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Olympique de Marseille, looking back 2011-2017

Biographical story of my adventure with OM
Started on 31 July 2012 by JamesN-OM
Latest Reply on 5 August 2012 by JamesN-OM
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Note to readers. On my game I am in 2017. I was never sure whether I should write a story but now I thought I'd give it a go. So, when you start reading my story, you need to keep in mind I have already spent 6 years on the job!

Marseille, Southern France – 2nd June 2017

My name is Christine Michel and I write newspaper articles in the Domestic Football Section of l’Equipe, a French sport gazette. I have just met a man who over the last 6 years has changed the shape of French football. Thanks to his contribution to sport in the area of Marseille throughout his football career both as an international football player and coach, his team now stands tall amongst the likes of Barcelona, Manchester United and Ajax, all once masters of Europe, and Ligue 1 too has benefited from the exposure of the club in European competitions and beyond. I am referring to none other than James Naylor, the head coach at Olympique de Marseille. I have just had my first meeting with him since I was recruited to help him write his long awaited second autobiography, on his life, this time as manager of the most popular French club and will be posting portions of the manuscript here over the next few weeks until the start of the new campaign.

Yes mate, waiting for it!
Waiting for it!
JamesN-OM's avatar Group JamesN-OM
10 yearsEdited
So we met at his favourite spot on the coast of the town he calls home. He sat me down at a table facing the Mediterranean Sea, and we are at the café in time for some freshly brewed coffee and warm bread from a nearby bakery. James Naylor explains that the best time for him was this time in the morning (9:30) before the heat gets too much, he wants to enjoy the sea air that is so much part of this bustling city as the rest of it, bakers, fishermen, apartment blocks and all.
I ask James to tell me a little about himself; we all know he is an English born man, whose French mother still lives near the cathedral. Locally, he is affectionately called l'anglais (the English man) but James says it was not always this way.
“My mother, who was an English teacher, met my father when he was in the city on a business trip, looking to expand his company by acquiring a base in the Mediterranean. She was a daughter of a land lord and quickly fell in love with the man who soon became her husband and father of her only child. They married and after the import-export office was set up, my father moved them back to his home town – Liverpool. My mother was already pregnant with me at that time, and she says she nearly lost me when she found out what my father had wanted to do.
“Anyway, she accepted his pleas to move and, you have to understand, Liverpool in 1979 was hell on Earth for a woman who hardly ever ventured out of this town! My father quickly realized this and as his brother quickly became of age to look after shop in Liverpool, my dad made the decision to move back to Marseille.
“My father could speak French well enough but the underlying Scoucer accent was undeniable. And I too grew up with many of the same pronunciations, so my growing up in this town was slightly disadvantaged to say the least. Other children would pick up on it immediately and I was often picked on, and did not have too many friends. Even the parents of the children would try to avoid me, but I cannot blame them for that, I was an outsider and something I had to live with.
“But that soon diminished once we began to play football, though. My father, who is an ever-loyal Evertonian, persuaded me to take up football over my preferred choice rugby. He would always find time to play with me, on weekday afternoons, after studies, we would play and, as my French became more authentic, friends started coming round to play too. On Saturdays my father used to take us all on to his Citroen pick-up van and take us to watch OM play at the Stade Velodrome. There was a special moment when I looked up at him, I must have been about seven, and I told him I wanted to play football when I grew up. Of course being a football enthusiast dad, his heart swelled but he was the one who kept me grounded and made sure I studied first.

“Then as I got older my father began organizing a monthly football tournament for the local school I attended. He would tell me I was good, but only when I asked. One day though, two men that I recognized from the Veledrome were with my dad during one particular afternoon tournament. I stepped it up and really tried hard to play well, taking on board all the tips I got from my dad’s coaching.
“He did not say anything after he came back from a meeting he had with those men, and I really began to wonder what that was all about. I kept my mouth shut about it for three days until at last I demanded an answer for the reason they were there. He turned to me, eyes glistening, wide and honest and he said they were scouts from Olympique de Marseille. They were there the week before too but I did not see them. Of course I thought; I did see them but was too busy showboating with the lads in front of an audience due to it being my eleventh birthday. They chose some of us to join their youth team on trial.
“To this day I remember quite vividly how my jaw dropped when he explained to me why myself and two other boys were not going to his tournament that week.”
What happened next is all vividly portrayed in his first autobiography, written in English in 2006, after his unfortunate early retirement from football by Mr. Naylor himself at the age of 29 and translated in French before its release by a colleague of mine at the gazette. That story was about the blood, sweat and tears of an outsider, who fought the demons both outside and within to play and triumph at the highest level, both for club and England, and being taken to the depths of a career, made short by injuries that took James away from the spotlight and media attention for two years and reemerge as the strong willed man that he is today.

