Island mentality – SC Bastia’s Corsican resistance

There’s an old Corsican proverb which reads as the following in the island’s native tongue – ‘Un disòrdini Faci un òrdini’ – ‘from disorder, an order is born’. One could argue coherently that it is a proverb which encapsulates poetically the turbulent nature of this culturally and linguistically independent island, that lies some two-hundred miles off the south coast of Metropolitan France.

But in terms of the current Ligue 1 campaign, it is also a proverb which encapsulates perfectly Sporting Club de Bastia’s change of fortunes since Ghislain Printant was appointed as the club’s manager following Claude Makélélé’s premature departure after a disastrous start to club management.

Since Printant was appointed as head coach in November, the club have recorded an impressive win over Paris Saint-Germain and a well-earned draw with current league leaders Lyon. In addition, a win this coming weekend against Lille would see the Corsicans leapfrog their opponents in the table, and could be worth looking at for your BetVictor promo code.

Printant’s side’s impressive two-nil away win on Saturday against Nantes sealed thirteenth position for les Bastiais, in what was their thirteen game in a row without a defeat. Not bad for a side that were anchored to the bottom of Ligue 1 at the start of the season.

 

 

To discover how things have gone so well so far for SC Bastia in the Printant era, one must recall what went wrong for his predecessor. Makélélé arrived at the Stade Armand Cesari following the departure of Frédéric Hantz, who left the club after a successful four year spell in which he’d taken his side from the National, France’s third-tier, to Ligue 1, where he would use Bastia’s impressive home form to cement his side’s place in the top flight with an extremely respectable thirteenth placed finish.

After choosing to take a break from football and embarking upon a media career, the experienced Hantz, who had coached a number of sides including Sochaux, Le Mans and his local club Rodez before he took charge at Bastia, was then replaced by a man who, despite the fact he was without head coach experience, was widely tipped to be a coach to watch out for in the future.

Makélélé’s credentials as a player could never have been challenged, but he remained a risky choice in management terms. Before Bastia called, Makélélé had worked under Carlo Ancelotti and then Laurent Blanc as a number two at Paris Saint-Germain, in a spell which saw the club progress in the Champions League, as well as cantering to consecutive Ligue 1 titles.

However Makélélé’s step up to the head coach role with Bastia was an unsuccessful one, with his side languishing in nineteenth place by November. Upon his dismissal from his role, Makélélé importantly cited structural reasons at the club as being problematic in his quest for success, claiming later to the press that he would have done things differently if he’d had the freedom and authority to do so.

 

With hindsight, it’s easy to spot the complexity that Makélélé, as a young manager, would have faced when replacing a more experienced manager who’d built the club up successfully from the lower echelons of French professional football. It’s in no doubt that this influenced the club’s decision to replace him with Ghislain Printant, a technician who’d worked at the club since 2010.

As a player, Printant’s footballing CV was far from illustrious, contrasting starkly with Makélélé’s playing days. A former goalkeeper, the 53-year-old never managed to play at a higher level than the Languedoc-Roussillon regional amateur league, but having made his way up the ranks from his position a goalkeeper coach, Printant began to make a name for himself in youth development coaching and in 2010 he became SC Bastia’s head of youth development, before eventually progressing on to becoming head of the club’s reserve squad.

Given the fact that more illustrious candidates had been linked to the vacant post, including former Marseille coach Élie Baup and Frédéric Antonetti, who was formerly manager at Bastia, Printant’s appointment was met with, at best, a muted response from the press and supporters alike.

However, it was soon apparent after the coach’s initial appointment that his knowledge of the club’s structure would reap rewards on the park.

After an impressive start to his reign at the club, with SCB beating Montpellier at home and then recording an excellent draw with Lyon, excitement began to gather in relation to Bastia’s resistance against relegation.

However, after a spell of unfortunate defeats against Reims and Évian TG, including a narrow one-nil defeat against Saint-Étienne in a match in which the away side more that held their own, the severity of Bastia’s potential relegation woes once again began to make themselves felt, as did the added pressure of Printant’s side being the only Coriscan side left in France’s top division.

However, an incredible unbeaten run of thirteen games since that night in Saint-Étienne has seen the men from the Furiani region of the island progress steadily up the table, recording four victories and four draws, with les Bastiais’ incredible four-two victory over Paris Saint-Germain in January sending shock-waves around the footballing world.

One would now envisage that Printant’s side would almost certainly secure their Ligue 1 survival if they pick up six points between now and the end of the season – a state of affairs that would have been unimaginable during the turmoil of their rocky start to the season.

Printant has a great understanding of the organisational structure of SC Bastia, and equally importantly of what the club means to its supporters. He has also demonstrated an enviable and highly desirable ability to get the most out of his players in a way that Makélélé was unable to.

Ryad Boudebouz, who Hantz brought to the club from Sochaux, is one such example, as he has been transformed since Printant’s arrival.

 

The Algerian international has always attracted the most accusative of football-related nouns to himself, including that dreaded word, ‘ enigma’. The 24-year-old’s ability as a creative attacking midfielder has never been in doubt, but his confidence and drive has been. Since Printant’s arrival, Boudebouz has excelled, scoring four times and playing a key role in his side’s creativity, making the most of his cultured left-foot.

The recent signing of right-back Lyes Houri from Valenciennes, one of France’s most exciting youth prospects, also shows that Printant hasn’t moved away from his coaching roots in youth development. The coach has said in recent weeks that veteran, experienced squad members such as Djibril Cissé, recent signing from Lyon Gaël Danic and Sébastien Squillaci have a pivotal role to play in the integration of youth players into the first-team set-up, highlighting the team-centric emphasis of Printant’s philosophy.

Printant was only initially appointed on a short-term contract until the end of the season, but he has done more than enough to earn himself a new offer, should he choose to remain at the club. Such is the extent of the club’s revival, SC Bastia are now just three points off tenth placed Nantes and winning a top ten place would be a phenomenal achievement considering the start to the season the club had.

In an age where football is constantly evolving and clubs are becoming increasingly pragmatic in terms of their managerial appointments, it’s reassuring to see that having a good knowledge of a football club and its inner workings can still be of a massive advantage to coaches. This is an aspect of SC Bastia’s story this season that many football supporters will take great comfort in.

Author Details

Brendán MacFarlane

I'm a massive French football enthusiast, having fallen in love with all aspects and levels of the sport in France whilst working for a year in the town of Niort. As a French studies student, I'm constantly following what's going on in the French football media and bringing stories to the English-speaking world.

One thought on “Island mentality – SC Bastia’s Corsican resistance

  1. don’t forget that “I turchini” (our “blues”) are qualified in the League cup’s final against Paris Qatar Saint Germain (excuse my english)

Leave a Reply