ASBH: “We have not yet looked at a plan B (the rise to the Top 14), but we are not excluding anything, we have come so far…”, President Vidal is full of ambitions

ASBH: "We have not yet looked at a plan B (the rise to the Top 14), but we are not excluding anything, we have come so far...", President Vidal is full of ambitions

« Une demi-finale à domicile, ce serait la cerise sur le gâteau », confie Jean-Michel Vidal, président du directoire de l’ASBH. Midi Libre – Laurent François

Traveling to leader Vannes, ASBH has big ambitions this season. The opportunity to resurrect passion, according to President Jean-Michel Vidal.

Irresistible at home this season, AS Béziers Hérault is preparing for a most perilous journey, this Thursday evening in Vannes, for a shock at the top from which she could emerge as leader of Pro D2. For a bit, we feel like we have gone back a few decades, when the red and blue club, the flagship of French rugby (11 French championship titles), unleashed passions and collected honors.

Good news for Pierre Caillet's men, this prestigious and haunting past no longer seems so inhibiting, as evidenced by the excellent performance of the Biterrois. &quot ;It's up to us to write our history", recognizes today the chairman of the board Jean-Michel Vidal (67 years old), aware that' 39;a rise to the Top 14 would be as unexpected as it was unhoped for. "We won't deny ourselves anything", he confides , sweeping the news of his club with renewed ambitions.       

President, what are you thinking about while you shave ? 

Not to be President of the Republic! If you want me to say that I'm thinking about the Top 14, we'll wait a little bit, we're only in the third third of the championship. Even if it's a commonplace to say that we are going to play matches one after the other, that's what  #39;we're going to do. 

Nevertheless, do you have the final stages in mind ?

Ha that yes, obviously. We've had them in mind for some time, like last season, but it was during this same period that we fell apart, we couldn't hang on to them . This season, if we have no injuries and we maintain this dynamic, we hope to participate.

Since last year, we are sure of having a good team

With a semi-final at home ?

That would be the icing on the cake. Obviously we think about it, but the road is long.

Did you expect such a promising season ?

First of all, the work of Pierre Caillet (the head coach) for three years is bearing fruit. It is relevant on recruitment, with little-known players who assert themselves as great soldiers. Since last year, we have been certain of having a good team. I am thinking of captain Clément Anceli (3rd row), Samuel Marquez (scrum half) or Tim Nanai-Williams (flyhalf), who have proven to be leaders. They have played in big clubs and are used to winning. They don't give up, they drain the entire team behind them.

What is your greatest satisfaction ?

We have more continuity in our results. The group adheres to the game recommended by Caillet, we remain very focused, whereas in previous seasons, I don't know what they had in mind, but the players relaxed in February. There, we have more ambitions, we feel a desire that is there, permanent.

A desire served by a spectacular game. Passion is reborn… 

This is what we wanted because, at one point, we did not understand why the public would not come to the stadium (Raoul-Barrière). Over the last six matches, we have scored almost 40 points on average, which means we are putting on a show. The ranking is more random, but the game offered is attractive. The base of supporters who are there ad vitam aeternam is estimated at between 4,000 and 5,000. We need to get closer to 8,000 to 9,000, that would correspond to our team, our stadium, our history. 

We realized that Pro D2 was above all a battle of advances. In all the teams at the top of the table, it's tough everywhere so, at some point, you have to diversify your game and have the players to offer something else and create danger in every way possible, thanks to a pack conqueror and three-quarters capable of taking responsibility. Our game is indeed more open.

You have to be honest, the past is heavy to bear.

In Béziers, is public pressure greater than elsewhere ?

Yes, already in relation to our stadium, which is the largest in Pro D2 (18,000 seats). If you have 6,000 people, it's a little empty, so it's important that there are more people. Afterwards, there is the history of the club, which is heavy for everyone, the players, the managers. We have to be honest, the past is heavy to bear. It's up to us to write a new story, with supporters who are the sons and grandsons of those who supported the "Grand Béziers".

It has been almost two decades since the club last rubbed shoulders with the elite. An endless wait… 

It's a very, very long time, even if we, historically, are not the only important mid-sized city clubs to suffer. Whether it's Narbonne, Lourdes, Tarbes… There are a lot of people who unfortunately cannot cope, the problem is financial. The local economy can hardly achieve that a medium-sized club can compete with Toulouse, Paris, Lyon, Montpellier… 

Four years ago we were mainly thinking about not going down to the Federal, we weren't thinking at all about the Top 14

What is your forecast budget for next year. Above all, do you have a plan B in case of a climb ? 

This season, our budget is 8.2 million euros. In all honesty, we are not ruling out anything for next season. We have just finished our “normal” forecast, with a significant increase in payroll, to be able to recruit well. We haven't yet looked at a plan B, because it's a long way off. But we exclude nothing and, above all, we will deny ourselves nothing, that’s obvious. We have come so far… Four years ago, when the mayor of Béziers (Robert Ménard) decided to save the club and asked us to take over its management, we were mainly thinking of not going down. in the Federal, we weren't thinking at all about the Top 14. We have to stay lucid. 

Four years later, you are still in post even though your mission was supposed to be temporary… 

I am not alone. We are happy to have stabilized the club financially, it was not the easiest. Sports results validate our work. In addition, our training center has just been ranked number one in Pro D2, this proves that the planets are aligning, this can promise us a bright future. Like many other sectors, economically, it can only rely on young people. Because to go and buy players, unless there is clever recruitment… Our priority for the coming months is therefore to re-sign our best players, some of whom are in demand by the Top 14. Some are intelligent enough to understand that' #39;it is better to learn in a Pro D2 club by playing every Friday. If the players who leave our center do not play in Béziers… 

Poor Christophe Dominici was the first victim, that's a certainty

Looking back, how did you experience the true-false takeover of the club by the Emiratis during the 2020 offseason ?

The most difficult thing, unfortunately, was that despite the evidence we provided, many people firmly believed that this takeover was real, even though we knew that the project did not exist. It was a cloud of smoke, with people who didn't have the means. Poor Christophe Dominici was the first victim, that’s for sure. I hope he didn't end his life because of this episode. The hardest part was that for two years we continued to hear 'if the Emiratis had come…'. Many supporters remained stuck on this issue. Behind, recruiting players was very difficult because they thought that Béziers was a big mess. 

The worst for Béziers is indifference

Again and always the passion…

We are Mediterraneans, everyone is a little hot, everyone wants to dream. But a multi-billionaire doesn't wake up every day who wants to buy a club for reasons X or Y. The worst thing for Béziers is indifference. Maybe that's why from time to time someone invents a story to annoy everyone and shake things up. The history of the club means that… 

Vannes-Béziers, what does this duel at the top inspire in you ?

We know it will be complicated but we have a team capable of doing something everywhere. Ultimately, we are in this place to experience such matches. The players are aware that the entire city is behind them. Our supporters are excessive, noisy, they always ask for more. 

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