RC Lens: Overcoming One Hurdle?

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On Friday, the CNOSF announced their verdict regarding RC Lens’ appeal against their non-promotion to Ligue 1 and, happily for the Nord side, the body ruled in their favour. The French National Olympic and Sports Committee (rearrange the letters for the Francophone acronym) ruled that the Sang et Or should be allowed to take their place in the French top division this season, with their first game due to take place on August 9th (Saturday) against Nantes.

The ruling had a number of knock-on effects, and a number of people related to RC Lens have had their futures directly affected by it.

Firstly, Antoine Kombouaré, Lens’ coach, would return to his job for the first time since the initial decision, having refused to do so until a conclusion was reached. His side had stumbled to two friendly defeats in his absence, and that number increased to three at the weekend as fellow Ligue 2 promotion winners Caen defeated his side 4-2 at Le Touquet – a Mathieu Duhamel hat-trick being critical, but also Rudy Riou playing another 90 minutes in goal.

Rudy Riou (courtesy of www.RCLens.fr) is very much the veteran goalkeeper.

Rudy Riou (courtesy of http://www.RCLens.fr) is very much the veteran goalkeeper.

Riou’s performance was crucial – the veteran may have featured in all three friendlies so far, and has conceded nine goals throughout – but he was back-up to Alphonse Areola last season. The talented youngster announced his intention to sign for Bastia during the week, and it is a shame he will not be representing the club he helped to promotion at the higher level. In truth, it was always a matter of time before Areola moved on, and Gervais Martel has obviously somebody in mind for the position – following the games against Caen he reassured fans, joking that it would certainly not be him in goal on the 10th August.

Martel is the man at the centre of this maelstrom, and has carried himself with considerable decorum throughout even if, as I hinted previously, his reasoning for Lens’ funding delay became increasingly tenuous. Now that everything is sorted, his umbrella of Hafiz Mammedov not understanding the vagaries of French football legislation sound plausible, though it is worth noting that the Uzbek was busy buying Sheffield Wednesday while Lens were on the precipice.

That said, Martel rebukes my disbelief (albeit not specifically mine) in an interview with Lens’ official website over the weekend.

“How do you think it is understandable for people, when they said that there is an IBAN number that is not good? And that is the truth. How do you want them to understand that there is a transfer order, and it does not happen? And it is still the truth. I told the truth from the beginning”

This article is not to pick fault with Martel, a man who I think has been doing a rather good job in trying times, and has an equally testing fortnight ahead as he looks to bring in quality players to boost his squad – promising four or five players to be added to the fold before the start of the season.

For all this positivity, the CNOSF’s decision is not binding, it is simply a recommendation that they will put to the FFF (French Football Federation – again, shuffle the initials around) with a decision from that body due on Monday.

Should that obstacle be moved from Lens’ way, there is another in their immediate path.

The Sang Et Or season is going to consist of 38 away games.

Le Stade Epopee, Calais (courtesy of www.crufc.fr) would even be the right colours for RC Lens.

Le Stade Epopee, Calais (courtesy of http://www.crufc.fr) would even be the right colours for RC Lens.

The choice of stadium in which they will play in is still very much up in the air. The club, seemingly, are keen to play their games in Calais, at Calais Rugby Club’s Épopée Stadium. There are aspects of that stadium that would need improving, and it is unclear if a 12,500 seat stadium would be able to accommodate the necessary crowds, but a delegation from Lens was in Calais last week, in discussions about the possibility of the Sang et Or ending up there.

The summer of upheaval is not yet over for Lens. One part of it may be settled soon, but there is still more to come and with only a fortnight to go before the start of the season, it is not an envious position to be in.

Green Shoots Of Recovery At Bologna?

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Continuing my occasional series looking at the Rossoblu, it’s time to gaze over at the city of Two Towers again as times have been changing and players going in and out.

Firstly, we must bid a sad farewell to Lazaros Cristodopoulos, much to the relief of the companies who manufacture the lettering for the Bologna shirt. Lazaros has gone to Verona where one can assume he will enjoy a frustrating season as the Mastini fail to live up to the expectations lifted by the last campaign.

I suppose it’s worth mentioning that Roberto Zanzi has left the club, replaced by Filippo Fusco. Bologna are actually a going concern in Serie B now, too – their entry was granted, the threat of demotion to Serie D (as has been effected on Siena) was not exercised on the Rossoblu.

It was a dark few days, and the future looked anything but bright, indeed it still does not, but the club have pulled through. While still crippled by last year’s wage promises, and surprisingly enough bonuses, the eyes are cast forwards not back.

Those eyes going forwards are yet to gaze upon the departures of Michael Antonsson, Panagiotisi Kone or Rolando Bianchi, though it is surely only a matter of time. Bianchi, it has been revealed, had an operation on his foot at the start of the summer, removing a Morton’s neuroma – something that can press so hard on the inter-metatarsal nerves that those who are suffering can struggle to put their foot down for the pain, or even put a shoe on.

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Bologna also have a coach now; Diego Perez has completed his coaching badges and – though you may well know him from a different red and blue, that of Cagliari, has been charged with getting the red and blue of Bologna promoted to Serie A; something that the bookies rank them as second favourites to do as champions – their 9/2 being somewhat longer than Catania’s 5/4.

That ranking comes without any experience of how the Rossoblu’s multiple new signings will fit into the system, as a surplus of midfielders seems to be fleshing out the squad now. The first pre-season game, as it happens, will took place on Saturday 26th, against Zocca. Don’t know Zocca? You’re not alone. They’re below Serie D, below Eccelenza, below even Promozione, but there they are; Bologna baeat them 4-0.

Even the Bologna of 2013/14 won an early pre-season friendly by at least 10 clear goals, and Zocca are operating at a similar level. They should not have provided much of a test even for a team who failed to score against themselves last season.

There is, following that game, and a similar test against Ozzanese, a game against Sassuolo. The Neroverde are a shrewd test for Bologna to face – having been the team most likely to be relegated last season, their survival means they are the benchmark that the Rossoblu need to reach in order to achieve their aim.

Casarini, Djokovic, Troianiello, Matuzalem, Zuculini, Laribi, Pazienza, Perez, Kone, Pulzetti, Ibson and Yaisien look enough to choose from in a midfield that often ran to five men last season.

The arrivals of Matuzalem and Zuculini are the most notable there, but certainly Perez doesn’t look as if he’ll struggle to ensure the link up play between a defence that should be ok and an attack that may well contain Robert Acquafresca.

Whereas that might be an indictment should the team be in Serie A, there is enough in Acquafresca’s game (indeed, enough in his game with Perez, for he was with the Uruguayan when he flourished at Cagliari) to suggest he might be something of a success.

That doesn’t negate the need for a goalscorer, however and for all Fusco’s good work, in the middle of the park, the top and tail of the side need some working on. So where does that leave Bologna?

They still exist, which is progress in the last month.

They are allowed to compete in Serie B, which is progress in the last month.

The ineffective Zanzi has gone, replaced by the busy bee Fusco, which is progress in the last month.

His work has ensured a number of new faces, which is progress in the last month.

The Rossoblu are second favourites for Serie B as it stands. Personally, I’d have them lower than that, but the bookies know what they’re doing. After a season of disappointment, the green shoots of expectation are beginning to sprout again.

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