French Fancies: Lyon lionesses, Dijon mustard, Corsican spirit – and Evian


Last but one edition of French Fancies for the season: saluting the ladies of Lyon, commiserating with Le Mans, wishing one former Sunderland man well for tomorrow, when Ligue 1 relegation is settled, while congratulating a second on winning promotion last night. And, for once, no digs at Bordeaux

The French season is nearly over – the remaining Ligue 1 relegation issue, who goes down with Lens and Arles-Avignon, will be resolved tomorrow night. The Sunderland interest is Eric Roy, manager of Nice, who need a point at Valanciennes to be sure.

Nice could lose and still survive but would need Nancy (home to Lens) or Caen (home to Marseille) to lose, or Monaco only to draw at home to Lyon. Une histoire compliqué, as the French might say and Eric knows he’d be a fool to rely on one of the results elsewhere going his way.

Read moreFrench Fancies: Lyon lionesses, Dijon mustard, Corsican spirit – and Evian

French Fancies: hail Lille and – nearly – Patrice Carteron’s Dijon

Image: FC Lille

Lille’s 2-2 draw at Paris Saint-Germain last night was enough to bring them the cup-and-league double – they had already beaten PSG in the final of the Coupe de France – and a promise by the club president Michel Seydoux to throw a “huge party in this marvellous city”.

That’s a great achievement for a relatively unfashionable club that will do well to hang on to its better players. It is only their third Ligue 1 title, though their second double (look back to 1946 for the first). I did help a little by predicting a comfy late cruise to the championship for Marseille but the record books are unlikely to acknowledge this contribution.

Read moreFrench Fancies: hail Lille and – nearly – Patrice Carteron’s Dijon

French Fancies: Laurent Blanc, racial quotas and Lille’s shock for OM

Supporters lillois lors de PSG 3-0 LilleImage: Psgmag.net


Our regular look at French football – illustrated by a photo borrowed from the PSGmag.net fan site – considers the racial quotas scandal – and comes clean on another dodgy prediction …

Lille football club – LOSC Lille Métropole if you must – are very nearly the Ligue 1 champions in France after winning 2-1 last night at Saint-Etienne (who else remembers when Dominique Rocheteau played for them?

It puts them seven points ahead of Marseille, who have a game in hand but a markedly inferior goal difference.

Only a remarkable collapse in their final three games, from which five points would suffice, would stop Lille winning the title for the first time since their previous championships on 1946 and 1954. As in 1946, they may also win the double, the Coupe de France final against PSG coming up on Saturday night.

And my apologies to Marseille for casting a curse on their title hopes for the second time in three seasons. On the morning OM blew their chances by crumbling at home to Lyon two seasons ago, I had a 2,000-word piece on the sports pages of The National, Abu Dhabi, dealing at length with their revival after 16 years in the doldrums. And only last week, when they briefly went top of Ligue 1, I predicted that they would go on to stay there. Oh well.

Meanwhile, the hot football news in France is the sports minister’s clear statement that Laurent Blanc, manager of the national side, was innocent of any improper behaviour in the affair of the racial quotas. For those new to the subject, the Q word was used by the French Football Federation technical director François Blaquart when a meeting of coaches last November discussed the issue of schoolboy hopefuls who were trained at FFF expense only to go on to represent the North or sub-Saharan African nations of their family origins.

Read moreFrench Fancies: Laurent Blanc, racial quotas and Lille’s shock for OM

Remember Chamakh? The joke’s on Bordeaux now

Forgiven: a Bordeaux fan M Salut hammers at badminton

Those of you with hair have torn it out, the milk is well and truly spilt or even spilled Over at non-football Salut!, I wondered aloud whether watching Sunderland could, like smoking, seriously damage your health. It has been a week in which a supporter of West Brom, of all clubs, cockily dismissed Sunderland in his “fan’s view” for the Daily Mail as “physical, determined but limited”. And that was just the first-half, when we were ahead. So let’s change tack. Here, before we start fretting about Birmingham away, is another episode in our French Fancies series …

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Yes. I really should get out more. The time to end the ridiculous feud with Les Girondins de Bordeaux has surely past. Who cares if the club president Jean-Louis Triaud and his then manager, Laurent Blanc, insulted Sunderland AFC?

But every time I feel Salut! Sunderland should move on, bury the hatchet, find someone else to taunt, along comes an excuse to reopen hostilities with the self-important Ligue 1 underachievers who declared that Sunderland AFC were altogether too small a club to be allowed to buy Marouane Chamakh (now at Arsenal, where he scores a little and dives a lot).

Read moreRemember Chamakh? The joke’s on Bordeaux now

So near, so far: Wigan to Newcastle, Lens to Lorient



Another instalment of French Fancies, Salut! Sunderland‘s occasional dip into football as it’s played on the other side of La Manche – with a comparison of tight competition in the top flights of both France and England and news of the latest phase of David Bellion’s footballing career …

It is time for M Salut to take another glance at the French Ligue 1. And there is one striking similarity between what is going on there and in our own Premier League season.

Look at ninth position in the PL and eighth in Ligue 1: our friends up the road at Newcastle United on 36 points in England, Lorient on 36 in France.

Read moreSo near, so far: Wigan to Newcastle, Lens to Lorient

French fancies: feeble Bordeaux, hapless Arles-Avignon


If you have no interest in French football, scroll down to explore the rest of what appears at Salut! Sunderland or wander off for a trip round northern towns at the parent site Salut! or to read about folk and roots music at Salut! Live.

But regulars will know that from time to time, M Salut honours the French side of his family – I may have grown up in County Durham but Mme S comes from Le Mans, where our own Stéphane Sessègnon played for two season – by reporting on Ligue 1.

Read moreFrench fancies: feeble Bordeaux, hapless Arles-Avignon