Nottingham Forest exclusive: Sabri Lamouchi discusses management, his philosophy and expectations

His forename means patient in Arabic - and Nottingham Forest manager Sabri Lamouchi is hoping his new club will give him the time to build a team capable of reaching the Premier League.

"The last five years, they have changed 11 managers here," Lamouchi explained to Sporting Life.

"The last one to do a full season it was close to ten years ago.

"I just want to make one season, one full season, and we will see where we finish. It just needs stability. I am not a magician. I am just a manager."

Lamouchi wants something which we might once have called ordinary: at least a season before anyone rushes to judge his side. And yet, his path from the middle of France to the middle of England has been anything but.

The former France midfielder boasts a World Cup finals appearance alongside Europa League qualification on his eclectic management CV, with both achieved just six years into what's still a burgeoning career in the dugout.

Now, he hopes to be the first man to successfully guide Forest back to the Premier League since they were relegated in 1999. Many have tried, all have failed, but Lamouchi has finally made the Forest faithful believe following a solid start to the 2019/20 campaign.

Sabri Lamouchi watches Nottingham Forest beat Stoke
Sabri Lamouchi watches Nottingham Forest beat Stoke

His playing career took him around Europe's top leagues. Starting as a youngster at Olympique Alès in his native France, he climbed the domestic ladder to Auxerre and Monaco, before wearing the shirts of Parma and Inter in Serie A.

While others in those dressing rooms would struggle to look beyond the next 90 minutes, Lamouchi was already looking beyond the next game to the next phase of his career, realising early on that he wanted one day to become a manager.

"It was from the beginning," he explained, when asked when the bug had caught him.

"I remember when I signed professionally in 1991, I felt it immediately. I remember many coaches, they feel the same. I was so curious about the job. I took my time and it was a different way."

While many start at club level - Lamouchi dove in at the deep end. He took the reins at the Ivory Coast in 2012, a country who had only tasted their first World Cup six years earlier when they featured in Germany.

Under his control, they lost just three of their 21 games in the build-up to the 2014 World Cup. Twelve of those games ended in victory as Lamouchi helped to establish then as the dominant African nation heading to South America.

Typically, Lamouchi deflects praise onto those on the pitch and away from the man who had masterminded their every move.

"I started with the best African team with some fantastic players like Yaya Toure and Didier Drogba, it was an amazing experience, the World Cup in Brazil," he confessed, despite a group-stage exit.

Sabri Lamouchi with Didier Drogba during Ivory Coast's win over Japan at the 2014 World Cup
Sabri Lamouchi with Didier Drogba during Ivory Coast's win over Japan at the 2014 World Cup

"After that, without any calls from France, any offers or any meetings, I said no three times but I said yes to going to Qatar," he continued.

"We (El Jaish) played five national finals in six years, we won just one but we played in the semi-finals of the Asian Champions League - that was also a good experience.

"It was completely different to Africa. After I signed in Rennes, where the goal was to save the club, we finished in the Europa League."

That ability to adapt is key, he feels, in a manager's capability to succeed in different environments.

England is Lamouchi's fourth country in a seven-year managerial career. A return to France followed that time in Qatar, before the call from Nottingham Forest was enough to tempt him into another move.

"Football is like this. You are where you are, sometimes you need to travel and you need to go to another country.

"To play football, it is exactly the same in Africa, in the Middle East, in France or in England. You need to adapt yourself to the culture, the passion, the rhythm.

"You need to make the context around the club, around the league, around the players and to take the right decision."

Arrigo Sacchi hands out instructions to his Parma players
Arrigo Sacchi hands out instructions to his Parma players

As a player, Lamouchi's impressive four-year spell at Auxerre saw Monaco sign him in the summer of 1998 and after helping them to the Ligue 1 title, Parma made the move to bring the midfielder to Serie A.

Lamouchi played 90 times for Parma before switching to Inter and then Genoa. That time at his first Italian club though proved key in his understanding of what was required of a top-level player, more so than being capped internationally.

"The France coach (Aimé Jacquet) of course," Lamouchi said of those coaches who have influenced him. "But the number one was Arrigo Sacchi - he was very important for me just to work a few times with him.

"To play for five years in Italy, it changed my life. Before, in France, I was playing just to enjoy but when I signed for the first year in Italy, it was a job.

"It became a real job. With the small details, you cannot miss something because it is your job and you cannot just enjoy, you must do your job with passion but with big determination.

"After that, I just wanted to be myself as a manager. The best way for me is like this.

"Of course, I am not the same as seven years ago when I started and for sure I will be totally different after seven years."

Sabri Lamouchi in conversation with Joe Lolley
Sabri Lamouchi in conversation with Joe Lolley

Lamouchi strikes a professional character. A manager fully focused on the task in hand; but one who doesn't completely remove themselves from the group.

The collective is key, in Lamouchi's opinion, to achieving success. While some maintain a distance, the Forest boss looks to draw his players closer and bring them on the same journey.

It's a core element of his philosophy - one in which Lamouchi places on par with his playing style.

"It's very simple," he stated. "In Africa, in the Middle East, In France and here - just to try and bring the player with you.

"With the kind of players you have, to adapt to a good system and to bring them into simple football.

"But the football, it's a collective sport and you can not enjoy it alone. You need to work together to fight, together to run, but each one needs to know what to do without the ball and when he has the ball.

"My role is to bring the maximum from each one for the team because together we are more stronger."

Sabri Lamouchi with the Sky Bet Championship Manager of the Month award for September
Sabri Lamouchi with the Sky Bet Championship Manager of the Month award for September

Despite the backdrop of Nottingham Forest's second European trophy, earned after victory over Hamburg in 1980, Lamouchi remains fully focused on the future with a club so rich with success in the past.

"I want the same as all the people," he claimed.

"The past is the past, I can live with the past but I need to think about now and just now. We will see. We will see but of course it is not an easy job."

Lamouchi will know the name Billy Davies. He was the last man to enjoy a full 46-game season at the helm of the City Ground.

That came in the 2011, where a play-off appearance wasn't enough to grant him another year.

Since then, it's been a revolving door; a mixture of the tried-and-tested alongside unknown gambles. Neither has proved to be a winning formula in their pursuit of the promised land.

The latest name in the dugout understands the need for time, and his start to the current campaign has only strengthened the possibility of an extended period at the club.

There's no telling what can happen in the future, Lamouchi has already identified that, but his life in football means he is likely to remain grounded wherever the path takes him.

"I am so happy, but I am so lucky. I'm a lucky man. I played football in my first life and now I am a manager.

"My life is football so I'm very lucky."


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