“I was massacred but I never complained”, Gourvennec tells his beginning of adventure in Lille

A few days before the reception of PSG in Ligue 1 (Sunday, 8:45 p.m.) and now less than three weeks before the clash against Chelsea in the Champions League, LOSC coach Jocelyn Gourvennec gave an interview to RMC Sport. He talks about his adaptation, reviews, and even… the offsides of the boiling Burak Yilmaz.

Jocelyn, are you relieved that the transfer window is over, even though Reinaldo is gone?

Yes, when you are a coach, you are always happy that the transfer window ends because it creates problems for the players, they wonder about their future and that’s normal. When it’s over, we can project ourselves and explain to the group that we’re focused on what’s going to happen ahead and we’re moving forward. After, Reinildo was an important player at Losc obviously, he was one of the basic players this season, it’s always annoying sportingly but now it’s “the life of football”, once it’s over, I don’t look back . Reinildo is gone, good luck to him, he’s a charming boy, a very important partner in the life of Losc and the locker room. Now, we look ahead and the deadlines are with those who are here today.

Suddenly, Gabriel Gudmunsson will have to take responsibility?

Yes, there is Bradaric who stayed despite the short playing time and who could have gone elsewhere, but we are keeping a competitive squad.

We feel that you master your team but that it took time to adapt…

You can’t create relationships overnight, especially when a group has been champions. It’s quite rare that the coach who was champion leaves, it doesn’t often happen like that, so it’s up to the new coach to adapt as quickly as possible. The relationship with the players was very good, very quickly. We were able to build things first through the champions trophy, then also, and it is perhaps less pleasant, with the ups and downs at the start of the championship. The course in the Champions League has strengthened our ties because in the difficulty we responded. We also gauged each other. I think the players know me well now, they know that I have an axis and that I stick to it and that there is no lag between what I can say and what I do. To coach the players well, you have to know the men well, it’s fundamental, for that you can’t play with the clock. It’s normal that after seven months, the bond is more established than after a month or two.

As soon as you were appointed, did you come under a lot of criticism?

Yes, I was massacred and at the same time I protected myself from that, I didn’t get into controversy, I never complained. I didn’t want to waste energy for nothing. I found it hard but once you realize that, you have to move on and I put myself in my bubble to help Losc since that’s the mission I was given. I never wanted to go into this debate, I had my proofs to do and I think that I did them by respecting the club, the mission that I was offered, by respecting the people of the club , and also the media since I never fled the debate or the discussions. Today, we did very good things but the work is not finished because we still have important things to do in Ligue 1 and the Champions League. We have to go further, make people dream, we still have plenty of beautiful deadlines to live.

There is a match that did not help you, it was the defeat against Nice at home (4-0) and against Christophe Galtier…

There are difficult moments in a season, it was a difficult moment this first game. I was especially very disappointed with that match because it was the reunion of the team, champion of France, with its public and I found it very hard. I found that neither the players nor the public deserved that, we had to overcome that and I think the Champions League helped us to create a bond between the team and the public. We have managed to be undefeated at home since and we have to cultivate that because it is important to be strong at home.

Today, you feel fulfilled within your team, even if you lost a lot of points on not much..

It’s true, it’s a bit of a weird season because there’s a gap between our production and what we harvest, but at the same time we have to improve, to be a little more methodical to better finish our situations. I think the team is playing better now, they have a good balance. We have to improve further to concede fewer goals because the teams that improve the most are the ones that concede fewer goals, it’s correlated. It’s quite frustrating, that feeling, we have to get over it and be even better.

You have players with a strong temperament, in particular Burak Yilmaz, who came out angry again during the match against Brest…

It was the game itself that was frustrating because we were dominating and we couldn’t score, you have to have a good relationship with the player and know the man well. I think I know the players well, burak like the others. It’s that we have a group that has a lot of temperament and character and when things aren’t going well, it can be volcanic. It’s part of the strength of this group, after that it’s up to me to manage all that knowing that I’m the coach of Losc and not the coach of so and so.

Burak, is it the most complicated to manage?

No, he’s not complicated, he’s a boy with a strong character who can sometimes get angry, he’s not the only one. He’s one of Turkey’s historic players, still active, he’s the captain of Turkey so he’s always the focus of attention. The slightest of his reactions is always scrutinized but I talk a lot with him and we see it again calmly, with a rested head.

Why is Burak the most ‘offside’ player in the league?

It’s part of the player’s characteristics, he’s someone who weighs a lot on the defenses and who is always on the limit, we should focus on the central defenders, they are always on the alert, they are never quiet, because the slightest inattention can be fatal.

Sunday, there is a big game against PSG. Why is Paris so far in the ranking without being extraordinary?

Because they dropped few points, they may be less dominant this season, but they are very efficient and have a lot of talent. We have seen more dominating PSGs, this is less the case, on the other hand they are very effective. They have a very strong attacking line. After us, we will play our game against them, we will have a full stadium, which is fantastic after the almost empty stadiums. We always had a good atmosphere, even if we didn’t always win.

Would not qualifying for the Champions League be a big disappointment?

There are sixteen games left, we have dropped points but we know that we are not very far because it is very close. Afterwards when we play Paris, we want to create the feat and we don’t think about the consequences of a failed match. We will have to be very, very good, take the stadium with us and be good tactically. They have very strong players but we also have arguments.

Soon the knockout stages of the Champions League against Chelsea (February 22 and March 16): is it imaginable to pass?

It’s a very big team, they have a lot of experience and they are defending champions. Of course we have the right to dream but we will have to be at a very high level and that we manage to make them doubt.

Interview by Jean Bommel

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