French fancies: letter from Le Mans to Stéphane Sessegnon


Give us the French lower leagues, cried Pete Sixsmith, or something like that.

I do not intend to make a habit of it but here, bang up to date, is the state of the French Ligue 2, of special interest to our new recruit Stéphane Sessegnon.

1 Le Mans 25 12 6 7 30 24 42
2 AC Ajaccio 25 11 8 6 29 26 41
3 Evian TG 25 10 9 6 37 26 39
4 Boulogne 25 9 11 5 19 19 38
5 Tours FC 24 10 7 7 34 31 37
6 Sedan 25 8 12 5 37 23 36
7 Le Havre 24 9 9 6 23 18 36
8 Troyes 25 10 6 9 24 23 36
9 Dijon 25 9 8 8 33 26 35
10 Istres 25 8 11 6 24 23 35
11 Angers 25 8 10 7 25 24 34
12 Clermont Foot 25 8 9 8 34 34 33
13 Nantes 25 7 11 7 21 21 32
14 Laval 25 7 10 8 22 23 31
15 Châteauroux 25 8 7 10 23 28 31
16 Reims 25 7 8 10 32 34 29
17 Nîmes 25 7 6 12 20 25 27
18 Metz 25 5 11 9 21 22 25
19 Vannes OC 25 6 6 13 19 38 24
20 Grenoble 25 5 5 15 21 40 20

Before he joined PSG, Sessegnon – the French cannot decide whether the second e his surname gets a grave accent so we’ll do without – spent two seasons at Le Mans, scoring eight times in 61 appearances.

Le Mans were then in Ligue 1, playing at the Stade Léon-Bollée close to where my in-laws lived (and died). My father-in-law had been a keen supporter; his immediate family, otherwise female, couldn’t care less.

Since being relegated last season, Le Mans have moved to a new ground on the city outskirts- the 25,000-capacity MMArena – and are in top position in Ligue 2. But it is desperately tight as you see, with only seven points between first and 10th.

The stadium opened in January and was full, thanks to a large number of invited spectators, for the first game. Attendances are now in the 10-11,500 region, not bad for the second tier in France. But there are no illegal TV links in the cafes around the town as far as I know and such gates wouldn’t impress Niall Quinn.

Otherwise, what is Sessegnon missing?

There’s a small market, and a brand new theatre under construction, both in the shadow of the imposing cathedral, and you can now get around bits of the city by tram. The superb countryside of la Sarthe is within easy reach.

If none of this seems likely to excite a rich young footballer, he’d have to wait until June for the 24 Hours race, which I have never been even slightly interested in attending in the 40 years I have been going to the place. But Paris is only 200km to the north-east and the TGV does it in under an hour.

You’re still far better off with Sunderland, Stéphane, especially after your PSG experience (there’s a waspish comment from a Paris fan on his own website, deeply uncomplimentary about Sessegnon and describing SAFC as a third-tier Premier club).

What we really need to see now is for him to taste victory in our colours. Today would be a great day to start.

Monsieur Salut

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