Pascal Dupraz is a Ligue 1 character. Almost an archetype. That of the firefighter on duty, this coach who braves the fire to save a club threatened by the flames of relegation thanks to a certain charisma and titanium optimism. This Saturday, May 21, the Saint-Etienne Sports Association hopes to grab a place in the play-offs, during this 38and and last day.
That’s good, his trainer is the man of the last day, the one to which he partly owes his reputation. In 2014, Pascal Dupraz saved Evian-Thonon-Gaillard during a “final” for maintenance against Sochaux (3-0). Two years later, he produced his masterpiece with the maintenance of Toulouse. The victory at Angers (3-2) punctuates an improbable rescue mission in which he is the only one to believe when he arrives in Haute-Garonne ten points behind the first non-relegation player.
Today, the dynamic is very different before the trip to Nantes (9 p.m.). Maintaining almost in the pocket four days earlier, the Greens find themselves on waivers. The Stephanois are 19are and count on a Paris-Saint-Germain not too demobilized to do the job against Metz, 18and and current play-off (thanks to better goal difference).
Last Saturday, the firefighter Dupraz took a blow to the helmet after the home defeat against Reims (1-2), the fourth in row. “It is the consternation that prevails. By dint of not scoring points, while they are reaching out to us…” The sentence is not finished, but says a lot about his concern.
During this press conference, he opens the umbrella to “apologies”, evokes “the bewildering athletic deficiencies” of his players and targets an indefensible defence. “I have been tinkering since December and, before me, a much more prestigious trainer [Claude Puel] also tinkered. »
“Recipes for the team to get better”
The tone contrasts with his presentation on December 15. “ I have the weakness to think that I have recipes for the team to get better”, he assumes. As often, the technician pulls on all the sensitive cords. He evokes the glorious history of the Greens, the memory of his father in the spans of Geoffroy-Guichard. At the accounting level, Saint-Etienne never points more than three points behind the barrage, Metz already, and its workforce gives it certain certainties compared to its rivals in the race to maintain.
From the first training, the former striker assumes his own caricature, that of the leader of men angry with overly sophisticated concepts. To his players during a first filmed session, he launches: ” It doesn’t matter if the opposite team exchanges passes 60-70 meters from our goal. Oh ! It is marked in which book that it is necessary to immediately go and take the ball from them? We are in place. »
In fact, its teams know how to do something other than concreting. At World in 2017, he says he suffers from being reduced to a loudmouth. ” On the pretext that you are a good speaker and use motivational levers, that would mean that you are not a good technician. It’s unbearable. »
But it’s stronger than him. Dupraz likes to play this role of down-to-earth technician. He showed it again this season. “It’s good to have beaten the pawn to this Clermont team which claims the principles of Pep Guardiola. I’m happy to have shown Pascal Gastien [l’entraîneur clermontois] that a mountain dweller could make his team play”, he said, for example, after a victory against the promoted in February.
Dupraz made Dupraz. He tickled, provoked and took a nasty backlash. Pascal Gatien thus dedicated to him the maintenance of his team at the end of the 37and daytime. ” We want to lay the foundations of a certain game philosophy. Ah, but I have to be careful what I say and put quotation marks in “philosophy” because, otherwise, Pascal Dupraz could contradict me. »
The memory of the Angers speech
With Pascal Dupraz, the character and the trainer come together. They need to fight an enemy, real or invisible, to better unite their group. In 2014, the Evian coach had against his counterpart, Hervé Renard, in the white shirt. A Savoyard though. But Dupraz is from Haute-Savoie. Everything except a detail, for him. And to hear it, all of France wants the maintenance of Sochaliens returned from the dead, thanks to Renard. “We must not decide the fate of matches before they are played”, he announces. Victory will validate this aggressive communication.
By nature, Pascal Dupraz takes the light but also the pressure on him. The cameras too. In Toulouse, his chat in the basement of an Angevin hotel went viral after the broadcast of a report from the program “J + 1” on Canal + Sport. Dupraz talks about pride and love (“I, you understand, I love you”), pushes very far in the feelings, diffuses messages of support of close relations of the players, some even crush a small tear. “It was a double-edged sword. We cracked up, we cried, there was too much emotion. In Angers, we have our worst match with him, ” admitted midfielder Etienne Didot to The Team.
In January, the daily also revealed that the new Stéphane coach authorized the filming of a documentary in immersion in his locker room. The project has since been abandoned. At that moment, he imagines nothing but a happy ending. The first few weeks prove him right. In March, he already sees himself attending “to a match in the kops”the maintenance assured. “Besides, I love to sing”he adds.
Since then, he has been especially disillusioned. Despite a crisis meeting with his players after the shipwreck in early April in Lorient (6-2), the leader of men seems to have lost his touch. With an average of 1.14 match points, he is sailing in the same low waters as Claude Puel (1.15). His speech is no longer having an effect and his choices raise questions such as having maintained his confidence in defense in Timothée Kolodziejczak or even in the former international Eliaquim Mangala, “unfairly criticized”, according to Dupraz.
Maintain or not at the end of a possible dam against Auxerre on May 29, the leaders of Saint-Etienne would already be preparing the post-Dupraz period, at the end of the contract. Laurent Battles (free) and Michel Der Zakarian (Brest) are the names put forward. Firefighter Pascal Dupraz may have to find a new barracks. But, after all, every season there is a club or two to save during the exercise.