A youth club turned Ligue 1 Uber Eats title winners and Coupe de France victors, AJ Auxerre is renowned for a productive youth academy that produced the likes of Djibril Cissé, Eric Cantona and Bacary Sagna, as well as iconic former coach Guy Roux. ligue1.com gives you the lowdown on the Burgundy club following its return to the big time.
The club was actually founded as a sports association in 1905 by the Abbé Deschamps — more of him later — and included shooting and gymnastics sections as well as football when it started. An unremarkable swimmer in the backwaters of the French game for the first half-century of its existence, Auxerre's fortunes changed radically when Guy Roux was appointed player-coach in 1961. By 1974, Roux — a former AJA player — had guided the team to the second division despite the club still having amateur status.
The club enjoyed a number of excellent Coupe de France runs that brought it national attention, peaking — at least for the time being — in reaching the final in the 1978/79 season, beating freshly crowned Ligue 1 champions Strasbourg in the semi-finals. It was the first time since 1933 an amateur club had reached the final — yes, the club was still amateur at the time — and they were the first second division side to get there since 1959.
The club's upward trajectory was not finished there, and they were promoted to Ligue 1 the very next season — 1979/80 — for the first of their 32 top-flight campaigns to date. Roux even took a team — featuring Laurent Blanc, Sabri Lamouchi and flamboyant Nigeria international Taribo West — to a Ligue 1/Coupe de France double in 1995/96. While it remains the club's only top-flight title, they have tallied a total of four Coupes de France, all under Roux's unrivalled tenure.
Regular features in the UEFA Champions League and other European competitions, Auxerre are renowned for a youth academy that has produced the likes of France internationals Djibril Cissé, Philippe Mexès, Bacary Sagna and Jean-Alain Boumsong, but — following Roux's retirement in 2005 — they have been in the doldrums, dropping out of the top flight in 2012. Jean-Marc Furlan — appointed in May 2019 — has guided them back to the big time and tallied a record-extending fifth promotion for himself.
WATCH: Auxerre secure their top-flight return at Saint-Etienne
Club icon: Guy Roux
Mention Auxerre to anyone in France, and they will immediately think of Roux. A former player (from 1952 to 1957), he was invited back to become player-coach aged just 23 in 1961 and was chosen ahead of other more qualified candidates because he was cheapest. He stayed for virtually all of the next four decades, finally retiring in 2005 having turned the youth club into French champions, Coupe de France winners and regular participants in European competition.
Auxerre initially played in all black, but then opted for its current blue and white. The shirts were predominantly blue until 1980 when — due to the poor floodlighting at their Stade de l'Abbe Deschamps home — they switched to mostly white so that the players could spot each other more easily.
Stadium: Stade de l'Abbé Deschamps
Named after the club's founder, Ernest-Théodore Valentin Deschamps, following his death in 1949, it has actually been AJA's permanent home since mid-October 1918. It has undergone a number of facelifts since, but only three clubs — Angers, Brest and Clermont — have a smaller capacity in the French top flight.
Famous former players
Laurent Blanc (1995/96), Jean-Alain Boumsong (2000-04), Eric Cantona (1981-88), Djibril Cissé (1996-2004), Benoît Cheyrou (2004-07), Stéphane Guivarch (1995/96, 1997/98, 1999-01), Younès Kaboul (2000-07), Olivier Kapo (1996-2004, 2012/13), Philippe Mexès (1997-2004), Evan N'Dicka (2012-18), Bacary Sagna (1997-2007)
Did you know?
AJ Auxerre stands for Association de la jeunesse auxerroise — The Auxerre Youth Assocation.