By Aline Chatel
When he first put on the tracksuit of the SU Dives-Cabourg, Julien Le Pen felt the symbolic significance of the moment. After 16 years at theAG Caen, which he had left a few months earlier, the technician opened a new page in his story. Since last week, he assists Philippe Clément at the SUDC. Deputy, and not a partner, he leads the sessions when the choices come down to the “boss”, as he describes the historic coach of the National 3 club. Coincidentally, the first match in which he will participate from the bench will oppose Julien Le Pen to the Avant Garde, Saturday November 26, 2022, at the Venoix stadium.
Julien, how did you experience the period without coaching following your departure from AG Caen?
I experienced it well because it was also wanted on my part. I felt the need. A big page in my life was turning at the Avant Garde after a very tiring season between the DES (diploma allowing me to coach up to National 2, editor’s note) and what I experienced in the club, with my gap, my return and finally the maintenance of the team in National 3. It was an achievement and a pride to be able to leave the club on this level N3 to which I had contributed during all these years.
It was time to take the opportunity to take a step back with my family, take time with my three children and my wife. I had promised to go on vacation with them. I only came back around August 23, it was complicated to resume a project. I had requests, which I refused.
How did you stay connected to football?
I didn’t stay far from the field since I did a lot of work as a trainer with the Normandy Football League and UFR Staps. I also went to see a lot of matches, I analyzed a lot of teams. I stayed close to the field without having the pressure of a team to manage. It did me good. Now I am very happy to find a job. My goal was to return to the field to regain pleasure. I also spent a lot of time continuing to formalize my game project, my life project and my club project to have the necessary tools to support an entire club in its structuring.
“The boss is Philippe”
Dives, how did it happen?
It happened naturally. I had been in contact with Philippe (Clément) since last year. He had been one of the greatest supports I had had in the profession following my sidelining. At that time, he had already offered me to possibly finish the season at Dives to complete my diploma.
This year, Mathieu (Chevreau) had arrived. It’s over, but Philippe has this desire to have someone to work with him on a daily basis on the training sessions. He wishes he had more distance, even if he is present with me all the time. He offered me this clearly defined assistant role. I am here to implement Philippe’s project and to get the players to adhere to this project in training. I also do video analysis with the players. But the boss is Philippe.
Isn’t it difficult to go from number 1 to number 2?
Not really. I am not asked to be the assistant of a coach of my age. When I started to coach, in the Promotion d’Honneur, I had always said to myself: “if one day, I coach in the same league as Philippe, Vincent Laigneau, Olivier Joba, I will have succeeded in my career. coach”. I did it maybe earlier than I thought, that’s why I don’t set myself a limit to go higher. I see everything that Philippe can bring me. His experience, especially on his group management, is not mine. Managing men is Philippe’s strength.
Fate offers a nice wink by making you fall on the Vanguard in your first match with Dives…
It is necessarily special. It would be even more so if I came back as number 1. There, I arrive as an assistant, the approach to the match is not the same. It will still be weird. We played there for five years. It’s a stadium that I liked, in which I have a lot of memories. I go back with pleasure. I’m not cold with anyone. I hope to live a good game of football. I can’t wait to rediscover the taste of competition, even if it will be a difficult match with the co-leader of the championship.
“A complicated but beautiful mission”
AG Caen has returned to the standards of two years ago. What inspires you?
I will always love the Avant Garde. It was my second family for 16 years of my life. I’m happy for them. Their objective is certainly to reach National 2, this start to the championship shows that they have the qualities for it. I wish them the best possible season. Most of the players remained friends. I hope they will achieve their goal in the short, medium or long term.
In Dives, the season is much more difficult and the maintenance mission will be complicated with at least five descents this year…
The mission is complicated, but it is beautiful. I think the maintenance will be played around 30 points (Dives-Cabourg currently has four after seven games, editor’s note). I’ve watched Dives a lot since the beginning of the year, there’s quality. The staff works well, the leaders try to structure the club as best as possible, there is a soul. The mission is not impossible, it is hard. With an experienced coach like Philippe, who has experienced much more complex situations than this, the challenge is up. We will have to count on the Dives-Cabourg club this season. Afterwards, we will fight against other teams which do not necessarily have their place at the bottom of the table, like Alençon.
Are you in Dives to take over from Philippe Clément?
We didn’t talk about it. The club had a need, I had desires. This allows me to discover the Dives club without having the pressure of number 1. At the same time, Dives also discovers me as a coach and as a man. We’ll see what happens next. We are really focused on this year. The goal is to have fun working together and winning matches on weekends. We have not projected ourselves into the future and I think that is not necessary. Things will get done if they have to be done. I am focused on what interests me this season, maintaining Dives-Cabourg in National 3.
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