Training, Youth League and the championship: an interview Jean-Luc Dogon

The U19 coach sits down with

U19 - Friday, July 28, 2017 - 16:27

U19 head coach Jean-Luc Dogon discusses pre-season and the road ahead for our young hopefuls. You've been back in training for two weeks now (since 20th July 2017). How has it been going?

Jean-Luc Dogon: We've been doing what we always do in pre-season, which means a lot of running. It's all about hitting a good level of fitness and maintaining it. The squad hasn't changed, I already know the players because they were here last year with the National U17 team. I'm used to seeing them in training and at games, so there aren't any new faces.

2016.09.18_u19_eag_18.jpg You're at the heart of the Girondins' training set-up. Do you see yourself more as an educator or a competitor, or a bit of both? 

Jean-Luc Dogon: Education is the priority, of course, but you can't neglect the competitive side. We need to instil our young players with fighting spirit. I've always had that spirit of competition, and I think it's a good thing. We're here to teach these young lads how to win games and win trophies. So we try to make winners of them, all the while bearing in mind that our real objective is to help these young players turn professional. So you need a mix of the two, education and competitiveness.

These young players are competitors, but they need to put the club first As reigning champions, will the Girondins U19s be the club to beat this time around?

Jean-Luc Dogon: Even without the title, we've always been the club to beat. Maybe a little bit more so now, but it won't change anything for us. For the other teams, playing against the Girondins is always a big occasion because we have a certain reputation. It's interesting, in a way. The teams we play against are hard to beat. But we've also noticed that teams often struggle to win their next game after playing against us. That must mean that they're giving their all against us. 

2016.09.03_u19_bayonne_11.jpg You kick off on 20th August with an away game against Angers Vaillante, followed by Niort at home the weekend after. What can you tell us about those two teams? Is this a tough start to the season, or an easy one?

Jean-Luc Dogon: Angers Vaillante are an amateur side. There aren't many of them in our league, but they're always difficult to play against early in the season. Their players are still bursting with energy and, generally speaking, they don't attack much. They tend to close ranks in defence, so those games are never easy. Then we've got Niort, which is always a tough game for us. In the two years that I've been U19 coach, we've only beaten them once in six matches. And that was on penalties in the Gambardella Cup. We lost or drew in all the other games. It should be an interesting first home game of the season. But you really have to take each game as it comes.

We're here to teach young players how to win games and win trophies As last year's champions you get to play in the prestigious Youth League this season. What does that mean to you?  

Jean-Luc Dogon: For starters, it's good for the image of our Academy and our club. And it's great news for the squad who will play those games. It'll be primarily the players who were in the U19 team last season and have now moved up to National 3, with a few players from the current U19s. The Youth League is another challenge altogether, it requires a different approach, there's always going to be an away match to deal with. We need to prepare seriously. It's a good chance to learn at the highest level, and to get away from the week-to-week business of the championship. First you need to get through three qualifying rounds. European competition is a serious challenge, are you looking forward to getting started?

Jean-Luc Dogon: I'm just trying to treat it like any other cup. It's a bonus, but we won't be basing our season around it. Before we think about anything else, we need to get past that first two-leg qualifier. That's already valuable cup experience. 

entrainement_u19_13.jpg Will the Youth League be a big motivating factor for the team?

Jean-Luc Dogon: The team for the Youth League won't necessarily be the same as the regular U19 squad. The team playing in the championship every week will be much younger. We don't know yet if we're going to be able to keep winning matches in the championship if we're travelling to play European games too. So we need to work out things like that but, in theory, we won't be using exactly the same players in the championship and the Youth League. What is your most important advice in pre-season training?

Jean-Luc Dogon: What I always tell the players is to play for each other and the team. They need to work together in order to improve and come away as better players individually. Because a player is only ever as good as his team. My players were crowned champions of France last season because of the team. Of course there are always star players, but they shine because of what they are capable of doing for their team. These young players are competitors, but they need to put the club first.