Thursday, 22 February 2018

Devil In The Detail

Of course nothing from me in terms of news on the takeover. So just a message or two to Roland. First, if you believe for a moment that holding out indefinitely to get the price you think you deserve will flush out new buyers or higher offers you should write down the plan, take down that enormous file labelled ‘stupid ideas I’ve had since buying Charlton’, and add it to the pile. When there are two main bidders and one walks away saying the seller is demanding too high a price, the other is not exactly likely to lift his/her bid. And the chances of a new potential buyer coming to the fore are similarly reduced as more people view the seller as just delusional.

Second, if you think for a moment that you should delay a sale because that will annoy the supporters, including those who keep disrupting your disco practise, write down the notion, take down that enormous file .... Yes, we have the champagne on ice. But it can stay there for as long as it takes, we have an unlimited supply of ice and while we wait we just practise our own dance moves, for the very large party when you’ve sold.

To matters on the pitch – and what a relief an away win can bring! Prior to the weekend, since my arrival in France Lyon Duchere had played four, won none, drawn one and lost three, including two at home against what would have been considered moderate opposition (Les Herbiers and Concarneau). Add in the demise of the venerated Paul Bocuse (this is Lyon, France, the large special supplements to commemorate his life are still on sale) and I was beginning to assume Jonah status. To be fair Duchere’s bad run preceded my arrival. You had to go back to 24 November for their last victory, since when they had lost three and drawn four out of seven.

We managed to take in the second half of the recent home game against Concarneau (kicking off at 8pm on a Friday evening isn’t exactly compatible with a good meal and a glass or two of red). My partner Suzanne had checked the score early on: Duchere were 1-0 ahead and all was well. At half-time she checked again: merde, 1-2. So off we went to lend our support. But while Duchere had a very good chance early on to equalise, as the game progressed they seemed to run out of steam and ideas against a side happy to keep its shape and play on the break. Defeat it proved to be – and in a tight league that saw Duchere drop into a relegation spot (normally four teams out of 18 are relegated from National, France’s third division, but this year for some reason there are only 17 – the eighteenth place reserved for ‘Exempt’ – and three will go down).

So even though against Concarneau Duchere hadn’t looked like relegation-fodder, confidence must have been low going to take on handily-placed Marseilles Consolat on their turf. I’ve only managed to see brief highlights on the Duchere site but it looks as though they put in a disciplined away performance and took the points courtesy of a big defender planting a header from a corner into the net. The 1-0 victory has lifted Duchere back up to 12th in what is for the most part a very tight league – another three points would see them up into joint fourth. In any event, the top three continue to run away with it. Grenoble won the top-three clash on Friday, 1-0 away to Red Star, which saw them take over from Rodez (who could only manage a 0-0 home draw with Les Herbiers). Grenoble have 38 points from 21 games (they’ve scored only 23 goals but have let in just 13 – must be a delight to watch but how Robinson would love to have a defence that secure), Rodez 36 from 20, and Red Star 33 from 20. Then there is a five-points gap to fourth-placed Cholet. Never say never, but with two automatic promotion places and the team finishing third going into a promotion play-off, the picture at the top looks reasonably set.

That does leave teams like Duchere with little really to play for – except of course avoiding relegation. And for sure there’s work to be done to build on last Friday’s victory, to really turn things around. By this stage of the season the stats don’t lie and the problem is clear enough: Duchere are the league’s lowest scorers, having hit the net just 18 times in their 21 games (Creteil have scored the same but have played two games less).

I hope I can get along to tomorrow evening’s match (which may depend on Suzanne’s patience as tonight we will have Olympique Lyonnais in the Europa League, when they will be defending a 3-1 first-leg victory over Villarreal, followed over the weekend by all the Premiership action and another round of Six Nations rugby). It will be against Entente SSG, who currently occupy fifth place. I’d no idea where Entente might be so did a little research. Seems the full name is L’Entente Sannois Saint-Gratien. Seems that Saint-Gratien is a suburb of Paris, a little to the north. The football team was founded as recently as 1989 and seems to have had a chequered life. According to Wikipedia, until the mid-2000s the team was in National. But then it was apparently denied promotion to Ligue 2 by “an administrative error”, for which they were awarded compensation. I thought by now I’d heard most things in football, but a team not getting promoted because of poor admin? After that seems the team struggled, was relegated in 2008/09 and then relegated again, to CFA2, in 2010/11 when the club went into bankruptcy protection.

Looks like Entente SSG have clawed their way back up since then. And in that respect they have been moving alongside Lyon Duchere, who I’ve seen promoted from CFA2 to CFA1 and now to National. And the parallels do start to get a bit spooky. Having been founded in 1964, by people who left Algeria at the time of independence, in 1993 Duchere finished top of the third division only to be denied promotion also, according to Footeo, for administrative reasons. I suspect that in both cases there were real reasons, involving ground facilities and other financial matters (perhaps someone better informed can let us know). But I’m tempted to ponder on whether before in the history of football has there been a game played between two clubs which have both been denied promotion because of poor paperwork? Perhaps sometimes, like with the purchase of a football club, the devil really can be in the small details.

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