Wigan Athletic’s 2005/06 capture of Pascal Chimbonda proved to be one of the shrewdest of the season. His efforts in Lancashire earned him a place in the PFA Team of the Year, a maiden international cap and a transfer to Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs were the second of eight English clubs whose dressing rooms Chimbonda graced across nine years before returning to France. In a chat with news.bwin, he touched on the fortunes of his employers of old, as well as outlining who will make Les Bleus tick at Euro 2016 this summer.
PC on Wigan Athletic, promotion to the Championship and what they need to do next year…
When I first arrived in England I had never heard of Wigan Athletic but having played there, it’s a nice, family club and I really enjoyed my time. We had just been promoted to the Premier League, which was great because as a player you always want to play at the top level. I was able to go and enjoy my football and develop as a player too, plus we did very well that year, finishing 10th in our first season.
If the team continues to grow under Gary Caldwell, then who knows how well they can do next year. Having played in the Championship, it’s a very difficult league to compete in because sometimes you win five games in a row and you’re top of the league challenging for promotion and then you lose your next five and you’re right down the bottom – the position swing can be dramatic.
In order for Wigan to compete next year, they’ll have to make the DW Stadium a fortress and win their home games. It’s very difficult to go away in the Championship but you have to make sure that teams fear you when they play away.
PC on his move to Tottenham Hotspur, their title challenge and steps they need to take for next season…
When I went to Spurs I had just come off the back of a World Cup with France and I was enjoying my football. It was a great move for me because Spurs were in Europe, they are a big club and, to be honest, if I was to stay in the French national team, I had to play at a higher level and Tottenham gave me the platform to do this. We finished fifth in my first season, which was a good achievement and I feel my football improved during my time there.
I don’t think Spurs should view this season as a disappointment because when you look back to the start of the year, when they weren’t playing particularly well and Harry Kane wasn’t scoring, they still managed to mount a title challenge and grew in confidence as the season went on.
I think it’s crucial that, with Mauricio Pochettino signing a new contract, there will be continuity in the squad. The most important thing for Spurs is to keep this group of young, hungry players together because this team is on the brink of something special and if they can add one or two more players, perhaps another striker to share Kane’s goalscoring, then they can compete for the title and perform well in the Champions League.
PC on his move to Blackburn Rovers and his thoughts on their season…
When I came to Blackburn I played under Sam Allardyce, who is a very good manager; it was a pleasure to play under him. As you can see with what he’s done at Sunderland, the players gave him everything on the pitch and it was similar when I played for him at Ewood Park.
In my opinion, Rovers are crying out for a manager like Allardyce. They need a robust character who is tactically very good but also shows some grit and determination that players can feed off, especially in the Championship where there’s a lot of passion and hunger to win.
For whatever reason it didn’t work out for Paul Lambert but they need to go back to the type of football we played when I was at the club, giving absolutely everything for the fans. Currently, it’s a relatively new team, with some exciting young players but I think at the moment they’re missing some experienced players to help the youngsters.
PC on his time at Carlisle United…
I really enjoyed my time at Carlisle. It was very difficult having played in the Premier League and Championship to come down a few levels but it was a great experience, with a great crowd which motivated you at every opportunity. The most important thing was to continue to play football and I was able to do so at Carlisle.
It’s very hard to play over 45 games in a season; it’s tough on your body so it’s very difficult to continue playing at a high level across the whole campaign. Playing under Keith Curle was enjoyable and in order for him to progress this group, he will need to bring in some quality young players to compete with the squad.
PC on playing for Doncaster Rovers before moving back to France…
Moving to Doncaster was another great experience for me before I went back to France and, if given the opportunity again, I would still have moved there. Relegation to League Two is difficult to take and it’s understandable that Darren Ferguson wants to bring in six or seven new players to shake up the squad.
As a footballer, you suddenly try even harder when the manager is bringing in a lot of new players, you want to show your worth. For some it will push them out but for me it gives the team more confidence to show that they’re good enough to play. I hope that they can get back up to League One next season and push on again for a return to the Championship.
PC on France, the expectations as the host nation and his expectations…
There will be immense pressure on France because the competition is at home and when you’re playing in your own country, you’re expected to play well and to win. We have a great team with very good players, so they’ll have to perform well and look to win the competition.
When you look at the group on paper, you think that it will be easy for France to progress but we know in football it doesn’t always work like that and one poor result can have a bad effect – look at Brazil at the World Cup. There are no small teams in our group and we have to treat each game as a must-win.
PC on key players for France this summer and his prediction…
We have some fantastic players in this current squad with Paul Pogba the centre of attention. He has to stand up and be counted this summer as one of the stars in Europe. Alongside Pogba, we’ve got a world-class keeper in Hugo Lloris, a very talented centre back in Raphael Varane and some strong attacking players in Dimitri Payet, Olivier Giroud, Andre-Pierre Gignac and Antoine Griezmann.
We have a couple of younger players who can have special tournaments as impact players too; Anthony Martial from Manchester United and Kingsley Coman from Bayern Munich. Both players are very fast and coming off the bench, they can cause defences all sorts of problems.
If I was to predict the final, I think France will play Italy. I hope we can win it all and it would be an incredible achievement for the country.
Key Player: Paul Pogba