Manu Pirès reviews the season by age group
Age group by age group, Manuel Pirès, the OGC Nice Academy Director, looks back on the 2021/22 campaign that has just come to a close following two seasons full of interruptions.
NATIONAL 3 (3RD WITH 51 POINTS)
"My appraisal of the season is very positive. Of course the league position, we can’t say that it is not important, because you always have the desire to finish as high as possible in a corner of your heads when you are involved in sport. That’s to be expected. But what I see is the evolution of the players and the team, the content of the the N3 matches which has been interesting, and only goes to validate the results. I'm not saying that we were better than the opponent every time we won, but often, when the quality of the performance on the field is there, the result follows. It is also satisfying in terms of the development of the players in the reserve team, with a level of discipline that always needs to be there.
Didier Digard? He got off to a good start (laughs), even a very good one. It was not always the easiest for him in his first experience as a number 1. We expected that and he did too. I think he did a remarkable job with his staff. I wasn't really worried about that. He was a captain, a leader in the dressing room and on the pitch when he played football. When you have that in you, it’s with you forever. On the other hand, he surprised me in the way he managed bad results, which were sometimes undeserved. I thought he was very lucid, when there was a defeat that was difficult to accept in the final minutes of the game. He was able to keep a cool head and approach the next game with the right mindset, while taking into account the shortcomings from the defeat. And by continuing in the direction that we set at the beginning of the season, namely to maintain our footballing principles that are held throughout the academy. We are constantly speaking every day. We have one real quality, it’s having the freedom to develop both the players and the coaches."
U19 (5TH IN GROUP D WITH 43 POINTS)
"It’s pleasing to be in this position, especially when you consider that the best U19s were playing up in the N3 and we were forced to bring up some of the U17s, because this team had a difficult start to the season. It’s a bit of an in-between team. They were well managed by Johann Louvel and Cédric Varrault, who make up a very interesting duo for the Academy. It’s an incredibly rich partnership, with two different cultures: the experience of Johann and Cedric’s desire to dive straight into his coaching career. There was good management, both at home and away, with some great performances.
In terms of the Gambardella, I still haven’t been able to accept the Round of 32 loss against AC Ajaccio (0-1). We didn’t perform as we needed to. And we were at home. We should have made the most of certain moves to take home the victory. It came down to very little, especially when you consider that in the Round of 16, we could have put out a strong team as the N3 weren’t playing and we wouldn’t have had to make the choice to leave our best players with the reserves or not. There was no decision to make, but it remains slightly frustrating.
Johann Louvel? He brings what I like to call, that little bit of salt and pepper. He has experience of every age group. He has even coached pros. He is a football expert. He knows what is needed. He is always realistic about the qualities of the squad, and really gets the best out of every player. That’s what he brings to the squad, the coaching staff and also Cédric Varrault."
U17 (6TH IN GROUP D WITH 39 POINTS)
"My appraisal of the campaign is that it was good on the whole, especially as we suffered to begin with. And Romain (Lattron, the coach) was the first to suffer, with his coaching staff. We started very young, even too young. There wasn’t enough experience. When the league campaign starts very badly, it’s difficult to focus on the positive. For a first year at the club, we didn’t make life easy for him. He was well supported by Marama (Vahirua). It’s not easy to take defeats against teams that are within your grasp, despite the fact that they were more solid than us athletically. We didn’t hold on for long unfortunately, because we were too young and immature. In the second half of the season, we brought down some of the 2005 born players to add some older players to the age group. You could feel it straight away, even though that wasn’t the original objective. We couldn’t put our U17 generation at risk.
Professional clubs play younger and younger players. It’s ambitious and we took this approach. Whereas amateur clubs want to hold their own, so they pick up players who are more developed physically. We struggled, so a huge well done to the coaching staff and players for an almost champion worthy second half of the season, with just one defeat and almost only wins, and where the lads progressed well.”