From Emirati psychodrama to the joy of Storti: how AS Béziers Hérault went from the cellar to the top in four years

From Emirati psychodrama to the joy of Storti: how AS Béziers Hérault went from the cellar to the top in four years

Forward, all! Conquering and ambitious, the ASBH will celebrate its big return to the final stages this season. Midi Libre – SYLVIE CAMBON

Rooted at the top of the Pro D2 with the crazy prospect of a possible return to the Top 14, AS Béziers Hérault rekindled the passion of the supporters and crowned the work of its coach Pierre Caillet.

In Béziers, the light came back on. Bursting with truth, it irradiates the entire city and feeds the frenzied ambition of the players, with literally open hearts, Thursday evening at a press conference, to comment on a success (34-15) against Brive which will make date in the season. "We are becoming a hungry team. We like this top of the table, we want to stay there. There is great strength in this team and we are cultivating it. We remain true to our ambitions. Our goal is to see 18,000 supporters in these stands for the final stages", asserts opener Charly Malié. "We always want more. This season, we have something that the others don't have. We have the rebounds, all the little things. In the group, there are no clans, we are all going in the same direction", adds Portuguese pillar Francisco Fernandes. &amp ;quot;We will have to reckon with Béziers for the next three years", crowns coach Pierre Caillet. 

The wind of disappearance has passed by

If it weren't for the sheer intoxication of success, there would be something moving in seeing "papy" Fernandes, 38 years old, (un)deliver his primary emotions, like a junior escaped onto his wing in a crazy race. Those under thirty, weaned from red and blue epics, will finally be able to nourish their memory with passion and horizon. It's one of the sensations of the year: ASBH is back at the top.

The club was in a catastrophic state, traumatized, torn, there was nothing left.

And to think that four years ago, as the summer of 2020 approached, the mythical Hérault institution was in pieces following the true-false takeover by an Emirati buyer. The immense trainer Raoul Barrière had just died a year earlier and Béziers was certainly eating his black bread in the depths of Pro D2. "When I arrived in 2021, the club was in a catastrophic state, traumatized, torn, there was nothing left. Today he is very healthy. It's impressive how everything has been put back in order in three years", notes Pierre Caillet.

He and his players felt the wind of disappearance up close: "At that time, he continues, if we hadn't had the chance to have players like William Van Bost and all the others, the club would no longer be at the professional level. The day Gabin Lorre played with his small hopeful contract, it would have been financially impossible to find a player with these qualities elsewhere."

Pierre Caillet, the detonator

Money is money, which pushed Mayor Robert Ménard to step up to the plate for the City to become the majority shareholder of the ASBH, a unique case in French professional rugby. But everything remained to be rebuilt, including the unity of the club.

Once again, Pierre Caillet, former third row of ASBH (2005-06 then 2012-2015) passed through the rugby school training center at Les Espoirs,  acted as a detonator. He says: "In terms of professional structures, the club had not evolved for more than ten years. We had the same equipment, the same mantras stuck to the wall, the same video room, nothing had changed, we had regressed.

I managed to retain some players, we are on the right track

Under the leadership of his new mentor, a new synthetic pitch has sprung up from the ground, as well as a state-of-the-art gym, a video space, an office for the staff and, the essential icing on the cake, a training center elected number one in Pro D2.

Thanks to an authoritarian season which today sees Béziers aiming for the Top 14, Pierre Caillet is now cultivating a mantra: building a competitive team over the long term: &quot ;We are practically two weeks away from closing a recruitment which has never been done in Béziers for ten years. I managed to retain certain players (Gabin Lorre extended until 2027), we are on the right track. The team is ready to perform well in Pro D2. The rest…"

To each their own story

The rest is for the moment a fantasy: reaching the Top 14 after nineteen years of purgatory. The road is still long. In the meantime, the great Alain Estève, legendary second line of the seventies, also passed his weapon to the left on November 7, 2023, the twilight symbol of the generation of the century. "It's up to us to continue writing history", Pierre Caillet told his players in order to free them from their inhibitions once and for all .

We know the rest, happy and victorious, driven by an ecstatic motivation at home (10 wins, 1 draw, 1 defeat), in the wake of winger Rafaelle Storti, top scorer in ;#39;championship trials (17).           ;  

There is no magician in rugby

Pierre Caillet, always: "AToday, we need to experience major matches, because in a final phase match, you gain three years of experience. If we move up to the Top 14, we will have a difficult year with young players, but the day we go down, we will be stable. I don't want a team that disintegrates in one year. We're going to say that Pierre Caillet doesn't care about the Top 14, of course not, except that I know rugby. It would be wonderful to go there for the city, but then there is the context…". 

And to conclude, between confession and pirouette: "These last three seasons, dI had moments of doubt, the club too, but they let me work. There's no magician in rugby, sorry. In Béziers, when things were complicated, you could put Eddie Jones in my place, the club would have been in the same state." L&amp ;rsquo;ASBH today rides on the effervescence of a public which has quite simply rediscovered the right to believe in it.

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