Jamie: Hello and welcome back to Sports Look! Last time we looked at new Lyon Manager, Toby Lacey, as he settled into his new club. I’m joined again by José Mourinho and Roy Hodgson. Welcome, boys.
José: Thank you for having us. If we could avoid the subject of Lacey that would be good. I still think it’s despicable. Now he’s settled into his club, he’s met his players, he’s on £8k a week… And he’s so young. He should be passing exams, not running a football club.
Roy: There are many players who are younger than him who have international caps and are on much more money than he is at the moment. You’ve even played the likes of Rashford, who’s younger than Lacey, at your club, José.
José: Playing and managing are two different things. To manage you need experience, knowledge of the game. To play, you just need to kick the ball around for a bit.
Jamie: Yet footballers get paid more than managers.
José: Exactly. It’s rather stupid. But anyway, I’m excited to see how Lacey prepares for his game against Valenciennes in his pre season. I’m excited to his team crash and burn. I honestly hope they do.
Roy: That’s rather mean, José. I think Lacey will do well. I asked some staff at the club how training has been and they say it’s been rather good. Moreover, Lyon has one heck of a good team and I don’t think they’ll do badly against Valenciennes. At the end of the day, it’s a top flight club.
José: With an inexperienced manager in his first match.
Jamie: I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens during the game. We’ll give you a full debriefing next time Sports Watch! Have a good day!
6am, Sunday, 19th of June.
After a rowdy first day at the office for me, I finally got my relaxing time. With scout reports coming in from everywhere on my phone, I’ve yet to even meet my team and assess them. Gérald’s assessment claims that we do need more depth in a lot of places, particularly in attack. As I read though the emails, names such as Leonardo Ulloa, Robbie Keane, Jimmy Briand and Diego Rolan pop out to me. The Ligue 1 rules state that no squad can have any more than 4 non-EU players. A tight leash.
As I walk out of my hotel room and make my way towards the training grounds, my emails keep on buzzing. The sound drills into your brain, eventually. I walk into the grounds at 6.55 am and make my way to my office. I catch Gérald walking out of it.
“Ah. Lacey. Welcome back! I put your contract on your desk, along with other bits and pieces that you should also have in your email. Hope you’re awake, because the boys are here and ready for training. They’re in the changing rooms. Come on, I’ll present them to you.” he said, making his way down the spotless clean hallway. “Are you not a bit overdressed?”
It was at that moment I realised that I was walking into a training session with jeans and a shirt on. It didn’t even dawn on me to put jogging bottoms on, or football boots.
“Don’t worry.” Gérald said reassuringly “We have spare gear in the changing rooms for you.”
We made our way into the room entitled “Vestiaires Hommes” and into a hell-hole full on barbaric chatter, half naked men and the stink of sweat. We hadn’t even started the training yet.
“Alright, everyone shut up. This is Toby Lacey, your new manager. He signed a contract with Jean-Michel Aulas for a year. I understand he’s inexperienced, and most of you are older than him but if Jean-Michel saw some potential in him and trusts him, I trust him. I expect all of you to extend your own trust to him.” said Gérald to the team.
As I looked around the semi-circle of half naked footballers, I was awestruck. Memphis Depay sat there on the bench listening patiently, whilst Alexandre Lacazette and Emanuel Mammana were giggling amongst themselves at a joke told prior to us entering. Rafael, Anthony Lopes, Christophe Jallet, Mathieu Valbuena all stared me up and down, judging my appearance. I felt like a God among men. This team was mine to control.
“Alright, men. Finish getting changed and we’ll head on out for training.” Gérald finished, turning to me. “I have some tasks to do. Will you be alright here for an hour or so?”
“I’ll be fine.” I said, catching Maxime Gonalons making his way over to me, fully dressed. Gérald left the room.
“Bonjour. My name is Maxime Gonalons, I am the Team Captain here. I hope you see fit to keep me as Captain, but I understand that’s not my decision to make, nor is it proper to influence you on it. Should we head out?” Maxime asked. His voice was deep and booming with confidence. I immdiately saw what kind of leader he was, and how good he was at what he does. The 27 year old Defensive Midfielder towered above me as he walked out of the room. I followed him out.
“As the men get ready, we can talk about the team a bit if you like. Do you have any questions?” he asked.
“Should we not rather prepare the training session?” I asked.
“We have Dimitri Farbos here today setting it all up. The managers at this club, or any other club really, don’t do all the training themselves. They usually take care of general training and then let the staff run it out whilst the manager overlooks it, and sometimes steps in.” he said.
“Okay. Well if we have some time I would like to ask a few questions.”
“How is the team’s morale at the moment?”
“The players are really content at the moment. They’re happy on and off the pitch. We just got back from holiday, but I’m sure good performances and victories can shape a great morale in the future.”
“I’m sure it will. And how -” I started, before being cut off by a rambling of players all heading out of the changing rooms, shouting and teasing each other playfully. “They seem happy. I’ll go hold a team meeting.” I said, making my way over to the training pitch where cones were set up. Remembering an email from Gérald about general happiness at the club, I thought of how some were happy with current events, such as Kurt zouma being appointed France U21s Captain, and others happy at being given the chance to play for Lyon.
