2 during the 2011/12 season.
There has been somewhat of a media ruckus surrounding Belshaw’s appointment, understandably. She rightfully carries a high-profile with her into her latest job, but has expressed her desire to simply be “treated as anybody else.”
“It’s another massive milestone for women in our sport, but I don’t want any special treatment. I’ve merited this job just like anybody else would. My gender shouldn’t matter. It shouldn’t dictate the attention I get from the media. This level of football is rather neglected and isn’t given too much of a spotlight. It would be fantastic to stand-up and say that my appointment will enable this division to gather some much-deserved attention, but that wouldn’t be the case. It would be superficial. Corinne [Diacre] expressed the same message when she was in charge of Clermont. We want to be treated as equals.”
The expectations that Boulogne once carried have dwindled with constant failure to secure a return to the second-tier. Belshaw becomes the fifth head-coach to be appointed following the club’s relegation to the Championnat National, with Stéphane Le Mignan the only head-coach to survive more than two separate terms in that time. L’USBCO are predicted to finish in-and-around the top-half of the table this season, however Belshaw has expressed her desire to defy the odds and challenge for promotion.
“I don’t think we should be settling for average. We want to be challenging for promotion come the final run of fixtures. I’ll be disappointed if that isn’t the case. I’m not oblivious to the challenge ahead of us though, I’m more than aware of the quality of opposition within this division that makes it such a challenge to bounce-back into the second-tier. We’ve been stuck here for a reason.
There’s a lot to build upon from last season. Olivier [Frapolli] performed excellently last season, but we need to be better. We need to distil a winning-mentality in this group of players that will enable us to be mentally strong for the season ahead. This league, like any other, is just as tough on a player mentally as it is physically. We’re preparing hard and I’m pleased with the progress of our players on all fronts.
I think there’s been too many excuses in the past," Belshaw admits. "I can understand why in some respect. Our budget is massively inferior to most outfits at this level. I haven’t been able to bring in any fresh faces myself, not because I haven’t got the backing of the club, but because at this moment in time it simply isn’t feasible. These challenges are unique to clubs like us as a semi-professional team.”
The Championnat National is comprised of a mixture of semi-professional and professional clubs. Currently, there are six professional clubs in the division. These are; AS Béziers, Bourg-en-Bresse Péronnas, Gazélec Ajaccio, Quevilly-Rouen, Red Star and Stade Lavallois. This could be extended come the end of the season with strong discussions taking place at Lyon-Duchere in regards to turning professional.
“Naturally those clubs hold somewhat of an advantage given they can attract players with their superior offers of cash and can train more frequently than clubs like ourselves, but that won’t detract from the confidence we have. There will be no excuses from us.”
Often hailed as an enigma due to her tactical fluidity, Belshaw has rubbished those claims and says she is just as pragmatic as she is progressive.
“I’ve heard those remarks a lot during my time in management and I’ve never quite understood them. In football, you have to be progressive in order to keep your opponents guessing, but I’ve always undertaken a pragmatic approach in some elements to my tactical set-up. The principles to how I want my teams to play have always remained the same, but there always has to be tweaks and changes. Nothing can ever truly remain the same on a game-to-game basis. I would be astonished if a manager openly came out and admitted they use the exact same formula every game with no adaptions on opponents.
Football is all about entertainment and my teams seek to entertain. I wouldn’t be content with playing ten men behind the ball, simply looking to lump it up to a target-man. If some managers do, all power to them. Supporters want to be entertained and they pay some quite simply disgusting prices sometimes to watch their team. That’s only accounting for tickets and not travel and other necessities for both home and away games.
They deserve to watch a team that plays good football but most importantly obtains results. This is a results business so there needs to be a clear plan in place in order to ensure both objectives can be met. I think my success highlights that I’ve managed to find that balance more often than not. I’ll certainly be undertaking the same approach into the opening-day against Pau. We’ll see how things go. It’s a ballsy-approach, but what’s football without risk?” She questions.
“I’m a firm believer that you should go into every game with the mind-set that you can win. I don’t think I’ve ever gone into a game with the mentality that a solitary point would suffice. I absolutely despise the idea that some managers instruct their players to settle for a point with, say, ten to fifteen minutes left on the clock. There’s so much time left and it just doesn’t sit-right with me at all. I would rather look to win the game than sit-back and be content with a point. Risk and reward is very important to me. It always has been and always will be.”
When asked about the relationship and legacy she leaves behind with the Lionesses, Belshaw commented: “I’m extremely proud of what I achieved in such a short space of time with the girls. They were an amazing group of players who I have so much admiration for. I am friends with a lot of them on a personal-level. I had to neglect the idea of being friends with them as such when I was manager in order to put the interests of the team first, but they understood that completely. I think you saw an insight into the relationship we all have during the celebrations against the Netherlands.