We pick up where that book had left off in the summer of 2006. James, by then had achieved his UEFA pro license and was working with the FA in England, coaching at junior level up to Under 21, assisting Stuart Pearce until 2007. He was offered a coaching role at l’OM. In 2009 he became assistant manager to Didier Deschamps; later in 2010 took up the role as assistant coach of the Croatia National team, who were looking to qualify for the 2012 European Championship having missed out on the World Cup. Croatia were unbeaten in four games when in January 2011 James was given the opportunity to take the role of assistant manager again. By June that year he was appointed head coach. James Naylor becomes the football manager of Olympique de Marseille at just 31 years of age!
20/06/2011 – Paris – French Football Association call a press conference at the HQ to announce Didier Deschamps will join his friend and colleague to become assistant coach of the senior national team and take full control of the U20 French National side as part of a project to rejuvenate the French team back to its former glory of the ’98-2000 era. Following a dismal 2010 World Cup campaign and senior members of the squad still unsettling the mood, Didier Deschamps, the French FA tell gathered journalists, will help steer the team to better performances under the new Head coach, and in the meantime encourage the doctrine of hard work and dedication in the promising French youth. Many welcome Deschamps in the national team, but Olympique de Marseille are left scratching their heads about who to turn to. Serge Romano makes himself available and declares himself interested in filling the boots at the helm of l’OM, whilst bookies also make Christophe Galtier as hot favourite. Director of Football Henri Stambouli has other plans and home grown star, James Naylor swiftly becomes the next manager at Olympique de Marseille.
“It was not an offer I could refuse. I wanted the job more than anything else in my life and the coaching and learning I put myself through was all to become manager. And to be offered the job at the team I watched play as a child, and then even play for, just filled me with joy. Henri organized the press conference just two days after Didier left l’OM for the FFF. He said to me this has to look like it was planned, he said we cannot panic about this, that’s why we need you. Of course, I wanted to make sure we were stable and ready for this. One of the first questions I was asked was about at the press meeting was about the staff. All members of the staff were friends, and now they fall under my direct orders. I needed the people who were also around me and at the press conference I confirmed the staff will remain, they were employed by the club not Deschamps after all; most of them were even here before Didier took the job in June two years prior.”
James takes a deep breath and stares into his cup, stirring the coffee round the sides of the cup before downing it.
“Of course the truth was that everyone at the club felt on edge. Whilst we were competing for the league, there were three factors that worried everyone at the club. The first was Deschamps departure. He was seen as a decent manager who was able to control this somewhat erratic team. Second was the emergence of Lille who virtually from nowhere won the league from under our noses thanks to Eden Hazard putting in some fantastic performances, and thirdly, PSG, our main rivals were given unlimited resources and were already showing their intentions by signing Javier Pastore from Palermo for the fee of €42M. L’OM on the other hand were on an extremely tight budget and realistically had to cash in on some major players to help rebuild the squad in time for my first campaign in charge. Interest from England for Goalkeeper Steve Mandanda and Striker Andre Ayew, amongst other players, was eventually proven too attractive and were both sold for €13M each to Manchester United and Arsenal respectively. This poured in some cash for me to delve into the transfer market and the first players to sign for OM were Canesin Matos from Anderlecht, Luis Guilherme from Botafogo Brazil and Kadlec from Sparta Prague, all for a grand total of €7.3M.”

I look into James’ eyes and I could not miss the sense of satisfaction that beams from him. “Guilherme and Kadlec are exemplary players. Now, six years on, I can say they were part of a great success story. When I look back to those moments, their contributions to this club, how different would things have been if they were not here to see it through?”
I look back at my reporting of the team in the league and they contributed greatly to the club, albeit if not necessarily from the first day…
“My first season in charge was tremendous, though. Sure, we begun the league campaign with a defeat to Sochaux, that hurt us and it took us a while to climb up the table. But we did a double over PSG, and a 14 match unbeaten run at the end of the season, that was gave us our first Championship…
“During my first Champions League campaign we had mixed results. A slim defeat away from home was enough to send us in second place and played Barcelona in the first knock-out phase. We played bravely but lost both home and away. That was the end of our adventure in Europe that season, but valuable lessons were learnt…”

Bad luck against Barca!!

Looking forward to following this over the next six years and beyond.
“In my first season in charge we won the league and got to the Round of 16 in Europe (Champions League). In the French Cup we suffered a 2-0 loss against Sochaux in the ninth round, just after the new year, and in the Coup de la Ligue we got to the semis where we were beaten 2-1 by Lille.
#61247 Kiwi : Bad luck against Barca!!

Looking forward to following this over the next six years and beyond.

Barca were fantastic, though. Keep an eye on this cause much more to come, I am already in 2017 so much more to be added !!!
JamesN-OM's avatar Group JamesN-OM
10 yearsEdited
Before we wrap up our first meeting, I ask James Naylor who, in his first season was his star buy. Without any doubt, Romario from Vitoria was a great defender, great value for money and now play on both flanks.

His value has increased remarkably, he now get games for Brazil, note the 7.3+ average rating. Incredible Full-Back
Romario is definitely one of the cheapest and best wingbacks available. I think the first year or too he is excellent back up material or even can be loaned out, but after that he is top class!
Wow, he does look fantastic, you did extremely well there! Are you having to beat suitors away with a stick?
#61416 Kiwi : Wow, he does look fantastic, you did extremely well there! Are you having to beat suitors away with a stick?

Quite! He is a real good wing back and Manchester United in hot persuit right now as well as Juve. I got good players coming through the ranks so if a good offer come my way I may have to weigh things up properly. Look out for Azpilcueta, he starts with OM and really brill in Right Back position

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