In his debut piece for Football News, Brendan Macfarlane looks at Evian manager Pascal Dupraz, after he was recently linked with a move to Charlton Athletic.
Fifty-two-year-old Pascal Dupraz is widely known as one of French football’s most outspoken coaches, a consistent headline grabber, a most recent example of this being when he clashed publically with Bordeaux manager Willy Sagnol in February of this year. Dupraz was recently praised by his boss at Évian, the club’s president Joël Lopez, who described him in an interview with L’Équipe at the beginning of the month, describing Dupraz as one of the rare French managers who could one day manage clubs abroad and who could ‘coach in England’. If the recent developments are anything to go by, it appears that words of Lopez have not fallen upon deaf ears.
In his playing days, Dupraz was a keen centre-forward who first began a professional career with Sochaux. He then became somewhat of a journeyman, playing for four other clubs at semi-pro level, including Mulhouse, Toulon and Gueugnon. He would however eventually make a name for himself as a player-manager and then as a dedicated coach with lowly side FC Gaillard.
With his hands firmly held on the reigns, Dupraz guided the small-town club into the CFA 2, the fifth-tier of French football. He eventually led the club to promotion to the CFA, the country’s fourth-tier, after the 2001-2002 campaign and at the end of the club’s third season in the CFA 2. The club was to become a cornerstone of contemporary outfit Évian Thonon-Gaillard, and upon the new club’s 2007 formation there was only one candidate who seemed right for the new job – Pascal Dupraz.
Between 2007 and 2011, Dupraz lead the newly formed club to successive promotions from the CFA, guiding his side to the elite level of French football, Ligue 1. This was clearly an emotional moment for the coach, as he had given twenty years of his playing and managerial career to a club to bring about such success. A fact that also explains why his future has rarely been called into question during rocky periods in Ligue 1 relegation battles gone by.
Ever the confident and self-assured character, Dupraz said in an interview with Le Monde at the time that he felt that he had earned the success he had achieved, commenting that he believed in the ‘virtues of work’ and in ‘destiny’. The Évian head coach’s spell at the club almost reached a fairytale climax when his side narrowly lost 3-2 to Girondins de Bordeaux in the final of the 2013 Coupe de France.
As Dupraz admitted this season in a more recent interview with Le Monde, he is a coach whose personality divides opinion – in his own words he is the type of person who people either ‘love or hate’. His outspoken ways and his overstated mannerisms certainly gain him fans and foes, and his tactical approaches equally lead to a similar dichotomy of opinions.
The current Olympique Lyonnais manager and the then Stade de Reims coach Hubert Fournier once famously quipped that Dupraz’s could be described as being à l’anglaise or in the English style, and there is a certain degree of truth to be drawn from the former Borussia Mönchengladbach player’s analysis.
In the 2014-2015 season, Dupraz mainly organized his side in a deep-lying 4-2-3-1 system, from which his side relied mostly on breaks from counter-attacks and set-pieces to create goal-scoring opportunities. One of the most ‘English-like’ aspects of Évian’s style of play in this most recent season was their utilisation of a lone, targetman centre-forward upfront – a player who was to be found in the shape of Mathieu Duhamel, the Évian number ten who was signed on loan from Caen on January’s transfer deadline and who had ironically scored against Dupraz’s side on the opening day of the season in Annecy. Duhamel made the most of long balls up top to him throughout his spell at Évian, scoring four times in eleven appearances for the club.
Faced with the prospect of a certain return to Ligue 2 football if he stays with his current club thanks to their relegation, the potential lure of an offer from Charlton Athletic could prove to be too much for the fifty-two-year-old coach to resist. If a deal was to take place, it could also be advantageous for both parties. A move to The Addicks would serve Dupraz with an exciting opportunity to develop a career within English football, at a club directed by a French-speaking owner and that count no fewer than five French-speaking players within their first-team ranks, with both aspects acting as potential buffers to what could otherwise be an overwhelming culture shock. The sporting challenge of attempting to guide the football club back to the Premier League would surely be an enticing opportunity.
From Charlton’s point of view, in Dupraz they would find themselves with a candidate who is already well-accustomed to the type of European-style head coach role that club owner Roland Duchâtelet has attempted to implement within the club’s structure. Fans may also be impressed with Dupraz’s history of gaining promotions for his sides, bearing in mind that current club coach Guy Luzon hasn’t guided a single club to promotion throughout his career.