Monsieur Salut writes: tomorrow night, should France do what logic expects and defeat a Portugal side that has won only once in normal time on the way to the Euro 2016 final, the country will be en fête. But the same will go for a part of Sunderland that is forever French.
Salut! Sunderland found a Sunderland-supporting Portuguese fan, Sam Verissimo, for the first of these special Who are You! interviews. Now it is the turn of FrenchFancy1971, as she calls herself on Twitter, Véronique Laniel as she is known in real life, a product of Saint-Etienne – where the film version of Sunderland, the hit Paris play, was relocated – but settled on Wearside with the Red and Whites firmly lodged with Les Verts in her heart. She warns us ‘to read this with a French Mackem accent in mind’ …
Salut! Sunderland: You must be thrilled – I know you are from your tweets – to see France in the final. Did you expect that when the tournament started?
Véronique Laniel: I did indeed! Without wanting to sound pretentious, I thought France had a good team and the advantage to be at home so I felt pretty confident
Pogba, Giroud, Lloris, Payet, Griezmann of course and our friend from up the road, Sissoko, have been excellent. Who else has impressed you and who is your stand-out French player?
The whole team has impressed me to be honest, they play so well together, they complement each other. If I have to pick only one then Payet is the one that has stood out the most for me.
You are a SAFC season ticket holder. Explain! Where from in France, how long in Sunderland, why, how the club got under your skin, your thoughts on the city and the region?
I moved to Sunderland 20 years ago, a French company sent me to the North East for work, I’m originally from Saint Etienne. I simply fell in love with the people of the North East so I decided to stay and here I am still here! I think the city of Sunderland has come a long way from what I can remember when I first arrived, it has moved forward in the right direction which is great to see. I love it here, the friendliness, the sense of community, the weather (not!).
I’ve always liked football and my interest in SAFC grew when my sons started playing football for the Foundation of Light, I got more and more involved in football then. After attending a few matches to start with, my passion for the club got stronger and stronger and I could not bear not going so becoming a season ticket holder was the next step to take. The passion of the fans got under my skin and why I do love the club so much? I don’t really know actually ! It’s a feeling, it’s in me!
Your highs and lows as Sunderland supporter?
There has been many in the last few years, it’s been a bumpy ride! I never doubted that the club would remain in the Premier League, this is my optimistic nature. Of course, disappointment occurred many times when week in week out we did not get a result or were robbed however I always believed that the next time would be ok, we would be fine, we would make it and we did. It’s what I like about Sunderland, whether the club is doing well or not, the fans don’t give up and always believe and that’s exactly the way I am.
And your favourite player/s?
I want to name quite a few players as I think many have played such an important part Yann M’Vila, Jermain Defoe, Patrick Van Aanholt, Laminé Koné, Wahbi Khazri, Jan Kirchhoff… Love Fabio Borini’s passion, I think it rubs off onto the others.
Were you in Sunderland when Steed played for us? Probably not Eric Roy, Perez or Laslandes but do any other French players stick in the memory for good or bad reasons?
I was in Sunderland when Steed played here however I cannot remember him. Don’t remember Eric Roy or Laslandes either, terrible memory! I do remember Lionel Perez very well, not sure why him more than the others, it must have been the blond highlights!
Being French and knowing that French players come here to join the club usually stick in my mind so the names remain familiar, well so I thought!
Back to the Euros: which other countries and/or players have given you pleasure?
Iceland and Wales definitely stood out for me. Again you could feel the passion and it was a pleasure to watch.
Ronaldo and Nani are the obvious Portuguese stars? Anyone else you fear?
No one else really, the main one is Ronaldo, he has not been very consistent lately so let’s hope he has one of his bad days! Allez la France! Allez les Bleus!
Will you watch the final at home, in a pub or elsewhere? If at home, will you find a French channel or happy with British commentary?
I’ll be watching the football at home with my children.
And the score?
This is a tricky one. It’s gonna be tight, I can see a draw and I hate when it goes to penalties! So ideally, a nice 2-1 win would do!
Véronique Laniel on herself: I have 3 children, I do speak to them in French although English takes over more and more now. They understand everything I say though but reply to me in English! I work in Higher Education and support French club ASSE (Allez les Verts). I remember watching ASSE matches from a young age with my dad. Being from there, it was always for me the team to support, I never really considered or thought of supporting any other French clubs.
Interview: Colin Randall