June 12, 2019
U19s: Emerse Faé’s appraisal of the season
A change but continuity nonetheless. Head coach of the U17s for the last three years, Emerse Fae followed "his youngsters" to the next age group this season. Although he described a “mixed” first season with the U19s (6th placed finish), the demanding coach remains optimistic for the future. Interview.
How would you analyse this 2018-19 season?
It was a mixed one. We started well, with a pre-season during which I really liked the squad. The level of the group was very interesting, with strong competition and all of the guys were committed. We continued in the same vein at the start of the league campaign, before heading into a more difficult period. Most of all, I regret the points lost against teams on our level, points that would have allowed us to challenge Montpellier and Saint-Étienne. We didn’t find that spirit that we had shown during pre-season.
How would you explain that?
The competition for places forced the lads to play at a certain level. But we lost three of the starting 11 to injury after the first game: Noah Crétier, Balthazar Pierret and Julien Gastaldy, for around two months. With less competition, there was maybe a little less commitment. Our squad was made up of younger players, and others who dropped down from N2. We lost our way and only found it again in the last five or six games.
Against the big sides, however, you held your own, as shown by the six points taken from the champions, Montpellier...
That’s why it’s frustrating! In the end, we finished an average season in 6th place, even though, apart from against Toulouse, we put in good performances against the bigger sides. But on the other hand, you lose at home against Béziers, who were relegated. You only take one point from Cannes (8th), no points from Nîmes (4th)... We lost between eight and ten points against sides within our grasp. It’s a shame because if we had won them, we would have been fighting for a podium finish until the end.
What are the positives to take away from the season?
The progression of the players. In the Academy, that is the most important thing. These are players that I have known for a long time, I know where they have come from. Thinking about little Crétier for example, who has continued to progress, despite his injuries and even played for the reserves.
And the negatives?
The first one is that we conceded too many goals for my liking, even in games where we won easily. The second is the lack of extra ambition to go out and get something else.
Several U19 players featured amongst the reserve team this season, sometimes even the first team. How do you manage these comings and goings?
The players that appear in the matchday squad for the first team can’t immediately drop down into the reserves: they have to return to the U19s. That can create some frustration for those who have been training in the squad since the start and are then obliged to make way for those who drop down. But that’s part of the game.
“Give them the skills to earn a starting place in the first team”
How do you feel when you see the youngsters that you had under your wing, go on to make their debut for the first team?
It makes me happy, of course it does. I will have to start counting, I will soon be able to make a team (laughs). Seriously, I have been a coach at the club for seven years now: Thankfully there are some! For us, that is our main objective. We need to be even better, because today, among those I trained, only Malang (Sarr) is an unquestionable starter. Patrick (Burner) also plays, but I didn’t coach him. The important thing is to train them so that they have the necessary skills, not just so that they make appearances, but so that they can begin to command a starting place.
This season, you moved from the U17s to the U19s. Has your work changed with this different age group?
Yes, it’s completely different. They have two extra years in the academy behind them. We can go a lot further in our work, be more demanding. They are more mature. The league is also more difficult than at U17s, we are getting closer to adult football.
Patrick Cordoba (the U17s coach) highlighted the quality of conversation that goes on between the coaches of different age groups.
It was a transition year. We went from one way of working to another. With all of these changes, we had to communicate as much as possible so that everyone could have their day. Next year, we will have another year behind us, it will all move a lot quicker. This work together allows the youngsters to adapt more easily when they move from one age group to another. It makes things more simple.
“It’s really nice to talk football with Gilles Grimandi”
How have your conversations been with Gilles Grimandi (the club’s Technical Director)?
We have met together as a group on several occasions. I have also spoken with him on a individual basis: you can sense that he knows football. It’s always nice to talk with these kind of footballing personalities, who have real experience and have tasted the highest level. Our conversations were constructive, because we have also given him information. He experienced the highest level with the pros, we gave him insight into the club and the academy. I only knew him by name, and I was able to realise that he is really someone that is nice to talk football with.
What will be the make up of the U19 squad next season?
There will be lots of players born in 2002, some from 2003 and others from 2001 who are yet to make the step up. We will continue to play with youngsters. Lots of the U19s will also come back with the N3. As for my squad, I know that it will have quality. These are guys who are willing to listen, and that will allow us to work well. Sam Alexander, for example, scored a lot with the U17s. He came up with us at the end of the season and was just as effective. He is ready for the U19s. Little Salim (Ben Seghir) started to do good things with us before his suspension. There’s also Lorenzo Depuidt, who I didn’t think was ready in the middle of the season, but went on to do some very interesting things as the season went on. With a good pre-season, they will be ready. There is real quality and a good spirit. You can be sure that we will work hard. This squad needs to be more rigorous, which should prevent us from losing silly points.
When will your pre-season begin?
On 15 July. The players have had two or three weeks to chill, before starting to pick up their programmes again. That’s what will allow them to take on the level of work that awaits them when we return to training.