Wasteful

As a manager, you always want your team to give of their best. After all, a manager is only as good as the people who work for him or her. Management is not an art, nor is it rocket science. It’s grounded in common sense. In my experience, if someone isn’t performing to the level you expect, you need to sit down with them and try to get to the bottom of the matter. Don’t assume, it’s all down to the individual either, it’s far more likely to be your fault. You cannot expect anyone to work well if they do not know or understand what it is you expect of them. This is true of whomever or whatever you’re managing. Clearly, some managers are better than others in unlocking and developing an individual’s potential.

My chouchou of the French beautiful game is one Yoann Gourcuff who was the subject of several pages of conjecture in L’Equipe this week which may have contributed to him being unfairly whistled at by the French crowd when he was substituted in 86th minute in yesterday’s friendly against Brazil.

My take on the issue is that he feels crushed by the overwhelming burden of expectation. The French public regard Gourcuff as Zizou’s natural successor. Those are mighty boots for anyone to fill, let alone someone who, let’s not forget, is only 24. True he plays in a similar position, behind the strikers, and displays the same kind of creativity and technique as Zidane.
 
He’s the son of Lorient’s manager and until his teen years played tennis to a competitively high standard too but, having been beaten by one Raphael Nadal, he chose to concentrate on his football. After a successful debut in the professional game at Rennes, he moved to  AC Milan in 2006. It was not a good move. He couldn’t get a game. 
 
He returned to France in 2008, initially on loan, to Bordeaux where he flourished under Laurent Blanc leading Les Girondins to the League and League Cup titles as well as being named the French League’s Player of the Year after scoring 12 goals and claiming 11 assists. He continued to play well and was shortlisted for the Ballon d’Or award in 2009.
 
After the departure of Blanc, Gourcuff signed for Olympique Lyonnais in 2010 where he has failed to build on that early promise. Promise that is evident when he plays for France under Blanc. He played well yesterday evening, as did Karim Benzema who scored the only goal of the match. He’s another player who can’t get  a game at his club: Real Madrid.
 
For whatever reason, neither of these players are playing to their full potential at club level. I don’t know why this is and no doubt many columns have been written speculating on the various reasons. It just strikes me as a great shame that their respective managers can’t or won’t make best use of these talented players.
   

Tale of two teams

I wrapped up my English class yesterday evening so that I could get back in time to watch the England v France clash. My class asked me which team I would be supporting. “The French” I replied and then I explained why.

I arrived home in time to watch the game. It unfolded pretty much as I anticipated. The French were tactically and technically superior in every position on the pitch as they outflanked, outmanoeuvred and out-thought their opponents. I accept that England had a number of sacred cows missing from their line up but their replacements did not herald a brighter footballing future as England succumbed to basic route one football.

The French delighted us with the excellence of their spritely passing, good use of possession, their control of and movement on the ball. In fact, the final scoreline of 1-2 flatters to deceive as France struggled to convert their dominance into goals. The reality was far more emphatic than the result suggests. On a personal note I was delighted to see a rejuvenated Gourcuff compliment the excellent play of Nasri, Benzema and Malouda.

Laurent Blanc’s French team demonstrated to the sold-out Wembley crowd that they’ve learned well the lessons from S Africa, underlining all too clearly that the English have not. Now you know why they had my support.

On target

When I started on my new regime a month ago, the dietician advised I could lose 3-4kg, but I was highly sceptical. On any diet I lose around 1kg per month at best. However, probably thanks to the bout of tummy troubles, I was indeed almost 4kg lighter. I decided to try and hit the magic number on yesterday’s weigh-in by removing my jewelry and wearing the lightest clothes possible. It worked. 

The last couple of days I’ve been pretty much housebound by the appalling weather. Yes, after last week’s balmy days, it started drizzling on Sunday. It was overcast on Monday morning but, in the afternoon, we were treated to torrential storms. Thunder and lightening overhead, twice took out the electricity. I braved the rain on Tuesday morning for my trip to the dietician and returned home feeling decidedly cold and damp.

Fortunately, it started to clear up in the afternoon, allowing me to attend the opening party of my cycling coach’s new office in Nice. Where, naturally enough, the discussion revolved around the exploits of many of his clients in last week end’s Nice-Cannes marathon, run in near perfect conditions. I displayed remarkable self control by declining the champagne and nibbles on offer for still water.  I need to capitalise on my admirable start.

I skipped the club yesterday evening and hope that there wasn’t too much paperwork for the Treasurer to deal with in my absence. However, I’m going to be down there most of this afternoon and evening thanks to a management meeting, checking the club’s books for October and then my English class. Two of our younger riders, who want to improve their spoken English, have said they’ll turn up this evening. As further enticement, I have promised some chocolate chip cookies – works every time.

