July 12, 2020
Digard: “Share our love of OGC Nice”
“It was the best thing that could have happened to me” explained Didier Digard last December when commenting on his appointment at Assitant Coach of Le Gym’s U17s. After almost seven months in the role, which have obviously been largely impacted by the suspension of the season for his side, the former midfielder looks back on his time in the role. Delighted with the start he has had in the position, the former Aiglon (from 2009 until 2015), who celebrates his 34th birthday today, highlights the structural work being done at the club.
You arrived at the club last December. How are you feeling as Assistant Coach of the U17s after these first months?
Very good. We are a large coaching team and we are very united, very together. We work together and we have the same objectives. Things are going very well with Bruno (Rohart, U17s Coach) and with everyone else. On a daily basis, we share a lot of ideas and opinions, it’s very interesting because the more people there are, the more you can talk and the more work is done. We also have access to the first team coaching staff who listen to us and who we can use to get advice.
What relationship do the staff from the U17s, have with Patrick Vieira and the first team staff?
We are lucky to be alongside them. We are all part of the same family, the same club. Everyone is important. We talk a lot, we speak about everything and all pieces of advice are well received. What’s interesting is that they give us a view from the outside.
“Anywhere else but OGC Nice, that wouldn’t have interested me”
How different is the role of Coach from what you though it would be when you joined?
In fact, I hadn’t really imagined anything before joining. When I played, I did think about converting, but once I stopped playing (at Lorca in 2018), I wanted to leave the world of football. Since I am back in the game, what most strikes me is the huge amount of energy that this job requires. We quickly get attached to the youngsters and we want to get the best out of each of them, which requires us to be demanding and to put in a lot of effort.
What gave you that desire to sign up to this experience back in December?
The club and the discussions that I had. It’s really the desire of the club that pushed me to get involved. Anywhere else but OGC Nice, that wouldn’t have interested me. It’s the club that I have the most attachment to and the one where I know everybody, which made my integration easier and allows me to learn. In Nice, I am at home.
What do you take from your long career as a player into your new role?
Honestly, my career as a player is behind me, I use it but my job now is very different and you need to manage to forget your playing days. At times I do use it to show the youngsters certain things, to tell them what I was able to experience and that can help us to save time. The idea is to show them through personal examples what they need to do, or at times, what they shouldn’t reproduce. But most of all, I need to get inspiration from the coaches I have worked with that had a management style that I would like to adopt and to think about the type of coach that I would like to be, rather then the player that I was.
Which of your former coaches inspired you the most?
All of the coaches I have worked with have inspired me, but René Marsiglia left his mark, especially on a personal level (in 2011/12 at OGC Nice). But I learnt from all of them, particularly because the perfect person doesn’t exist, but the objective is to learn from everyone and to try to be the best you possibly can.
“That the youngsters want to succeed in Nice”
OGC Nice are doing a lot to restructure the academy, and are attracting former Aiglons like yourself back onto the Academy staff. What do you bring to the youngsters?
We want to transmit the culture of the club and our love for OGC Nice. They need to throw themselves into that and be aware of what the club expects of them. The players need to feel that they are at OGC Nice and nowhere else. The idea is that they want to succeed here and that they feel that the club is different to other clubs. The former players like Emerse Faé (U19’s Coach), Cédric Varrault (Assistant of the N3) and Marama Vahirua (Assistant Coach for the U19s) who has just arrived and they all can pass on these messages.
The work with the youngsters is done on an individual basis. What is the objective of this approach?
We quickly realized that it’s what works best for the youngsters. In this way, we are able to listen to them, we are closer to them and we can demonstrate things more easily, with images, videos and individual sessions. The players are more receptive when you take them away from the squad. It also suits some who are maybe less comfortable around others. The youngsters progress and understand more quickly. That’s why we have put this approach in place.
How would you analyse the season that has just gone*?
The 2019/20 season was a transition season for us. The objective was to put in place what we want to do next season. But it’s something that takes time, lots of work and numerous changes but, at the same time, it’s important not to rush things and try to achieve everything in one go. So we went bit by bit.
So what will be the objectives for 2020/21?
This season will be interesting because it needs to allow us to measure what we put in place last season. We have an objective and above all we have lots of ambition. Of course we will be demanding reaults, that’s logical because from the moment that you go out onto the pitch, you can’t not demand a victory. We want to instill a winning attitutde into the youngsters. But our main objective is to bring through good players who have excellent scope for development.
The U17s schedule
“The squad will be back on Wednesday 15 July. We are lucky that we are starting after the N3 and the U19s and so we have the benefit of hindsight. We can do the COVID tests at their homes and then on Wednesday, work with the medical staff and fitness coaches on individual tests. From Friday we will be able to run and then look to start the physical work on the following Monday.”
*The U17s were third in their league when the league was suspended, with six games to go. They secured 11 victories, 8 draws and 1 defeat.