A decade ago in a far away land, I met a French woman who would later become my wife. She couldn’t be from Paris or even Lyon though could she… she’s from Nantes!
As a result, I’ve spent a ten years watching a conveyor belt of players wearing yellow shirts running around like headless chickens! They’re normally all very good but not quite good enough… but then you find out that Diego Carlos, having moved to Spain, has a £60,000,000 release clause and is being linked with Liverpool, or that Strasbourg assist machine Adrien Thomasson is being courted by Ligue 1’s top teams!
Ex-skipper Leo Dubois, now at Lyon, always stood out to me and it’s great to see him earn national recognition. It’d be nice though if players didn’t feel that they had to leave Nantes to play for the French team or in the Champions League. Valentin Rongier, who though decent never looked particularly special to me, is another homegrown player who felt it necessary to leave the Stade de la Beaujoire. 26-year-old homegrown current captain Abdoulaye Toure, capped at youth level, will likely soon follow.
Les Canaris normally recruit a new manager every season, start well, brew talk about Europe, drop off drastically, flirt with relegation and finish in mid-table obscurity.
When I first started following FC Nantes they were managed by Michel Der Zakarian. He was in the middle of a lengthy occupation at the helm having helped get the side out of Ligue 2 back into Ligue 1. Since then Rene Girard, Philippe Mao, Sergio Conceicao, Claudio Ranieri, Miguel Cardoso, Vahid Halilhodzic and now Christian Gourcuff have all sat in the manager’s seat.
Historically, Football Club Nantes Atlantique are one of France’s most successful sides. They’ve won an impressive eight league titles since their inception in 1943 but there’s been no hint of a trophy since I’ve been following!
Of course my time as an FC Nantes fan coincided with the tragic death of Argentine forward Emiliano Sala. To have some sort of vague connection to him and having watched him on TV numerous times made his death even the more poignant. When I read about a plane flying from Nantes to Cardiff having gone missing, it wasn’t difficult to read between the lines even before his name had been mentioned. I found myself following an obscure American aviation channel online that was briefing developments. Of course there was never any hope. I don’t donate to funding sites lightly but made my own almost insignificant contribution to recovering the vehicle.
Owner Waldemar Kita is one of the more well respected club owners around but I’m really not sure what the future holds. Much of the same and maybe worse (Relegation?) seem all too likely. Fingers crossed for progress at least and maybe a European jaunt. Brushing aside my pessimism, I’m optimistic that the recruitment of ex-Liverpool man Pedro Chirivella will strengthen the team and compliment the permanent signing of Moses Simon. Keeping hold of players such as Ludovic Blas and Imran Louza is equally as important as bringing in new faces.
Look out for the occasional update on how the Norwich City of French football are getting on!