mercredi 8 décembre 2010

French Football Addicts Endure Cold Turkey at Christmas

Naturally, I've spent much of the past week fretting over what to give family and friends this Christmas (a mosquito net for Didier, a copy of 'Das Kapital' for Eric, snoods for everyone else). I've also been contemplating the value of the mid-season break, which calls a halt to all matches in France between December 22nd and January 15th.

Many players and managers in England envy their continental conterparts, although fans and shareholders of Premiership and lower league clubs tend to relish the abundance of festive fixtures. The tangible benefits of a hiatus during bleakest winter are obvious: players and pitches can recuperate. But this time of year isn't merely about the tangible, it's about the magical...

If Wayne Rooney awakes on Christmas morning to find that long desired Hornby train set at the bottom of his bed, he will have just a couple of hours in which to assemble and play with it before he must report for "light training" with Ebenezer Ferguson. Meanwhile, across the Channel, Yoann Gourcuff will be free to spend the entire day tearing round on his new tricyle or sitting happily on his daddy's knee. Gourcuff père - who currently manages Ligue 1 side Lorient - can forget tactics and turn his attention to turkey and TV.

Thus the Gourcuffs will enjoy all the magical elements that make up a typical family Christmas: too much food and booze, the constant threat of an almighty argument, 'Trivial Pursuit' and 'The Great Escape'. In comparison, the Rooneys' Christmas may seem rather hollow.

The FA is unlikely ever to sacrifice one of the most lucrative traditions in its dominion. As I see it, anyone in England who favours a Christmas without football has only one hope.

So, all together now: "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas...

mercredi 1 décembre 2010

Damien Comolli: a Divisive Figure

The mastermind behind the resurgence of Spurs and St. Etienne?

There are those who would describe Liverpool's recently recruited 'Director of Football Strategy' as a snake. In a press conference last week, Harry Redknapp reacted angrily to the suggestion that Comolli deserves credit for assembling the current Tottenham squad. Arsène Wenger was similarly withering in his assessment of Comolli's influence on Arsenal's transfer policy: Comolli has been quick to talk-up his former role as a European scout for the Gunners. On November 9th 2008, Comolli became 'Sporting Director' at St. Etienne and was instrumental in the club's improved showing earlier this season. Ultimately though, he may weaken St. Etienne - and Ligue 1 - by facilitating the transfers of, respectively, Blaise Matuidi and Lille's centre-back Adil Rami to Liverpool.

It's worth noting that two managers were sacked during Comolli's second spell at St. Etienne, which lasted two years. His work at Tottenham coincided with the brief, unhappy tenure of Juande Ramos. Based on that evidence, Comolli doesn't engender stability.

In his capacity under - or rather alongside - Roy Hodgson, will Comolli prove to be a snake, an asset or simply ineffectual? Time will tell. Nonetheless, it's hard to overlook the symbolism of Liverpool's interest in a player named Eden Hazard, a teammate of Rami at Lille. Hodgson is clearly tempted to bring Hazard (undeniably, a tasty prospect) to Liverpool, but the manager must beware. Acquiescence to Comolli could lead to a fall from grace.

Damien Comolli's CV from 1996
1996-2003: European scout for Arsenal
2004-20005: 'Technical Director' of St. Etienne
2005-2008: 'Director of Football' at Tottenham
2008-November 2010: 'Sporting Director' of St. Etienne
November 2010-present: 'Director of Football Strategy' at Liverpool