Wednesday 26 September 2018, 12:13

Pedros: Second is not good enough for us

  • Reynald Pedros named The Best FIFA Women’s Coach 2018

  • Award caps a successful first year in women’s football

  • caught up with the Olympique Lyonnais coach in London

Things have happened very quickly for Reynald Pedros. A little over a year after making his entrance in the women’s game, he has become one of its leading lights. His efforts in steering Olympique Lyonnais to the French title and the UEFA Women’s Champion League crown, in a season in which they also finished runners-up in the Coupe de France, have now led to him being honoured by the wider football family.

After being voted The Best FIFA Women’s Coach 2018 in London on 24 September, the former France international gave his reaction to the award to and looked back on his first year in the l’OL dugout. How did you feel when you heard your name being read out? Was it like winning a final and hearing the referee blow the final whistle? Reynald Pedros: It’s different. I was a little bit surprised. Even though it’s an individual award – and I’m very proud to receive it because it highlights all the work I’ve done over a season with my staff, my president and my players – it’s a very important award for all the work the team has done. I’m going to put it on show at the training complex so everyone can see it and so they can all understand that it belongs to them. I’ve won this award thanks in the main to my staff. It’s a reward for them through me.

With The Best FIFA Women’s Coach award and the titles you’ve won with Olympique Lyonnais has your first year’s coaching in women’s football exceeded your expectations? This is why I moved into women’s football, to experience something amazing. I knew that in taking charge of this Lyon side I was going to be in a position to fight for silverware, which is important in the career of any player or coach – male or female. But there are a few other things that come into it. Sure, there’s winning these titles, but there’s also getting enjoyment from it and entertaining the people who are watching in the stands or on TV. All that was important to me, and in this first year I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being in the dugout seeing the players play, develop and work. And we’ve won trophies on top of that, so it’s been a very satisfying first year.

It’s often said that the hardest thing is not to reach the top but to stay there. That’s what Lyon brought you in for and that’s what you’ve achieved. Has it been a tougher task than you imagined? The objective we set was to win the three titles: the league, Coupe de France, and the Champions League. We only got two of them, so there’s still one for us to go and win. But to me, staying at the top doesn’t mean we have to go and ‘defend our titles’. What we’ve won is ours and they can’t take it away from us. What we have to do now is go and win more. I’ve got some great competitors. They don’t want to come second and neither do I. They want to stay at the top and they know what they have to do to make that happen: work, stay focused, and apply themselves. It’s tough to stay at the top, but when you manage to combine talent with a team ethic, you get even stronger.

You only came into women’s football a little over a year ago and here you are a French and European champion and the coach of the year. Has it all come a little too fast? That’s a bit like when you tell a young player that it’s too soon for them to play in the first division or at the World Cup. No, it’s never too early. It’s a very short career and you have to take opportunities when they come and as soon as they come because you don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. When you have a chance to win a trophy or claim a win you have to take it, enjoy it, and then move on and try to win something else. I haven’t asked myself if it’s too early or if it’s happened too quickly. All I know is that there were three trophies to win and I only got two of them.

Reynald Pedros receives The Best FIFA Women's Coach Award 

You lost just one match the whole season: the final of the Coupe de France. How do you handle defeat in general? Is it even harder to accept when it happens so rarely? It’s awful. We lost our first pre-season match against Manchester City (3-2 in August 2017). It really hurt, and I said to myself: ‘This can’t happen again’. It was a strange feeling. I didn’t feel good and I didn’t want to experience it again. And it didn’t happen again, until the last match of the season. It made me think that maybe I missed something in that final, that I perhaps didn’t do what was needed. That’s how I try to react, rather than get angry. You can always lose matches. If the opposition is stronger, you just accept it and keep on working. But if you lose because you haven’t done things right, or if there’s a sense of injustice about it, then it’s harder to take.

France is preparing to host the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™. The French rose to the occasion at the men’s World Cup in 1998 and UEFA EURO 2016. Are they about to create the same excitement in 2019? I think the people of France are going to come to the stadiums. People who don’t know women’s football will come along to see what it’s all about. And the level of excitement will also depend on how well France do, on their results and what they lead to. That’s very important, as we saw with the men: the way they gelled and the joy they got from working, living, and winning together. The women’s team will have to generate all that too. The results will come because they’ve got the quality. The important thing is not to mess it up and to go all the way.