Fresh challenge

Saturday, May 15th, 2021 00:00 |
Troyes’ French forward Alimani Gory (R) celebrates with a teammate after socring during their French Ligue 2 match against Dunkerque on May 8, 2021 at the Aube Stadium in Troyes. Photo/AFP

Three years after relegation from Ligue 1, Troyes have sealed a return to the French top flight under former Marseille midfielder Laurent Batlles and backed by the City Football Group (CFG), the parent company of Manchester City.

Despite last September’s takeover by CFG, majority-owned by Sheikh Mansour’s Abu Dhabi United Group, promotion was not necessarily the overriding objective for a modest club from a region better known for its champagne.

But it was the reward for a successful season for a team that became the 10th in CFG’s global stable, joining the likes of New York City, Melbourne City and Yokohama F. Marinos in Japan.

Troyes spent much of the campaign at the top, last Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Dunkerque clinching the Ligue 2 title a year after the Covid-19 pandemic abruptly halted their promotion push.

While Clermont and Toulouse will battle for the second automatic promotion place, Troyes could beat their previous points record (78) with a win at Le Havre on Saturday.

Troyes have bounced back and forth between the top tier and lower divisions since the 1950s, although the present-day version of the club was founded in 1986 as Association Troyes Aube Champagne.

They reached the top flight under Alain Perrin in 1999 but were relegated in 2003 following his departure for Marseille. Since then, Troyes have returned to the elite four times, only once avoiding going straight back down.

Batlles and co. hope it will be different this time, particularly with the new management structure in place. Interestingly, it was a deal that only arose after talks with another Ligue 2 outfit Nancy fizzled out.

CFG became Troyes’ new majority shareholder after buying the stake from previous owner Daniel Masoni.

“At City Football Group, our objective remains to play beautiful football, identify and develop grassroots talent and have a permanent presence in the world’s football centres,” Ferran Soriano, chief executive of CFG, said at the time.

The 45-year-old Batlles, appointed to his first senior coaching job by Troyes in 2019, has built a side that plays attractive football and relies on a solid core, with no out-and-out star. 

Veteran attacker Yoann Touzghar, 34, has previous Ligue 1 experience with Lens, and is the third highest scorer in the second division this season, while midfielder Florian Tardieu and goalkeeper Gauthier Gallon are other key players. -AFP

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