That night is a night I’ll never forget, even though I don’t quite remember the events of what happened post-the World Cup final. The bars in Lyon were certainly entertained by us and the supporters, I know that!” Amie laughs with some embarrassment.
“I’ve kept in contact with most of the girls. We have a group-chat on WhatsApp and we’re all following each other’s progress with great interest. There’s a good level of banter within the group as you can imagine given some of the characters in it. I’ve had to mute it though because of the constant barrage of messages. In fact,” Amie says as she takes out her phone, “in the last hour there’s been over 400 messages. You now see what I mean,” she smiles. “Let’s just hope Phil [Neville, who has been appointed as Amie’s successor] doesn’t have a problem with mobile phone usage once in a while!
I’ll look back on my time working alongside the FA with great fondness. They gave me a fantastic opportunity and I’m glad I was able to repay them.”
But now Amie’s attentions are firmly fixated on Boulogne, a club in which she says she is “in love with already.”
“I knew a little about Boulogne before I was approached by Mr.Delattre [Reinold Delattre, the chairman of US Boulogne] but welcomed the opportunity to learn more about the football club when negotiations were ongoing. I wanted to gain a strong understanding before I signed my name on the dotted line and committed my future here. It wasn’t to say I was having any doubts, but I merely wanted to gain an impression of the club – from the players and staff to the supporters.
There’s an obvious sense of identity and a strong connection between players and supporters which I welcome wholeheartedly. Attendance figures have mostly risen in the last few years and to me that’s vastly encouraging as attracting supporters to come and watch the team is mightily important. A lot of clubs when they’re confined to a division, such as we have, for a good number of years naturally lose the interest of supporters and figures decrease. There’s a lot of encouragement to be taken from the fact this hasn’t been a problem for us.
We can rely on a core fan-base of approximately 2,000 which is fantastic at this level. It puts us amongst one of the better-supported clubs at this level and does generate a decent level of financial income that cannot be overlooked, nor underappreciated. With good performances and the results to support them, I truly believe we can only expand on the fan-base we have.
We aren’t blessed with the greatest catchment area in the world given the relatively miniscule population of Boulogne-sur-Mer [42,366 according to a 2015 census], but there’s an obvious interest garnered in the area that can only result in positive results if we allow it.
The supporters’ reception has been incredibly welcoming. I cannot thank them enough. I’ve been working extremely hard with a committed crop of players who are all ready for the challenges ahead and I look forward to rewarding their support with results.
Our squad is tremendous and I’m extremely optimistic about what we can achieve together. Everyone understands the expectations I have in place and what is expected of them both on and off the pitch. The morale around the place is extremely positive and we’ll certainly be using the feel-good factor to motivate us against Pau and beyond.”
Belshaw’s Boulogne begin the season at home to Pau, a side who were promoted to the Championnat National in 2016 and recorded a mid-table finish last season as they finished 10th under the management of Bruno Irles.
“They’re a good side and we have to be aware of the threat they pose,” Amie commented. “We have worked closely with the players to analyse some of their games to gather an understanding of what to possibly expect from them. There will certainly be elements to their game that will spring a surprise though and we have to aware and cautious of that.
There’s bound to be pressure on us to succeed with it being the opening-day. Every club wants to begin the new season in the right way. We’ll need to manage the game carefully, but I’m confident we can do that effectively. I’m looking forward to it all,” Belshaw concluded. Seb: A good start isn't imperative, but would certainly be beneficial to settle any nerves that Amie herself may have, as well as supporters. Imagine: I agree entirely, there is certainly a decent group of players within this team and I'm sure Amie will work hard to extract the very best out of each and every one of them. Justice: She has a lot to live up to if she wants to have as much success as she had in the women's game. Jack: A lot of positives can be taken from those games heading into the new season.
Really nice update giving us more of an insight of Amie and her view on the game. She clearly has a clear idea of what she expects from her teams and that is always a good thing, but her willingness to adapt will also be key to any future success. Pau will be a good test for Boulogne and Amie and hopefully one they pass with flying colours.
"I couldn't be prouder," Amie Belshaw commented following her side's opening-day victory against Pau. Said Idazza's first-half strike proved to be the difference between the two teams in spite of the hosts relentlessness over the entirety of the ninety minutes that resulted in the visitors failing to record a single attempt on goal.
