Franck Honorat: "In Brest, I found my football"

With 6 goals and 4 assists, Franck Honorat established himself at 25 as one of the strong men of Stade Brest. Transfigured since his meeting with Olivier Dall’Oglio, the former passer turned scorer tells about his evolution and his fulfillment in Brest before challenging PSG at the Parc des Princes. Without forgetting to mention his love for his native South, strikes from afar and even the Yamakasi. Interview with a brilliant Brestois.

Hi Franck, you are the most decisive Brestois with your friend Romain Faivre. How do you judge your start to the season?
It’s okay, I had a good first half of the season. Ten goals and ten assists at the end of the season would be a good goal, especially in Brest where we play maintenance, where we defend a lot in some matches. We also score a lot, except in the last two games. But we have to be positive and win now because, last year, we said we were quiet and finally, we ran away on the last day. We don’t want to relive that.

At 25, it seems like you’ve finally found your cruising speed with the Pirates.
Brest was the right choice, I was told that it was a family club with principles. I took a little time to adapt and earn my place. The supporters and the club are not putting too much pressure, everything is done to be good on and off the pitch. In Brest, we can play liberated, I found my football, I found myself, as if I was playing with my friends.

“When I arrived in Brest, it was Olivier Dall’Oglio who told me that I was not just a passer, that I could go and score. It clicked. ”

Does that imply that you got lost, especially near Saint-Étienne?
I wasn’t really lost, but when I was little I scored a lot of goals. Then I made a block, telling myself that I was more of a passer than a goalscorer, so I was crossing a lot. I did a lot of assists in Ligue 2. When I arrived in Brest, it was Olivier Dall’Oglio who told me that I was not just a passer, that I could go and score. It clicked.

It’s one thing to say it, but how has Olivier Dall’Oglio changed your game?
We had discussions when I was replacing. He told me where I needed to improve, especially in the indoor game, and the variety of my choices. When I went to the left side, on the wrong foot, unconsciously I had a more tendency to enter the game on my right foot. There, the opening was made to try strikes from afar. This repositioning has changed a lot of things.

One of your goals is the 2-1 missile against OM. How does it feel to score a winning goal at the Vélodrome when you’re from Toulon?
It was wonderful, especially in this stadium and this atmosphere. We were only Brest, we defended the whole match. And there, the action that brings the goal, all in a touch of the ball, is magnificent. A pigeon’s wing, a one-two heel and hit it behind: afterwards, it’s not because it’s Marseille that I’m happier.

There is still a rivalry between Toulon and Marseille …
The war between Marseillais and Toulonnais, the broken cars, it was before. It was THE derby, but I haven’t experienced it. I am more southerner than Toulon, from Cannes to Marseille via Toulon, Nice, Saint-Tropez, Montpellier: it is my South. I still have a slight preference for Nice where I was trained, and where I started at 16 in Ligue 1. I would like to come back to play in the South one day, that has nothing to do with: the beach, the sun. So far, I’ve only done cold cities in my career. (Laughs.)

There are beautiful beaches in Finistère, right?
Ah yes, there are magnificent beaches and great walks to do, but we don’t have the weather to match!

What was it like growing up in Toulon in the shadow of rugby?
My brothers were rugby players, they often took me to RCT matches. There was a crazy atmosphere, the mentality of the players was not the same too: the rugby players were much more party-loving. We have a very hot audience, who love their athletes, it’s a rugby town, but who also love football. I had a great childhood in the South. As soon as I got up, I was outside kicking a ball, in the swimming pool, playing table tennis, doing Yamakasi, at the beach, snowshoeing … I also put on the fins and the snorkel to to go swimming.

“The one who impressed me the most in Nice was Mathieu Bodmer. He had such a vision of the game, such a technique that even though he was slow, he could play anywhere. ”

Toulonnais by birth, you were trained in Nice and quickly launched at 16 years old. What was life like with the Aiglons?
We trained with beautiful people, David Ospina was super strong. I liked Dario Cvitanich too. The one who impressed me the most was Mathieu Bodmer. He had such a vision of the game, such a technique that even though he was slow, he could play anywhere. Alassane Pléa was very impressive. I also played with Hatem Ben Arfa: in training it was a blow yes, a blow no, but in a match, Hatem was too strong, it was nonsense. He did everything to the opponent, it was crazy.

