Saturday 30 September 2017, 13:59

Gerard Precheur, a triumph in triplicate

  • Precheur is one of final contenders for The Best FIFA Women's Coach 2017

  • He won a league, cup and Champions League treble with Lyon last season

  • Precheur looks back at the three major chapters of his professional career

Player, instructor and coach – Gerard Precheur boasts all three roles on his CV, and each stage in his career has helped him grow and succeed in the next. He talks through all the steps that led him to a third treble in two years with Lyon last season, a superb achievement that has earned him recognition as one of three candidates for The Best FIFA Women's Coach 2017.

A precocious but frustrated player "I played in midfield. I had good technique on the ball but, above all, very good athletic potential, says Precheur. "I was strong, powerful and had great stamina. On top of that, I had formidable mental strength." Together, those qualities helped him break through at a young age, and he was only 18 when he began playing in France's second division. "Three years later, I was in very advanced talks with Metz and Nancy, but unfortunately nothing came of it. It was a tough blow psychologically, especially as I found out so late that I had little time to pick myself back up."

That proved to be his final flirtation with the top tier, but he later put it to good use. "That experience was very helpful to me further down the road when I began coaching youngsters," he says. "I always made sure to prepare them as well as possible for that because it's a massive disappointment." Precheur eventually called time on his playing days while still only 27, and he moved directly from the pitch to the dugout at Valence to begin his first coaching job.

Fulfilment as an instructor "I was already a youth coach when I was a player because I had diplomas to develop youngsters," he recalls. "It was a role I enjoyed a lot." It was one that he put on hold, however, as he accepted a post as a coaching instructor for the Ligue de Paris after four years in charge of Valence.

Nevertheless, he began to feel the urge to oversee young talents again, and he approached Aime Jacquet, his mentor, who later suggested he take over the newly created women's football department at the French Football Federation (FFF).

"I accepted without hesitation," Precheur says. "I'd already discovered women's football during my time in charge of a regional team, and it was like love at first sight." It was a heady time as well, with Precheur helping oversee the introduction of women's football at the FFF's Clairefontaine training headquarters – until then a sanctuary for the men's game.

"At the time, French women's football focused above all on physicality and athleticism, and we couldn't compete with the Scandinavians, Germans or Americans," he adds. Precheur's response was to initiate a style based more on technique, which drew inspiration from the coaching methods used by the men's teams.

The Nancy native then continued to rise through the ranks at the FFF and eventually took charge of the National Football Institute (INF) for both men's and women's football, while also scouting the opponents of France's senior men's team.

A coach driving a Ferrari  "In 2014, I got a call from Olympique Lyonnais, who offered me the job of coach of the women's team," says Precheur. "All those years with the federation were extremely rich, but I was coming to the end of my mission and I wanted to put into practice everything I'd learned as an instructor and tactician. Lyon were giving me the chance to apply my convictions on the pitch and to go into battle.

"At Lyon, it was like taking the wheel of a Ferrari, though one which had veered off the road because it was four years since they'd been French champions. Patrice Lair's departure had caused problems and we had to do repairs and get the fine-tuning right to take pole position again."

Precheur went on to win eight of the nine trophies available during his three years at Lyon, but there were certainly challenges along the way – despite, or perhaps because of the talent at his disposal. "It's not difficult to win with Lyon. What's difficult is to win everything and maintain the same exacting standards all the time. You have zero room for error.

"The final season was difficult because we had lots of players leaving and lots of players arriving and I had a big squad filled with internationals," he explains. "Every weekend, I had more players disappointed they weren't playing than the 11 out on the pitch.

"To be one of the candidates for the title of coach of the year is a wonderful reward for me, because people say it's easy to coach OL and all their great players, but that's simply not true. On top of that, it's a reward for all the years I've invested in women's football."

*Honours with Lyon French championship titles: 2015, 2016 and 2017 French Cups: 2015, 2016 and 2017 *UEFA Women's Champions League titles: 2016 and 2017

Did you know? Gerard Precheur will celebrate his 58th birthday on 23 October, the day of The Best FIFA Football Awards™ ceremony.