Press conference

Digard: ‘A huge disappointment’

Didier Digard spoke to the media following the UEFA Conference League quarter-final against FC Basel (1-2).

What is your first reaction to this match?
It’s a huge disappointment. We lost and we ruined a great night for a lot of people, after preparing everything to ensure it went well. So, it’s a huge disappointment.

What was missing tonight?
First of all, our finishing, because we had enough chances to win the game, and secondly, our defensive solidity because we know that every chance against us we paid dearly. And I’d probably add character, because we stopped playing our own football, and that is our biggest strength.

It looked like your team dropped off in intensity after scoring the first goal, instead of looking to add a second or a third…
It may have looked like that, but you also have to understand the amount of energy our game plan demanded. The players gave it absolutely everything and things started getting more difficult. That’s why we made changes, and tried to inject some fresh blood, but it didn’t work for us.

Are you angry with your players, given that you were one-nil up and weren’t able to kill the game off?
I’m not angry because despite everything, I think the players gave it all they had, even if we didn’t play well and should have done better, as a team, me first and foremost. But it is very disappointing. I would be angry if I thought the lads hadn’t given everything.

In the final minutes, FC Basel’s substitutes made the difference, whereas for OGC Nice, that was less the case...
Yes, that's why I say that I am also to blame. Of course, I have to take responsibility for this kind of thing. But there were also choices that were imposed on us, notably Youssouf (Ndayishimiye) and Hicham (Boudaoui) because of fatigue and cramps. From getting cramp to suffering muscle damage, it's only a short matter of time so we couldn't afford to take that risk. The other changes were due to fatigue but the substitutes were not as well-suited to the game plan as the players who started the match. There was also Melvin Bard who had a booking, so that was also a risk.

Could you have made different substitutions?
Yes. Obviously, when you lose at the end and your changes didn't work. But I try to take a step back and look with a critical eye... even if it's hard tonight. Despite it all, I don't see what else we could have done.

Nice were the last French club in European competition… 
It's obviously difficult to accept because we know that the whole country can be affected by tonight's result, so it's tough to take. But, even if we are very understanding of the rest of the country, it's also normal to be a bit selfish and to be disappointed for ourselves tonight. Today, it's too raw to have the necessary perspective to think about the UEFA index, even if we know that it's very important for the other French clubs.

What is there left for OGC Nice to play for this season?
I think the fans expect the same from us, to continue to show the spirit of Nice, to not give up until the very end. We're going to get back on track, we're going to compete because that's what we have to do, to finish as well as possible. Despite it all, football moves very quickly. There's a season to finish but there's also another season to prepare for. The sooner the players get a look at what it takes to succeed at the highest level, the sooner they will be ready for next season.

Do you think the off-field context could have had a bearing on tonight’s result?
I don’t want to look for excuses. From the moment you are leading with five minutes left to play and the players have done everything asked of them, I’m not going to go finding excuses.

How do you judge Nice’s European campaign?
Today, it's too difficult to have the necessary hindsight to be satisfied with what we've achieved, especially when we came so close and we should have qualified. But despite everything, we got 30,000 people from Nice to come to the stadium. They dreamed that it was possible for a long time. We all dreamed together. When the public comes in such numbers, it's because we've offered them some joy and hope in getting this far. It was a great campaign. It has given us a taste for it. Unfortunately, it's going to be difficult, if not impossible, to qualify again for next season, but we'll give it our all.

Tonight, we could see a marked difference between the starting XI and the substitutes that came on…
It's true that we have injuries. But I don't want to take it out on the players who make a huge effort, who are very committed and who are the first to be disappointed tonight. If I want to hide behind excuses, then yes, of course it's easy to say with all the injuries and the players playing out of position... I could find a good hiding place but that's not my mentality at all.

After the loss in last year’s Coupe de France final, is this another opportunity to see the club continue to advance it’s project, gone begging?
Yes, you could see it like that. Of course, we want to progress, continue advancing, but it's not easy, it's decided on details and tonight, they didn't go our way. We'll have to find the right formula to keep reaching these important matches but then go on to win them.