Then, you got tough in Ligue 2 at Sochaux, then Clermont, before returning to L1 with AS Saint-Étienne. But it only lasts one season: what did you miss in Forez?
When I arrived, everything was not in place to be as good as possible. I was recruited by Jean-Louis Gasset, but it was Ghislain Printant who finally had the team, and then Claude Puel arrived. I was injured at the start of the season, but the coach relaunched me in the right piston, and I was no longer out of the team. The concern is that I put too much pressure on the club, the supporters. I was not released, and on top of that the team was not performing well, there were internal problems. I was a little young, I lacked experience. We have seen it for 2-3 years: Saint-Étienne, it’s complicated, while there are very good players.

At 25, you’ve already seen a lot of countries. The rest, will it be abroad or you have not yet toured Ligue 1?
The turn of Ligue 1 is still long: there are still many very good clubs. I want to finish the season well in Brest, I must confirm over time. Then we’ll see. It is true that in Germany, there are a lot of spaces, of counter-attacks, it pleases me to see the side at the height of the attacker. It’s a dream, they don’t calculate. For the moment, I do not take the lead, I will see at the right time.

To come back to Brest, what is it like, Michel Der Zakarian in real life?

It’s true that he can seem cold when you see him on TV. When he answers journalists, he often kicks in touch, if not always. (Laughs.) In truth, when you get to know him, he is a great person. He’s the kind of coach who seems tough, but when he shouts it’s because he’s demanding with us. The coach is like a father, like a mother: he wants to take us as high as possible. He knows how to adapt his speech: speak calmly face to face or yell at us in front of everyone. We also mess with him … Well, not after a defeat of course, but when he comes in the locker room or in the treatment room, he cuts a few players. After, on the ground, he does not laugh.

Mid-season, you were the player with the most sprints in Ligue 1, does that surprise you?
It’s my game that wants that. I have speed, when I passed to the side I had a hard time defending, but I’m learning to appreciate it. Between defensive and offensive efforts, it multiplies the races. And I never spare myself, in the end I always want to be dead.

You are also the most sought-after player in the squad.
Oh yes ? I did not know. We will work to stay that way then!

“We are a nice team, everyone gets along well, we dialogue calmly with each other and with the staff. The clowns are above all Belkebla and Magnetti. ”

So, can we say that you have changed status in Brest?
Not especially. I’ve always been shy, I don’t speak too much. I get annoyed from time to time, but nothing more. I try more and more to speak during training, even if I stay in my corner, I am not a captain at heart like Paul Lasne, Haris Belkebla or Brendan Chardonnet. We are a nice team, everyone gets along well, we dialogue calmly with each other and with the staff. The clowns are above all Belkebla and Magnetti.

Without your historic six-game winning streak, you would have been a long way from 25 points at the break. You also talked about « miracle » : you were touched by grace?
The change of coach and the arrival of new players made us feel weird. All this takes time to adapt and recreate automatisms. Coach Der Zakarian is different from Dall’Oglio who was reserved in his corner. He arrived with the desire to install his 3-5-2 which worked well in Montpellier, but it did not work with us. And in our heads, it was complicated because we hadn’t won for a long time. We remained on a delicate end of the season. Everything has been turned upside down. We took the time to adapt to the coach and vice versa, and now everyone has the same desire, the same goals.

Like your volley against Reims, you often set very beautiful goals: how do you explain that?
It’s instinct. You have to knock without thinking. Against Lens, I had a face-to-face against the goalkeeper, I missed it because I asked myself too many questions. Whereas when I hit from a distance, spontaneously, I don’t take my head. I am more comfortable hitting from a distance than face to face with the goalkeeper.

After having shone at the Vélodrome, the next step is to do it again this Saturday at the Parc des Princes?
Ah! It’s going to be complicated, we’re going for a plentiful month of January, there, but we’re going to win. Otherwise, you might as well withdraw now. We saw Paris get hooked by a lot of teams, so why not …

Interview by Adrien Hémard

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