"I thought we imposed ourselves onto our opponents excellently and we displayed the characteristics that I want to see from my team. I want us to be tenacious and energetic over the course of a game. We were incredibly well-structured and I'm very pleased with how we played against good opposition. Naturally, there are a lot of positives to take from today's performance, but we also have to review and address particular aspects to our game that I think need improvement," she said.
"We've not had too much time together so I'm aware that it will take time. I'm very impressed though. We controlled the ball as I would expect and maintained our shape. We should have probably put the game to bed with a second goal, but I have to praise our back-line who were superb and worked tirelessly. They were a different class today."
In a game largely bereft of chances, the hosts almost took the lead within the opening ten minutes of the game from a free-kick lofted into the box by Anthony Scarramozzino. Jackson Mendy met the cross, but much to the relief of the Pau goalkeeper, Alexis Guendouz, the Senegalese's powerful headed-effort cannoned off the crossbar and behind for a goal-kick.
Boulogne struggled to convert their pressure into chances. L'USBCO recorded nineteen attempts but only sufficed six of those attempts on-target. They did, however, also enjoy more of the possession, 54% to the visitors 46%.
The breakthrough eventually came six minutes before half-time as Said Idazza managed to break the deadlock with a well-timed finish at the near-post. Rayan Frikeche was able to retrieve the ball after a high-line, spearheaded by the attack, forced a rushed clearance from the Pau goalkeeper that would ultimately result in gifting the midfielder time and space to find Idazza who took on a defender before sneaking his effort in from just inside the area to give his side the lead and ultimately all three points.
Boulogne travel to the Stade Francis Le Basser next, as Olivier Frapolli leads Stade Lavallois into battle against his former employers. Les Tango began their season with an opening-day 0-0 draw against FC Villefranche. However, they will be without full-back Ludovic Soares who was given a second-yellow fifteen minutes from time.
Ahead of the game, Amie Belshaw commented: "Lavallois will be a very difficult side to beat, especially at home, this season. We'll have to approach the game with some level of caution as always, but I think if we can play like we did today [against Pau] but look to make a few improvements in some areas of the pitch, we can beat them.
The way Olivier [Frapolli] left the club was disappointing, so I am told, so I think the supporters will be keen to have the last laugh I suppose you could say. I'll do my upmost to ensure we gain another three points. A bright start to the season is essential to gather some early momentum." Seb: Amie needs to transition her ideas into success on the pitch. She certainly did that on the opening-day! Syb: A successful start for Amie that gives her and the team a platform to build on. Aaron: Amie's appointment is indeed another example of how football is progressing in a positive way. There are bound to be a lot of people who will doubt her qualities and persist that she was only given the job on a technicality, but she ought to prove them wrong. Similarly, it's important that her appointment isn't given too much media attention as it has an adverse effect. As she says, she needs to be treated like everyone else.
The month of August welcomed the beginning of the Championnat National season. Amie Belshaw took to the dugout for her first competitive game in charge during our 1-0 victory against Pau on the opening-day and took the momentum from that win to grind-out another three points against Stade Lavallois to take six points from a possible six. A 0-0 draw against USL Dunkerque followed before a disappointing loss to US Créteil-Lusitanos to close the month.
US BOULOGNE 1 - Idazza (39) PAU 0
In-front of a home crowd totalling over 3,000 spectators, Amie Belshaw claimed victory in her first competitive game in charge against Pau. Said Idazza's first-half strike proved to be the difference between the two teams as we dominated proceedings. The visitors were unable to record a single attempt on goal over the course of the ninety minutes in a game bereft of chances for either side.
STADE LAVALLOIS MFC 0 US BOULOGNE 1 - Idazza (24)
Olivier Frapolli met his former club for the first-time since being appointed as Les Tango's latest head-coach in the summer. It wouldn't be a happy reunion for the former Boulogne head-coach as Lavallois fell to a 1-0 loss at the Stade Francis Le Basser. Said Idazza scored for a second successive game after taking the ball round Stade Lavallois goalkeeper Valentin Belon and slotting the ball into an empty net. A beautifully-weighted pass from Rayan Frikeche cut open the hosts with ease to enable Idazza to give us the lead.
The game could have followed a much different trend as Lavallois failed to capitalise from some slack defending in the opening twenty seconds of the first-half. Robert Maah was one-on-one with Riffi Mandanda but squandered his opportunity by hitting his effort wide from a few yards out. We also had an early opportunity to score as Idazza's header from a Serin corner clattered off of the bar and was cleared to safety inside ten minutes.
There were a flurry of chances for either side in an end-to-end encounter, but none greater than Youssouf Ndiaye's header from a second-half Selim Bouadla free-kick that deflected off the side of Jackson Mendy and was heading towards goal, but Christian Senneville was thankfully on-hand to instinctively clear the ball off the line to prevent an equaliser.
