‘Miss­ing France World Cup has shaped my ca­reer’

For­est coach Lamouchi has used omis­sion from 1998 France squad to drive him on, he tells John Percy

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Football -

It is more than 21 years now since Aime Jac­quet broke the news to the six mem­bers of his pro­vi­sional France squad, who would play no part in their his­toric home World Cup fi­nals. One of those left on the out­side was Sabri Lamouchi, the new Not­ting­ham For­est head coach, and that mo­ment, at the team’s Claire­fontaine base late one Friday night, has stayed with him his whole life.

We are talk­ing in his of­fice at a club with an ex­traor­di­nary his­tory of their own, although less so in re­cent times, when the turnover of man­agers makes Lamouchi the 13th per­ma­nent ap­point­ment in eight years.

Lamouchi, 47, is of Tu­nisian her­itage, a thought­ful man who has man­aged the Ivory Coast, Rennes, and the Qatar club El Jaish af­ter a play­ing ca­reer at some of the big­gest clubs in France and Italy. His first name de­rives from the Ara­bic word sabr, which means “pa­tience” – a com­mod­ity that has been in short sup­ply at For­est in re­cent years, and he has seen a lot in foot­ball.

That feel­ing of des­o­la­tion in 1998, when he was de­nied a place in French his­tory, has shaped his ca­reer for the two decades that have fol­lowed.

“It is the worst mem­ory of my pro­fes­sional life,” he says. “For al­most three years it was so dif­fi­cult for me. It’s not like a bad in­jury or some­thing but for a long time it felt like an in­jus­tice.

“When you play for the na­tional team you want to play in the World Cup, es­pe­cially when it’s in your own coun­try.

“I de­served to play at the World Cup. You can com­plain but,

‘They can sack me be­fore one year, but I want to try and do it my way with my play­ers’

for­tu­nately, I put it be­hind me. It made me stronger.”

What happened that day taught Lamouchi much about manag­ing play­ers on a per­sonal level, af­ter tak­ing his first job with the Ivory Coast in 2012. “My door is al­ways open and I can talk to everybody face to face. Some­times to say the truth is not good, but it’s much bet­ter for the fu­ture. My ad­van­tage is that I was a player be­fore, so I know their thinking,” he says.

“This is now my sec­ond life. From the first year of play­ing pro­fes­sion­ally, I wanted to be a man­ager. I knew that 20 years ago. I was al­ways curious as to why the coach wanted to do cer­tain things.”

An in­dus­tri­ous and in­tel­li­gent mid­fielder – he de­scribes Zine­dine Zi­dane as “a ma­gi­cian” and the best player he ever played along­side – Lamouchi’s jour­ney to For­est has been an un­pre­dictable one, but he con­sid­ers this job in the Cham­pi­onship as a huge hon­our.

He was an­nounced as head coach in June, 18 min­utes af­ter the dis­missal of Martin O’neill, and it has been a whirl­wind two-and-ahalf months.

Lamouchi freely ad­mits that tak­ing the job, af­ter so much re­cent tur­bu­lence, was a gam­ble. The long­est-serv­ing of those man­agers since the sum­mer of 2011 is Billy Davies [in his sec­ond spell] at just over 13 months.

“I know the rep­u­ta­tion of the club and how many man­agers they have had, so why should it be dif­fer­ent for me? When you sign for one year, you take the risk,” he says. “My pas­sion is my job, and I could have gone some­where else to have it re­ally easy. They can sack me be­fore one year [is up], but I want to try and do it my way with my team and my play­ers.

“You need stability to put down your phi­los­o­phy. I know it will be very dif­fi­cult but give me the time.

“My wife will still live in France and the chil­dren are also in schools there. I pre­fer to take the risk alone. Maybe, in the fu­ture, I hope they will join me, be­cause that will ob­vi­ously be pos­i­tive [for me]. I want to make a full year, be­cause that has been so rare here.”

Lamouchi’s start has been im­pres­sive: For­est are un­beaten in seven matches and his pop­u­lar­ity soared af­ter a 3-0 win over ri­vals Derby County in the EFL Cup.

There is al­ready a song on the ter­races – to the tune of Had­daway’s What Is Love – and ear­lier this month he was warmly greeted by a few en­thu­si­as­tic For­est fans at Gatwick air­port.

He is liv­ing in the city cen­tre and gen­uinely ex­cited about play­ing a part in the club’s fu­ture: pho­to­graphs of the pro­posed

In the hot seat: Sabri Lamouchi be­lieves he will need time and stability to achieve suc­cess at Not­ting­ham For­est

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