Christian Gourcuff: 'Capable of brilliance'
Ligue 1 Coach of the Year nominee Christian Gourcuff spoke exclusively to L1.com about his side's strong season as well as his philosophy at the helm of the small club he has coached for 22 years.
Just three points off sixth place with two matches left to play, Lorient are in with a chance of clinching a first-ever European place and bettering their best-ever league finish of seventh.
Facts that have not gone unnoticed by the UNFP, who have nominated the club's seemingly perennial coach Christian Gourcuff - alongside Lille's Rudi Garcia, OM's Didier Deschamps and Sochaux's Francis Gillot - for the Ligue 1 Coach of the Year award.
'Show a bit more ambition'
Not that the straight-talking football purist is getting carried away: "The league has been very tight this season. The most satisfying thing has been that we secured our top-flight survival relatively easily, without flirting with danger. Now that we've done that, we need to show just a bit more ambition to finish in the best position possible."
Gourcuff is currently in the eighth consecutive season of his third stint as coach of Lorient, the club where he was a player-coach from 1982-86 before returning in 1991 for ten years and then returning again in 2003 after stints with Rennes and Qatari club Al-Ittihad.
In all 22 seasons he has been at the club, he has been completely committed to the club and a stalwart defender of a footballing philosophy based on beautiful, attacking play, and it's clear he is pleased with what he is currently seeing.
'Privileged at Lorient'
"I think that in football, like in many areas of life, it's long-term commitment that engenders success," he explained. "After that, everything depends on personal ambitions. What interests me is making progress; the kind of game my team plays; the quality of our everyday work in training; and the quality of the personal relationships in the squad. At Lorient, we're privileged in these respects, that's undeniable."
Gourcuff is a renowned perfectionist, however, and is unstinting in his commitment to keeping the club moving forward no matter what milestones they pass.
"If we were to finish in sixth place, that would be fantastic given the forces at play. I think we're capable of truly brilliant performances," he said before the inevitable 'but' cropped up. "But what we're lacking is consistency, which is due as much to the youth of our squad as it is to the physical condition of others. We have to be realistic about our situation - we're certainly not ready for a challenge like the Champions League."
'Consistency' is a by-word for the Breton boss, who believes in - and is achieving - sustainable success.
'Last five years encouraging'
"What's really important is that the club make progress consistently over time. Pulling off a big result here or there from time to time is kind of pointless. Of course, it's nice to lift spirits and charge the atmosphere a bit, but the real truth lies in what you achieve in the long term. And in that respect, what we've achieved over the last five seasons is very encouraging, because we're not getting ahead of ourselves and falling flat."
Of course for a club like Lorient, whose annual budget pales in comparison to those of Marseille, Lyon and PSG, but with trademark patience, Gourcuff is addressing a range of issues that the club needs to deal with in order to grow in every sense.
"We should have in the near future a dedicated training centre, which will be an important step in the club's progression. Sustainable success is the best way to survive," said Gourcuff, who could lose star striker and joint league top scorer Kévin Gameiro (21 goals) in the summer as he looks to take his career to the next level. "But we also need to be able to hang onto our players for a bit longer than we currently can. Still, we're at Lorient, not a massive club, and we have to face up to these realities."