The game could have been wrapped up with around ten minutes to play when Rayan Frikeche found himself in acres of space in the area from a corner. He couldn't control his header though as his effort went wayward with Valentin Belon untested. However, Lavallois failed to trouble us in the dying embers of the game and consequently we managed to hold on for yet another three points, prompting glee from the travelling supporters as they jokingly chanted songs towards their former head-coach at the full-time whistle.
US BOULOGNE 0 USL DUNKERQUE 0
Claude Robin and his Dunkerque side made the 98 mile-round-trip to Boulogne-sur-Mer and the Stade de la Libération as neither side managed to find a breakthrough with the game finishing in a goalless draw. The visitors enjoyed the greater quantity of chances in the first-half but failed to test Riffi Mandanda to a great extent.
The best chance of the game fell to Boulogne when Said Idazza was unable to convert for a third time this season. The ball was knocked-down to the Moroccan by his strike partner Randal Kolo Muani but his effort was struck with too much venom as it flew off the cross-bar and was headed away from danger by Dunkerque defender Jeremy Huysman.
Muani himself also had an excellent opportunity to convert in the second-half. He went through the Dunkerque defence and struck an effort from just outside the area. His effort was sweet and low but only managed to drag wide of Axel Maraval's goal as the Dunkerque goalkeeper claimed the Man of the Match award.
US CRÉTEIL-LUSITANOS 2 - De Taddeo (10), Buaillon (86) US BOULOGNE 1 - Muani (20)
We succumbed to our first defeat of the season in a 2-1 loss at the Stade Dominique Duvauchelle against Créteil-Lusitanos as Jason Buaillon stole all three points for the hosts four minutes from time. Créteil took the lead just ten minutes into the game when Teddy Okou's corner eventually fell to full-back Mike De Taddeo who beat Mandanda at his near-post with a well-struck effort.
Randal Kolo Muani bagged his first goal for the club, after joining L'USBCO on loan from FC Nantes in the summer, to equalise. Steve Shamal led the counter-attack from a poor corner that failed to beat the first-man. He continued a smart run into space as the hosts sought to retreat in vein. His cross ran across the face of goal and allowed Muani to get on the end of it to level after the striker made a surging run into the box to support his teammate.
Teddy Okou continued to be the thorn in our side, especially in the first-hand as he called Mandanda into action on numerous occasions. Nine minutes from time he would find the net with a volley inside the area, but it was swiftly chalked-off when the linesman adjudged him to be in an offside position.
However, this didn't deter the hosts from continuing to search for a winner. Some incredibly weak defending and a failure to clear a simple ball enabled Jason Buaillon to battle through the crowd of defenders and convert.
Overall however, plenty of positive can be taken from the opening month of the season as Amie Belshaw celebrates her debut month in charge with a total of seven points from a possible twelve at the end of August.
We find ourselves sat in third after the opening four games of the season. We sit directly behind two of the three sides relegated from Ligue 2 last season, AS Béziers and Gazélec Ajaccio, with the former being the only club yet to fall to a defeat. There are a number of sides yet to taste victory during the early stages of the season, but currently the bottom four consists of SC Toulon, enjoying their first-season at this level after promotion last season and foundation in 2016, Quevilly-Rouen, Pau and US Concarneau. Early days so far.
Player of the Month
Said Idazza has won the club's Player of the Month award for August. Said has been a vital member of the side in the opening four games of the season, capturing two goals - both of which provided the difference to capture all three points against Pau and Stade Lavallois.
Amie Belshaw:"I have been delighted with the performances from Said [Idazza]. He's a very talented player and we are fortunate to have him for the season ahead. He has already demonstrated the quality he has in front of goal and he will continue to be a menace for defenders this season. He has pedigree at this level which our opponents are aware of, but he's always improving and making changes to his game that make him unplayable on his day.
I'm very pleased with the team in general this month. With one notable exception, we've been very tight at the back and that has allowed us to keep three clean-sheets from our opening four games. When you have that security at the back, it's a massive bonus."
September welcomes an additional four matches beginning with a trip to SC Toulon following a two-week break. The Stade de la Libération then plays host to Bourg-en-Bresse in midweek before FC Villefranche make the same journey three days later. Le Puy Foot 43 will be our final test of the month as we take on Roland Vierra's side who have carefully been going about their business upon promotion to the Championnat National this season. Seb: A decent start. There's still a lot of improvements to be made but I think Amie will be reasonably content with the opening set of results on the whole.
Credit to Justice for providing the graphic at the start of this update. His work is very much appreciated.