SPIRO: Moulin's Angers miracle

Ligue 1 Conforama > Spiro Blog

By M. Spiro

Stéphane Moulin's achievements with Angers are quite extraordinary and should see the modest, distinctly affable trainer shortlisted for Ligue 1's Coach of the Year award, writes Matthew Spiro.

In 2005, when Moulin stood down as coach of amateur club Châtellerault - having just led the tiny club to promotion to France's third tier - it seemed like his days in the dugout were over. Moulin is a family man and his decision proved that: he moved to Angers simply to be closer to his children and to be able to help out his wife, who had just opened a shop in the town. As fate would have it, a year later Angers were looking for a reserve-team coach, and the club's well-informed general manager Olivier Pickeu was fully aware of Moulin and the fine job he had down with tiny Châtellerault.

Humble beginnings

To say the appointment was shrewd would be an almighty understatement. After five seasons of fruitful labour with the second string, Moulin was offered the chance to succeed Jean-Louis Garcia as first-team coach in 2011. He hesitated. "I thought maybe Ligue 2 was too high for me," Moulin recalls. "But it wasn't a lack of ambition on my part. I was just enjoying life with the reserves." That line of thinking speaks volumes for Moulin's unassuming persona. In a world of inflated egos, the Angers boss stands out as a refreshing, down-to-earth counterbalance. As L'Equipe recently observed: "Stéphane Moulin is just a normal bloke - he's the chap you bump in to at the boulangerie buying his croissants".


That was certainly the impression I got when I met him at Angers' training ground at the start of last season. He had just taken Angers up to the top tier for the first time in 21 years and was preparing to make his own bow as a Ligue 1 manager. Yet he seemed totally calm and unfazed by the immense challenge that lay ahead; this was a challenge he planned to enjoy, and if things went wrong then so be it. This, after all, is only football. Both before and after the interview Moulin was happy to chat with us about the weather, life in Angers, and also happily offered some tips for local eateries. In fact, the place he sent us for lunch was sensational, and judging by his slightly bulging waistline, he enjoys the culinary delights of Western France as much as anyone.

Upward spiral

Not only did Moulin keep Angers up last season, he steered them to third by Christmas and ninth by the end of the season, the club's best performance for 42 years. Then second season syndrome hit: Angers were second bottom in late January - with half of the starting XI away at the Africa Cup of Nations - and a return to Ligue 2 looked inevitable. Yet in the past two months Moulin has worked his magic once more. Angers have picked up 19 points from their last ten games. They are now 12th and just two points off eighth. On Wednesday, they qualified for the semi-finals of the Coupe de France by defeating Bordeaux. Angers' next two opponents, Monaco and PSG, have been warned.

Angers General Manager Oliiver Pickeu shooting the breeze with club coach Stéphane Moulin back in 2012

Moulin is not the sole responsible for Angers' success. The man pulling the strings behind the scenes - notably in terms of recruitment - Pickeu deserves great credit too. Pickeu's ability to spot Ligue 2 players capable of transcending their performances is exceptional, with Senegalese duo Cheikh Ndoye and Famara Diedhiou particularly inspired signings. Yet there is no question that Angers are a team built in the image of their trainer. They are hard-working, humble and likeable. And together they are achieving remarkable things.


>> PREVIEW: Angers set to have big say in title race

>> COACH PROFILE: Stéphane Moulin


>> More by Matthew Spiro

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