Home advantage

For the first time this year, everything fell into place. My beloved was home, OGCN were at home and the weather was glorious. As a consequence, we decided a trip to Stade du Ray was in order.

We parked our car at the tram terminus and hopped on the tram for the two stops the stadium, to pick up our tickets. There’s never any problems buying tickets on the day. We had some time in hand, so we retired to a local bar for some fortification.

Three days after qualifying for the quarter-finals of the French Cup at Drancy, OGCN were back on home turf taking on Sochaux, a team with whom we’ve had some memorable encounters in recent seasons. And when I say “memorable”, I should add that the result has generally not been in our favour.

We started brightly with several shots on target in the first 20 minutes. Frankly, we weren’t looking like a team staring down the barrel of relegation. Our efforts were finally rewarded by a goal in the 29th minute from Nemanja Pejcinov, following a 45m free-kick from Anthony Mounier.

Sochaux lost arguably their best player (Anin) in 44th minute following a second yellow card after a handbags at dawn set to with Clerc. There was barely a reaction from the 18 Sochaux fans (yes, I counted them) in the away enclosure.  

During half-time, we’re generally treated to a shoot out between two local junior sides. This evening, we were also afforded a bunch of nubiles dancing to opera. I’m not sure that it was truly appreciated by the fans. Just stick to the football.

In the second half, OGCN failed spectacularly to exploit their advantage. Indeed, on a number of occasions I did a quick headcount just to check that Sochaux only had 10 men on the pitch. Early on in the second half, Sochaux had a goal rightfully disallowed, for a foul on the goalkeeper.

Sochaux, however, continued to press their disadvantage and, in the final 20 minutes, looked as if they might score. Particularly, as their substitutes kept barging into and knocking flat our goalkeeper. These were all the size of players who in the UK would prompt the chant “Who ate all the pies?” Pies are not served at Stade du Ray: pizza, pissaladiere, club sandwiches and tourte aux blettes, but no pies. I’m not sure whether these are the preserve of northern French clubs, but I suspect not.

In any event, we held on to take all three points and now lie 14th in the division. The same place as occupied by my beloved boys in claret and blue, after their regrettable 2-2 draw with Fulham.

Today’s ride started under climatic conditions similar to last week: wet and damp. However, the sun soon burned through the clouds, heating us up and drying out the roads. Today’s pointage was in Valbonne village, always an enjoyable ride and an opportunity for a little window shopping as we ride through the village.

I lingered at the pointage just long enough to exchange greetings with one of the home club’s members, an American lady who’s lived here for over 20 years and who’s a pretty good rider. I decided to return via a different route and then headed for my regular watering hole for a coffee and the newspapers where I settled down to wait for my beloved to put in an appearance.

We returned home for lunch and an afternoon spent dealing with various work-related matters. We decided to turn on the new all-singing, all-dancing, HD television and, much to our surprise, it worked. We travailled happily side by side enjoying the Chelsea v Liverpool match, followed by Real Madrid v Real Sociedad. I have to be honest, this TV has been one of my beloved’s more inspired purchases.

Let off the leash

What do you call someone who takes the wrong turning on a pre-agreed route leaving behind the person with the house keys, money, mobile phone, spare inner tube and pump: careless, foolish, idiotic? I think we know the answer to this one. It did of course mean that by the time he reached home his lunch was ready and waiting for him!

Eighteen brave club mates ignored the Arctic conditions to cycle to Roquebrune Cap Martin last Sunday placing us 2nd at the pointage and  catapulting us into 3rd pace, above CC Cannes, in the season long Souvenir Cattanneo  – chapeau guys!

After yesterday’s damp conditions, the sunshine returned, though it was still very cold. Today’s ride was just a club run but I bet we had a very good turn out. I don’t know because my beloved let me sleep in until 09:00am after a night disturbed by my coughing and sneezing.The chest cold is in its death throes.

When we finally went out for our ride it seemed as if every man, woman, child and dog had taken to two wheels. Largely, I suspect because there’s only so much families and festivities one can stomach in the space of a few days.

My nose was streaming much more than usual and I had to keep stopping to blow it. Most cyclists just duck their heads closer to the road, block one nostril and blow. I’ve tried this, without success. I tend to end up with snot all over my face and jersey – not a good look. Maybe my mucus is the wrong viscosity for such a manoeuvre.

I’ve just watched my beloved boys in claret and blue being given a footballing lesson at the Emirates. Arsenal ran out the deserving winners 3-0. Villa were undone by 21 minutes of footballing brilliance from Cesc Fabregas, who came off the bench an hour into the match to strike terror into the heart of the Premiership’s meanest defence. Abou Diaby, France’s new Patrick Vieira, added a third in the dying seconds. This means Arsenal are now 4 points behind Chelsea, with a game in hand, and Villa will have to try harder if they’re to win a place in football’s elite – the Champion’s League.

Tuesday postscript: With both Man City and Spurs recording wins yesterday, tonight’s match against Liverpool was a “6-pointer”. In truth neither team played well enough to win it and it looked as it was heading for a goalless draw when a Villa error in the dying seconds of extra time left Fernando Torres one on one with Brad Friedel. The result was inevitable. Martin O’Neil hung his head in sorrow. Six points lost and an even bigger dent in our ambitions.

Highs and lows

My Premiership side, AVFC, started the season by losing 0-2 at home to Wigan! Wigan! Then lost  in the Europa Cup 0-1 away to Rapid Vienna. All in all not an auspicious start to the season. Last week end, they won 1-3 away at Anfield. We’ve not won there since 2001. Villa nearly always play Liverpool early on in the season and despite  good performances from the lads we would generally be undone by a goal of the month (if not the season).  Things were now looking a whole lot better.

Villa won 2-1 on Thursday in the home leg against Rapid Vienna. They could have, should have won by more. An aggregate score of 2-2, with away goals counting double, meant Villa were out for the count. Not even a case of falling at the first hurdle, more a failure to get out of the blocks. Yesterday they beat Fulham 2-0 at home. Never playing beyond themselves, just doing enough to snuff out Fulham. Nerves steadied once more.

My local French side, OGC Nice  started the season brightly with an away win (0-2) at St Etienne and a home draw against Rennes: so far, so good. Last week end they played away at Bordeaux: last season’s league winners and a team in impressive form. A team who are home to one of the best manager’s in the league and easily (IMHO) the best looking player, Yoan Gourcuff, pictured here.

Yoann Gourcuff
Yoann Gourcuff

OGCN suffered what every commentator agreed was a 4-0 crushing defeat. This Saturday, they were home to Montpelier, a recently promoted side. They lost 0-3! Commentators again concluded that it was a crushing defeat which could have been oh so much worse had it not been for our Columbian goalkeeper, Ospina. The only man to be awarded a score over 5 in the newspapers for his efforts. In fact some commentators went so far as to say that they had never, ever seen such a pathetic performance. The defence went missing. Literally in the case of Apam, usually our most reliable defender, who was sent off for two yellow cards. Remy tried hard, but as the lone striker ahead of a clueless midfield, his efforts were never going to amount to much. I wasn’t there (too busy watching the Vuelta Prologue) but I would guess that they were roundly booed off by the crowd.