“I wanted to take the opportunity to introduce myself to you as the new Olympique Lyonnais manager.” I said calmly. As I look at the beaming faces, young and old, all staring at me, I see many happy faces. No one seemed disappointed with my appointment as manager and suddenly I fely a rush of confidence and pride.
“I’m very positive about our chances, and I think we can go on and win the title this season!” I shouted passionately, remembering William Wallace’s “FREEDOM” speech in Braveheart. I look towards the faces that, just moments ago, beamed at me. Now they all seemed disgruntled.
“What’s wrong?” I asked. Nabil Fékir was the first to answer.
“With all due respect, I think we could do without that sort of pressure on us. It’s a big challenge.” he said. Rafael suddenly piped up in a thick accent.
“I disagree! It is a big challenge but we can do it. I know we can!” he replied. Jallet and Valbuena concurred.
“Okay. Maybe we won’t win the League, but that doesn’t mean we won’t try. Maybe a more realistic goal for you would be Champions League Qualification. Does that seem alright for you all?” I said.
“Yeah.” everyone said at once.
“Okay then. Let’s get on with todays training. Dimitri, could you come over here…” I started. A long day of training came up. We covered many general training exercises, as no tactics had been deployed yet by myself. Seeing how well it was going, I decided to break off from the squad at midday, when they were on their lunch break, and made my way to my office.
Back in Lowestoft, when I was training youngsters, my tactics consisted of possession based players and roles. It didn’t always work out, but when it did, it was pure gold. Now with a more flexible squad, I thought to recreate this tactic and deploy it in Ligue 1 for all to see. I made my way over to my board. I wrote and underlined “The Lowestoft Tactic” and swiftly made a rectangle and 11 little dots inside of it. A defensive Goalkeeper, followed by two Complete Attacking Wingbacks. A Central Defender as a Stopper and a Ball Playing Defender as Cover. Just ahead of them, a Defensive Midfielder in defence, then two Advanced Playmakers. On the Wings, two attacking Inside Forwards and then a supporting False Nine up top. We had just under a month to prepare this tactic before our Valenciennes Game on the 16th of July. My team looked like this: Anthony Lopes, Rafael, Nicolas Nkoulou, Mapou Yanga Mbiwa, Jérémy Morel, Maxime Gonalons, Sergi Darder, Corentin Tolisso, Nabil Fékir, Memphis Depay, Alexandre Lacazette.
The sun was going down by the minute, and the training day was coming to an end. Gérald walked into my office at 6pm.
“There you are. I was looking for you -” he stopped dead in his tracks as he observed the tactic I had laid out on the board. “This is… Amazing. I really didn’t think such an inexperienced manager could pull off such a tactic. We’ve tried similar tactics and they’ve worked well. I’m guessing it’s possession based?”
“Yep. That’s correct. Shorter Passing, Play Out Defence, Run at Defence, Work the ball into the box, Look for the Overlap, Play Wider, Push Higher up, Close Down more, Use Tighter Marking, Use Offside Trap, Be More Expressive, Higher Tempo, Low Crosses.” I replied.
“Pretty good. Very fluid. Control Based. The only thing I’m dubious about is the offside trap. It’s… Dangerous. Especially if you don’t have a Sweeper.”
“I agree.” I said, resolutely, wiping it off the board.
“Well, would you like to implement this tactic from tomorrow’s session? I’d like to observe it in play.” he asked
“Sure. We’ll see how it goes for the next month as use it in the Valenciennes game. If all else fails, we can revert back to how Lyon played prior to my arrival.”
“You know how Lyon played before you arrived?”
“Of course. Did you think I was going to apply for the job without any knowledge of how you play?”
“You continue to astound me M. Lacey!”
“Please, call me Toby.” I said, smiling. A good moment between us, and yet it was interrupted by Abdel Redissi, the head Physio, rushing into the office.
“We have a problem.” he said. “Maciej Rybus dislocated his shoulder.”
We made our way to the Physios office to see Maciej lying there. He smiled as we came in.
“Hey, boss!” he said
“How in hell did this happen?” I asked.
“He collided with Lopes going for a ball. He landed… Strangely, according to Dimitri.” Abdel said. “He’ll be out for 5-10 days, but we need to get him to a hospital. It’s completely dislocated.”
As an abulance was called and Maciej was lifted in, I thought back to my days in Lowestoft again. I’ve never had such a rough day at the office… The time was now 8pm, everyone had left besides myself and Gérald and the cleaners.
“Well, Toby. I’m going to have to go home, my family is waiting. Make sure you check out Scout Reports. I believe we do need some depth in the Squad. Don’t make any rash decisions.” he said, walking away. “Oh, and also make sure you look for places you can buy in the area. hotels are nice and all, but you’ll get fed up of living in one for years on end.” he unlocked his car, surprisingly a Honda Civic, and drove away.
I went back to my office and collected some bits and pieces I needed. I took a picture of my tactic and made my was back to the Hotel. Things were going well, but we still had a long road ahead of us if we were going to be ready for the season.
“I hope the tactic works out well…” I thought to myself, digging in to a pizza back at the hotel, and watching the French news.
End of Update 2.