x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Roussey's job is on the line

The St. Etienne manager Laurent Roussey faces the axe after his bosses send out a three game ultimatum.

Just imagine: you are manager of a major football club, and your bosses put out a press release telling the world you've three games in which to save your job. That's the sort of vote of confidence nobody wants. Yet that's exactly what the St Etienne manager Laurent Roussey got from his employers this week. Everything was rosy following the French outfit's 3-1 win away to FC Copenhagen in their opening Uefa Cup Group G match a fortnight ago - but defeats since in three consecutive league games have left Roussey in a perilous position.

It gets worse for the manager, though - because his 'on trial' period began with a 3-1 defeat at Marseille on Saturday night. That makes the visit of Rosenborg tonight even more important. No wonder the sports papers are already running polls on who will replace Roussey (the former Lyon boss Alain Perrin is favourite). The focus on tonight's match was always going to be intense because St Etienne are one of France's few clubs with a superb continental pedigree. Fans over the age of 40 across Europe become misty-eyed at the mention of St Etienne's green shirts, Dominique Rocheteau's dashing wing play and memorable fixtures against Liverpool, Bayern Munich and PSV.

The club's rich heritage meant expectations were high when St Etienne finished fifth in Ligue 1 last season to qualify for European competition for the first time in 26 years. Six new players came in, providing Roussey with the squad to compete for honours at home and abroad. And, crucially, the club kept hold of last season's 16-goal top scorer Bafetimbi Gomis, who broke into France's 2008 squad on the eve of the tournament and is one of Ligue 1's most highly-rated strikers.

But last week's trio of defeats - 2-0 at home to newly-promoted neighbours Grenoble, 4-1 to Lorient and then at Marseille - have left the club 17th, just one place above the relegation zone. Fans previously loyal to Roussey, a former player, have started to jeer - although most of the current squad remain behind him. So tonight's they're looking for two wins out of two - and the St Etienne fans will be out in force to show why the Geoffroy-Guichard is nicknamed the 'Cauldron'. Right now, though, it's Roussey who's feeling the heat.

sports@thenational.ae