A French Affair
by, 22-05-2012 at 02:03 PM (1709 Views)
In the aftermath of a sensational season of football, arguably the biggest surprise and most romantic of stories should provide hope and inspiration from one South Coast club to another.
As recently as 2009 Montpellier were playing in the French second tier. Montpellier has had a football club for ninety years but only in 1974, under the stewardship of their controversial owner Louis Nicollin who's son Laurent Nicollin now follows in his footsteps as Chairman, did the club form in it's current state.
Chairman Laurent Nicollin, not afraid to be his own man.
Montpellier, like a city dear to my own heart is situated on the south coast of its respective nation. It's population of about a quarter of a million people shows that it is certainly a large city but it is not one of the most glamorous or well known in France. There are many other places that more immediately spring to mind when the French nation is mentioned.
Montpellier doesn't have the largest fan base, in Ligue 2 they averaged no more then 10,000 for their home gates. In Ligue 1 after promotion their crowds have been no more then 18,000. The 32,500 capacity Stade de la Mosson, built for the 1998 World Cup provides them with a sound facility but not the economic base that a recently crowned domestic champion would typically feature.
The home of 'La Paillade.'
Yes, Montpellier is a seemingly average city, with an average population and a football club of rather average means. Instead of resources though, Laurent Nicollin had a plan. Laurent Nicollin had a vision of how Montpellier Herault SC could flourish.
Nicollin believed in the academy, 'La Paillade' as they are affectionately known have succesfully brought through talented players such as goalkeeper Geoffrey Jourdren, defensive lynch-pin Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and winger Younes Belhanda. They have balanced home grown players with experience successfully to create a competitive squad.
Nicollin believed in his manager, Rene Girard. A man with extensive coaching experience at lower levels but not at the sharp end of the French club game, a man who has been given time after promotion to craft the squad as he desired. A man who needed no more then 2 million euros to suppliment the team he was given and take them firstly into European competition in their first season back in Ligue 1. Remarkably after this and just two years later he took Montpellier to their first ever title.
The players celebrate at Auxerre after ex Skate John Utaka's two goals secured the title.
It is Montpellier, not the multi millionaires of Paris Saint German, not the traditional powerhouse Lyon, not their near neighbours and traditional French giants Marseilles but intelligently run and steadfast Montpellier who have prevailed.
While the English game is an entirely different animal to the “Ligue Francaise,” the example of Montpellier is profound. As Saints look forward to our first season in the top flight for seven years the achievements of another South Coast club against supposedly superior and mightier entities must surely provide inspiration for the upcoming campaign.