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By Tony Attwood
From the moment they signed, I had the feeling that Gilles Grimandi and Rémi Garde were not just signed as players by Mr Wenger, but as future employees of the club. Until now it has seemed that I was only right over Gilles Grimandi, but with the news that Rémi Garde has become manager of Olympique Lyonnais I am suddenly reminded of earlier thoughts. If Remi brings the good times back to Lyon he could well be back with us in three or four years.
Rémi Garde was born on April 3, 1966 in L’Arbresle in France, and started his footballing with Lyon in 1982, when they were a league 2 side. He became captain, was a part of the promotion winning side and in 1990 played for France getting the first of six caps. In 1993 he joined Strasbourg before coming to Arsenal in 1996 – joining while Mr Wenger was still at Grampus Eight.
He joined Arsenal on the same day as one Patrick Vieira and played most of his 31 games as a backup to Vieira or Petit. He got a league winners’ medal for the1997/8 season but was limited by a knee injury, which forced his retirement at the end of the 1998/9 season.
Rémi Garde then started to appear on French TV – sometimes alongside Arsene Wenger before returning to Lyon as coach in 2003. He was part of the title winning team that worked under Paul Le Guen, Gérard Houllier and Alain Perrin. He moved upwards to become director of the club’s training centre finally becoming the club’s manager on my birthday (although I doubt that he knew it!!!) – 22nd June 2011, replacing Claude Puel.
It is, I believe, important to understand the significance of Lyon in French football, if one is to understand the importance of the appointment of Garde to the manager’s position yesterday.
Although the club was formed at the end of the 19th century, the modern club didn’t really come into being until 1950, and didn’t win the league until 2002. But then it won the league seven times in a row! They have played in the Champions League 11 times, reaching the semi-finals last season, and they are currently building a new stadium which will be open in 2013. Such is their measure of their recently acquired importance that they were members of the G14, when that group represented the top clubs in Europe.
Despite the recency of their success Olympique Lyonnais is very popular throughout France, second only to Marseille. They are also the biggest earners in French football. In an interesting link with Arsenal Olympique Lyonnais also has a successful women’s team which has won their league seven times and was UEFA Women’s Champions League in 2011.
But there’s always a down side, and after the seven in a row achievement came Puel, during whose reign Lyon have won nothing. The last trophy was under Alain Perrin, who gained the double in 2007/8.
I’ll try and stay in touch with Lyon under Garde this season on Untold Arsenal.