Boss Soubeyrand brings star quality to Paris FC revival

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The player-turned-manager helped rattle in the goals for the club in their second incarnation – now she’s leading the rejuvenated Blues’ bid for Europe, writes Martin Whiteley.

When Paris FC were on the hunt for a new manager in 2018, they turned to a familiar face in Sandrine Soubeyrand to revive their fortunes.

It looks to have been a shrewd move as the former midfielder was rewarded with a contract extension until 2024 last season for cutting the significant points gap between themselves and the Division 1 Feminine European football contenders. 

Now they are currently flying high in third place behind leaders Lyon and PSG only on goal difference after a 3-0 win over Reims at the weekend – their third straight victory of the season. But their next match will show them how far they still have to go to return to the very top as they face their city rivals following the international break on Sunday, September 26th.

The club that began life in 1971 as Etoile Sportive de Juvisy-sur-Orge, the women’s football section of local club ES Juvisy, has had its fair share of ups and downs. After a 14-year association, the team broke away to form their own club, Football Club Feminin Juvisy Essonne, located in the commune of Viry-Chatillon.

FCF Juvisy went on to claim six league titles between 1992 and 2006 and are still joint second in total championships behind Lyon on 14, with VGA Saint-Maur the other side to top the league half a dozen times during their dominant period from 1983-1990.  

The final two titles for FCF Juvisy allowed them to sample play in the UEFA Women’s Cup which had begun play in 2001, but they failed to get out of their qualifying group on either occasion.

Further European opportunities arose after a second-place league finish in 2010, and they made it through to the quarter-finals where they lost out to Turbine Potsdam. Two years later, FCF Juvisy went one step further before finding Lyon too hot to handle.

With only two European spots available at the time, FCF Juvisy became the side that just missed out in the next three seasons. Worse was to follow for them as they continued to slip down the pecking order.

In 2017, it was announced that Paris FC had acquired the rights to FCF Juvisy, sparking optimism that a return to the glory days could be on the cards.

They finished fourth in the first season under their new name, but the next campaign started ominously with coach Pascal Gouzenes relieved of his duties after managing only one win from their opening five league games. 

With this new venture hurtling spectacularly in the wrong direction, the club treated fans to a blast from the past in a bid to turn things around. On October 4th, 2018, record French international caps holder Soubeyrand was named as their new boss on an initial two-and-a-half-year deal.  

Soubeyrand represented FCF Juvisy from 2000-2014, scoring 43 goals in 288 matches, and was just the type of person the club felt could lead them into the future. She possessed a wealth of knowledge from her long and distinguished playing career as well as a four-year stint in charge of the French Women’s Under-17 side.

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Although Paris FC slipped a place in the 2018/19 standings compared to the previous campaign, the difference in points between them and third-placed Montpellier was cut to just seven from 23. 

After play in the 2019-20 season had been halted due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Soubeyrand finally got to oversee her first full campaign with the club last term. 

A run of six wins in their final eight games saw Paris FC claim fourth place, finishing seven points behind Bordeaux and resulting in the manager being handed a new deal.

The playing personnel that ended the previous campaign remains largely unchanged so the continuity gained from last season will hopefully be maintained this time around.

Ouleymata Sarr was the one big addition, and she will be looking to get her career going again after only playing three games last year for Bordeaux due to injury. The attacker signed a two-year contract with the side from the capital.

Providing she can stay off the treatment table and on the pitch, the acquisition of Sarr could turn out to be one of the shrewdest buys of the summer. Technically astute with both feet, agile, and with an eye for goal, the forward has all the attributes needed to be a gamechanger for Paris FC.

In the past, FCF Juvisy were able to recruit quality players like Kadidiatou Diani, now at PSG, and on-loan Lyon goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi. If Paris FC wants to follow in their footsteps, then that is the standard of personnel that will need to be acquired.

In the short term at least, the goal of returning to Europe is in their sights if their current league placing can be maintained come June.

Follow Martin on Twitter @673martin

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