Starleague. “For 30 years, we have maintained a fierce rivalry”: Patrice Canayer confides before his last derby at the head of the MHB

Starleague. “For 30 years, we have maintained a fierce rivalry”: Patrice Canayer confides before his last derby at the head of the MHB

“When we play the derby, we must not watch the last matches,” assures Patrice Canayer. Midi Libre – SYLVIE CAMBON

A few hours before leading Montpellier Handball for the last time in a derby against Usam Nîmes, this Sunday March 3 (7 p.m.) at Parnasse, Patrice Canayer presented himself in press conference. 

You have just completed matches against two of the best teams in Europe (Paris then Veszprém), before this derby which is also a high-level match , what state of mind are you in ?

When you come off three defeats, it's not satisfactory when you're in Montpellier. It’s an important match because we need to win in the league. And we need to rediscover the taste of victory. We know that beating Usam in Nîmes is always a delicate exercise but I feel the players are motivated to take up the challenge.

You have had three defeats while Nîmes is doing much better in the championship, the two teams seem to be on opposite curves…hellip;

When you play the derby, you shouldn't watch the last matches. I have seen derbies where the least fit team was the most concentrated. I respect this Nîmes team a lot, it’s a very good team. They are always against us but we are not used to escaping. I have complete confidence in my team. We have just lost, of course, but against top European teams. We are aware that there are things that worked and others less so, but we have worked hard over the last few days to put things back in place. We are going to Nîmes with the desire to find the path to victory.

We are going to approach this derby with determination

Do both teams need to perform well for this kind of match ?

Not necessarily, there are sometimes teams that slip through. Sometimes it gives superb matches, sometimes much less so. In a derby, there is a mental, psychological dimension but it remains a handball match. Technique and tactics also matter. It is necessary to combine all these parameters, commitment, determination, technical mastery and efficiency. It’s difficult to determine what this derby will be. There will be a duel but we must win.

Will it be necessary to raise the cursor, particularly in defense ?

Everywhere… Over our last three matches, our play has been very mixed. It lacks consistency. What is important is that everyone is aware of it and we have the desire to get back to our best level. This was not the case during our last three matches even if it was not catastrophic. We are working for that and we will approach this derby with determination.

Should we emphasize to foreign players in particular what a derby represents ?

Yes, it’s important but the players understand it. When a foreign player arrives in Montpellier, he does not arrive at an average club, he knows the history. It’s part of the culture of our sport. The supporters help a lot with that too. We were able to ask ourselves the question of whether we are not losing this culture. Against Veszprém, we were not aggressive. The Hungarian coach said that when teams come to the FDI Stadium, they expect an atmosphere, they got it but also an intensity on the pitch. And that’s our DNA. It's up to the players to keep it going. We had moved away from it, we are working to find it again. What's better than a derby to find that determination again.

The return of Veron Nacinovic will do you good in defense ?

He brought a lot of defensive intensity to the Champions League. He is one of the senior players who we really missed, especially in the defensive sector. Even if he is not yet at the top, he is already at a level which brings us positive things. The good news is that we have not had any new injuries.

With a lot of injuries, you gave playing time to a lot of young people, is it a quick learning curve for them ?

Yes, but for me, young players, those under 21, fulfill their role perfectly. The difficulties we encounter are not their responsibility. When there are young people, we tend to give up a little. But they are at an excellent level. They know my expectations. The challenge for them is to go the distance. It is rather elsewhere that we must improve. Young people are working to become pro and they have this goal. But when you are a professional in Montpellier you have to go beyond, constantly pushing your limits. And they force others to surpass themselves, they challenge them. But as we have a lot of injured people, we can't challenge too many. If we were complete I might not have put the same team together. I accept the idea that I don’t have much choice. When everyone comes back, it will be different.

Sometimes we went to the limit

For you, born in Nîmes, is it always a special moment ?

It’s always a match… Not because I am from Nîmes but because I am the coach of Montpellier, and more than the others I am aware of the history of Montpellier and the way in which this club develops. is built. And I also know the history of the Nîmes club. We have maintained a fierce rivalry for 30 years, with many very close matches. But I challenge you to find traces of controversy or bad gesture. It shows that we are capable of being in tough, committed rivalry, but of respecting the sporting spirit. I’m very proud of it.

The departure of your deputy David Degouy to Nîmes next year is an example of this…

Yes. It proves that the people who come to work with me also progress. The players are moving forward, so are the coaches. It’s also a source of pride to enable our colleagues to take new steps in their professional progression.

Was the limit sometimes exceeded in derbies ?

Luckily! Sometimes you have to know how to go beyond your limits to know where they are. When you go to the limit, sometimes you can tip over, that's true in terms of coaching, aggressiveness on the part of the players…hellip; It’s always very difficult to find balance. A few times we went to the limit. If you come out of the derby and you don't feel like you've gone to the limit, you haven't played a derby.

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