Some Salut! Sunderland readers gave encouragement to the idea of maintaining our occasional look at French football. And there’s enough Sunderland interest in Ligue 1 this season to make it worthwhile …
STOP PRESS: ST ETIENNE, without Steed who was not eligible and played for the reserves instead, beat Bordeaux 2-1 away tonight – a great start and the defeat couldn’t have happened to more deserving opposition. Steed impressed in his run-out, showing plenty of verve and enthusiasm according to the official club site, though he ended up on the losing side (2-1). And is it going to an Arles-Avignon sort of season for Patrice Carteron’s Dijon? Walloped 5-1 at home by Gyan’s old club Rennes!
The headline in Saturday morning’s Le Figaro had the whole of French football trying to play catch-up with the Man City-style flash boys of Paris Saint-Germain. PSG flaunted their new Qatari-sourced wealth by spending the ludicrous sum of €43m for Palermo’s Argentinian attacking midfielder Javier Pastore just too late to start the season last night.
Still, with Momo Sissoko, Milan Bisevac, Jeremy Menez, Blaise Matuidi, Salvatore Sirigu, Kevin Gameiro and Nicolas Douchez already in the squad, PSG had every reason to expect the watching Pastore see his new club off to a winning start against the modest Breton side, Lorient.
Everyone else should therefore rejoice that Lorient, having surprised many with the best-ever Ligue 1 finish of seventh top last season, forgot their part of the script, ignored the home advantage enjoyed by PSG and won 1-0.
The Paris Saint-Germain coach Antoine Kombouaré has said he should be judged on his first five games, not his first.
Is it too much to hope that good, honest footballing endeavour may continue to triumph over all those pots of money? It would be as good for football as our own last-gasp winner against Man City a year ago, and Salut! Sunderland will accordingly be shouting for the next four up: Rennes, Valenciennes, Toulouse and Brest.
Sunderland’s interest in Ligue 1 focuses on three other clubs: Nice, managed by Eric Roy, Steed Malbranque’s new club Saint-Etienne and the newly promoted Dijon of Patrice Carteron.
Nice look like having another tough season, losing their opening game 3-1, though their opponents Lyon – who won the title seven times on the trot before decline set in a couple of seasons ago – are in resurgent mood and may present as strong a challenge as Marseille to PSG’s lofty ambitions.
I was hoping Steed would see some action away against our old pantomime villains, Bordeaux, tonight (8pm kickoff British time). That would have given two reasons for wanting an away win but I have just learnt that his first-team debut has been delayed; he plays instead for St Etienne reserves at Andrézieux*. Allez Stee..eed quand même!
Meanwhile Carteron’s Dijon, who inevitably start the season among the relegation favourites having just sneaked up from Ligue 2, have Brest at home four hours earlier.
M Salut will also be keeping an eye on the fortunes of little Arles-Avignon, who plummeted straight back down last season with just 20 points from their first shot at top flight football. They won their first Ligue 2 game and play at Metz tomorrow night. My city-in-law, Le Mans, having narrowly missed out on promotion, have started in a sulk, losing their first two games, the second against Tours who joined Sedan, Reims and Bastia on six points at the top.
And for those who missed it, Raymond Domenech’s reward, announced the other day, for his part in the debacle of France’s disgraceful antics in the 2010 World Cup was a €975,000 (£850,000) pay-off for his sacking as manager of Les Bleus for serious misconduct. He had asked for three times as much.
* Steed Malbranque’s first game for a St Etienne team, the reserves, takes him to ASF Andrézieux, who play at Andrézieu-Bouthéon in Rhône-Alpes in the fourth tier of French football, the Championnat de France amateur Group B. A full house – Stade Roger Baudras holds all of 2,500 – may be unlikely.