Until August 31, the transfer window will punctuate the life of clubs in France. Beyond the wild rumours, fabulous offers and fan fantasies, there is a reality that leaders of Ligue 2 teams have agreed to tell us about throughout the summer. This Thursday, Jean-Philippe Nallet, sports director of the promoted Annecy, explains how to manage a climb well.
Interview by Adrien Hémard-Dohain
Live my life as a Ligue 2 sports director: How to manage a climb?
The emotional elevator
“What is super complicated in our job is to go from an exceptional evening with an extraordinary climb and match and, a day and a half later, to already be forced to plan for next season. You quickly come back to the reality of things, in particular announcing to boys that you are not keeping them, because out of respect you have to tell them quickly, so that they can bounce back. I won’t hide from you that it’s not the best of things, it’s the worst time of the year. With the coach, we have to keep everyone in the project until the last match, and then make decisions quickly and above all announce them. Everything is done in a rush. The emotional lift is incredible. From the Tuesday following the climb, you start the interviews to announce whether the adventure ends there or not. Players suspect it, others keep hope, and some are totally surprised. There are all kinds of reactions. What is important is from the start to have a close relationship with the player, a franchise. The sporting director is there to defend the interests of the club, which does not prevent him from remaining human, from forging links with the players. When you have to announce things, you have to be as simple and frank as possible, to sometimes explain the inexplicable. These are boys we live with for a whole season. We sleep very little on those days. It overflows into our private life, which does not exist in football. It’s complicated to separate all that, because we have a passionate job that spills over into family life. »
“It’s hard to be lucid, because deep inside you, there is uncertainty about what level you are going to play. It’s not easy, and even less when it’s played on the last day like us. »
Anticipate so as not to drown
“We are anticipating various scenarios, but no matter how much you draw scenarios, you still don’t have peace of mind because nothing has ever been done. You work on the climb, but you tell yourself that everything can fall apart. There are so many issues, pressure. It’s difficult to be lucid, because deep inside you, there is the uncertainty of knowing at what level you are going to play. It’s not easy, and even less when it’s played on the last day like for us. The longer you delay the deadline, the more difficult it is. Afterwards, you have to get started quickly because the amount of work is colossal. The rest period for a sports director is when the transfer window is over, when the group is formed, that the staff will resume in good conditions. We do interviews with the staff, the players. From the end of the championship until the transfer window closes, it’s the busiest period for a sporting director, especially when you’re playing a climb. I’m going to cut in July when the bulk of the work is done. Then, we will refine for the recovery. »
The change in size
“First of all, there is the whole part of the infrastructure brought up to standard to meet the specifications of the LFP. That is more the department of the president and the administrative director. We, on the purely sporting part, we have a strategic council which gives us a budget linked to the payroll. From then on, we can work. The rise has an impact, in particular on positions to be created at the club, such as stadium manager, a security position, in the medical and technical staff. But as the club had quite anticipated all this and was aiming for the professional world, the evolution is taking its course. FC Annecy did not expect to regain professionalism so quickly, but we were preparing for it. You also have to pass the DNCG, which is purely administrative, we just look at the budget and we express wishes to have a competitive team. It went well, even if like all DS, we would always like to have a bigger envelope. (Laughs.) You have to be consistent, work in continuity with a group renewed at 35-40%. »
“A climb is no easier to manage than a descent, because you have to channel the enthusiasm. Success can also bring some frustrations. »
On the evening of a climb, you have lots of friends. It’s a reality. We also feel the requests explode, because we are becoming professionals, we are going to be more publicized. We are preparing for it. The coach and I have a past as a player, it allows us to be vigilant, to keep a cool head, to gain perspective on what is going to happen to us. We are not fooled. If the interest of the club is not there, we do not make the decision. A climb is no easier to manage than a descent, because you have to channel the heat. Success can also bring some frustrations for people who would like more responsibilities. The success of a club is that everyone stays in their place, respects their prerogatives. From the moment we understand this, it works well. This is one of the keys to our success. »
Interview by Adrien Hémard-Dohain
Episode 1 : How to prepare your transfer window with John Williams (Amiens)