French update: The journey so far

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Transfer deadline days are always interesting, for the fan at least. For the player they are often a mixture of emotions, fear, anxiety, elation or excitement. Agents tell players to carry their passports at all times, it is this uncertainty that surrounds the player and club fortunes that creates the excitement for the fans.

This window was no different for me, resulting in me signing on loan for Olympique Marseille. For this reason, each of the emotions aforementioned were obviously amplified.

For the number of top players England has produced over the years, few have gone to play abroad. I understand there are obvious variables, which have prevented this, nowadays the money in England is great, the fans are passionate and the standard is up there with the best.

Succeeding in Europe

However, when you actually make the step yourself and head across into another country you begin to understand the safety net that England offers. In my opinion the real reason why many players do not turn their hand to play on foreign soil is a fear of the unknown. It is something I always wanted to do, even as a kid, to test myself in Europe. Whether I succeed or fail I will be able to look back at my career and at least know I tried.

After experiencing this myself, my admiration for the players that have embraced the adventure has grown. Before you join any new club there is also that worry as you head into the dressing room, you know that worry from when you were a kid and signed for a new Sunday team. It is a nervousness, it is raw, there is a desire to fit in and be accepted. Particularly when you are different, being English and on the back of a much-publicised incident, you couldn’t blame the players for pre-judging.

Admiration

This nervousness was put to bed by my new teammates, I’ve already made some great friends amongst the players and staff at the club. You cannot help but undergo some self-reflection, these guys have a decent grasp of our language, listening to Gignac, Valbuena and me talk in broken English after the PSG game must have been quite the sight. However, it is this compassion for your teammates, which I most admire and appreciate.

I have played with plenty of foreign players who have come to England to ply their trade in the past. I’ve been ignorant to the test they’ve faced and continually do so. A new club is tough at the best of times, but a new country, language and coming to the strongest league in the world to learn your trade? There is no wonder why the Henry’s, Ronaldo’s and many others take a season before we see their best football.

Learning the language

I am in the process of undertaking French lessons; the club placed unlimited French lessons into my contract so I am taking full advantage of that. I wish I would have concentrated more in school as this process would have been much easier but C’est La Vie. Speaking another language is something our culture generally ignores, other countries embrace it more readily. It’s something I’ll certainly be drumming into my young lad, as you never know when you will need it. My goal is to be fluent by the end of the season and I would like to think I’ll be attempting press conferences in French after Christmas.

The fans on the continent are something special. I witnessed my first le Classico two weeks ago. The noise from the Velodrome was unnerving, I sat in the stand with the fans to get a feel for the atmosphere and it was truly an experience I will never forget. I have been out to meet many of the supporters groups associated with Marseille, these groups are more like families with a real sense of community. The groups contain men, women and children all with one common aim of supporting their football club in every way.

Training has been testing, of course, I have undergone my own pre-season with my own fitness coach and I am feeling in great condition. There is a real level of professionalism at the club and I am told across France too.

The players and staff eat together; there is a close relationship between them, from the OMTV (Marseille TV) who are based at the ground, right through to the head coach of the club. My French teacher explained to me that nothing is above and beyond the call of duty, we are all on the same team, to ensure this club wins football matches.

Droit au But.

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19 comments
matlefevre
matlefevre

Hi Joey! Always a pleasure to read you. I'm studying sports journalism in Paris and in one of my classes, we had the opportunity to choose a sportsman to follow this year. I chose you and wanted to know if it was possible to contact you personally for a few questions and I'll explain in detail the purpose of my class. Allez l'OM! @matlefevre 

Hammerfishman
Hammerfishman

well done joey , i know people in england have critised you alot but your a top bloke , everyone makes mistakes , i hope everything goes great at O.M  i love reading your blog it offers a different view, great seeing a englishman take different cultures in and tackling somthing , hopfuly you staart a trend , good luck for the rest of the season

Jordantownend
Jordantownend

Very interesting article joey ! Happy to see, thanks to twitter and this blog, that you're not the person that the (french) media described. The fact that you always want to discover new things is really great ! Do you think language is one of the reason why english players dont play on the continent ? What's the main difference between a french club and a english club ? Regards, Jordan

ge221
ge221

Hi Joey, enjoyed the read, again. Refreshing to see how a footballer can connect so well with fans. Interesting point you make about French football having a more family-inclusive element through supporter groups. I totally agree, but would also add that football in France is so much more inclusive due to prices. I live in Paris, and to watch PSG with their array of talent, it's never more than 20 euros for the cheap seats. I even got to see a France friendly for 8 euros.

In England, I couldn't see Carlisle United for 15 quid. By the time you factor in train travel, a bit of food, a programme, etc the prices in England are totally prohibitive, and at a pretty poor level of football too. The one thing I really don't like about football grounds in France, is the presence of smokers everywhere. It's not banned in the ground and it's not pleasant. Anyway thanks again for the comment, and I hope you're playing in Paris on feb 23rd in Le Classique! Good luck with the French too, the more you speak, the easier it becomes - and people don't mind errors, they appreciate the trying!

arris482
arris482

Do you think as English is the universal language that players from England are a bit naive? Personally i dont think languages are pushed enough in schools as small percentages of the population move abroad so learning a new language isn't a necessity. How do you find communicating on a football pitch with a crowd as loud as L'OM? Must be hard.

damo45
damo45

interesting article, nice to see an englishman taking our league seriously for once^^, a blog in french might be too soon but I think you should try a tweet now and again in french. The fans would apreciate as many don't speak english and it's a pity 'cause you do tweet about marseille often

john87
john87

You were a cracking player at Man.City, that goal against Charlton at COMs was one of the best I've seen

megvic
megvic

I think you should aim to write you next blog in French:)

 

I think the chance you have to live in a different country and absorb another culture is fantastic.  

 

What is the French music scene like? :)

 

Joey B
Joey B

 @matlefevre  Hey Matt, e mail here ( hello@joeybarton.com ) I have something that may interest you and aid your course. JB

Joey B
Joey B

 @arris482 I think not just players but people, when I have met people in business or even socially of other nationalities they tend to have a decent grasp of English. The way business is going these days it seems that Mandarin is the one to learn??!! I have found it tough at times on the pitch, if you ask any player that has played with me they will tell you how vocal I am on the field and I have not been able to be as commandeering with the language barrier. However, saying that, the Velodrome can be that loud that you cannot hear each other anyway! 

Joey B
Joey B

 @damo45 Yeah I agree, and I will take the tweet on board, maybe get one out in the next week or so!

Joey B
Joey B

 @john87 Yeah I remember that one, goals are something I have missed in the last couple of years, one big criticism I have of myself is that I do not score enough goals...

Joey B
Joey B

 @megvic I don't think my French is up to a blog yet but I will ask my French teacher and she might help me.

 

Not sure on the music scene yet if I am honest, tend to have a CD on in the car so maybe I will go with the radio tomorrow! JB

arris482
arris482

@Joey B do you think it affects how you play if you can't shout to other players on a pitch. Or do you fine you play better trying to show how good you are. You don't seem to see many modern English players go abroad or the few that have just can't adapt. Seems Michael Owen is my prime example. He had world at his feet at Liverpool then after his move his career has gone downhill and was never the same player. How do the standards compare from English to French leagues?

megvic
megvic

 @Joey B Great will be interesting..I wonder how long you will leave the radio on for before going back to the CD? :))

 

Are you going to Glastonbury next year? I was lucky enough to get a ticket, can't wait!

Went to Benicassim this year as there was no Glastonbury..The Stone Roses were amazing!

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