I will however be hoping to finish the class on time and get away promptly to get back home to watch the England v France football match. I know it’s supposed to be a friendly, but I suspect Blanc will regard an England scalp as a fitting reward for the rehabilitation of his side after this year’s World Cup debacle.  

I managed to fit in a quick circumnavigation of Cap d’Antibes this morning, on slowly drying roads. With better weather forecast for the next couple of days, before the rain returns at the week end, I’ll be looking to maximise my time outside on the bike before spending the week end down the gym and on the home trainer.

It’s all too much

My abiding memory of this Vuelta (yes, I know it’s not yet finished) will be Igor Anton’s bloodied, brave, little soldier face, waving good bye to us all, with his left hand, from the passenger seat of his DS’s car, as he’s driven away from what might have been his first Grand Tour win. Having hit a pot-hole at high speed, he broke his right elbow, took out a team mate (Egoi Martinez – dislocated shoulder), shredded the red leader’s jersey and large parts of his own skin. He was mightily handily placed and who knows what might have been, but you need luck to win a Grand Tour.

This past week end was a veritable cycling fest with GPs in Quebec (Voeckler) and Montreal (Gesink), Paris-Brussels (Ventoso), GP des Fourmies (Feillu), the end of the Tour de l’Avenir (Quintana) and the start of the Tour of Great Britain. A trip to Italy over the week end meant that I’ve seen very little of any of this cycling, but a girl can have too much of a good thing.

OGCN continue to defy the odds with a home  win against a lacklustre Bordeaux; not the team they were last season with Blanc at the helm and Gourcuff up front. AVFC meanwhile continued to confound by conceeding a goal in the final minute of their away game at Stoke to lose 2-1. Their best player tellingly was the goalkeeper, Brad Friedel.

What of my own training I hear you ask. Well, mindful of my forthcoming trip to Australia, my cycling coach has introduced running and gym work into the weekly mix along with some interval sprint training on the bike. We rode together last week and he had me sprinting in the drops, not something I’ve ever done before. Initially, I felt as if I’d lost control of the handlebars but soon got the hang of it. It certainly gives you a more dynamic position on the bike and, looking at the stats afterwards, I did ride faster.

Friday was my first “running” session. I use the term guardedly as I’m not sure the speed at which I travel qualifies as running. I had surprisingly sore shins the following day which have fortunately now abated and which didn’t recur after my run on Tuesday.

I rode with my beloved on both Saturday and Sunday. The weather is still glorious, although a little fresh first thing, and you’re starting to need to put on a light jacket when descending from the higher hills, like Col de Vence. It’s slowly cooling down but the wild life it still active, particularly the mosquitos and horseflies, whose desire to taste me is undiminished.

The run up to my departure for Melbourne is typically hectic. I’m juggling way too many things at the moment (huge “to do” list) and am praying I  manage to get them all done before I leave, otherwise I’ll still be dealing with them in Melbourne.

Twinkle, twinkle

Gratifyingly good performances from both England and France yesterday evening as they look to distance the disappointment of the World Cup in South Africa. For Capello it is business as usual, though injuries have prompted (forced) him to give opportunities to some promising players, notably Adam Johnson. Revelations about Wayne Rooney’s off field escapades have fortunately not affected his on-field form, quite the opposite. However, is it only me who thinks Capello might be better off leaving Lampard on the side-lines?  After two resounding wins, England top their Group.

Laurent Blanc has a much harder task with his “blanc piece of paper” but the signs are promising and, once many of his players return from injury and/or suspension, expect more score-lines like yesterday evening. Help may be at hand as I understand that Zinadine Zidane’s eldest is playing for Real Madrid’s youth squad. He’ll be 17 come the European Cup in 2012.

There may soon be a Gallic flavour at Villa Park. Rumour has it that Gerard Houllier is mulling over an offer to step into Martin O’Neill’s shoes. They have a potential banana skin away at Stoke this Sunday, after riding their luck to most recently scrape past Everton. They’ve been a bit of a curate’s egg and, with no additions to the squad following the sale of James Milner, will quickly need to bring on some of their promising youngsters.

OGCN are also playing on Sunday, when they’ll be home to Bordeaux now bereft of my favourite French player Yoann Gourcuff who’s hightailed it to Lyon. However, the first installment from the sale of Loic Remy has finally arrived into the OGCN coffers, allowing them to balance (cook?) the books. Nonetheless, OGCN have done their usual last minute shopping in football’s equivalent of Filene’s basement. Let’s hope they have unearthed some gems.