Faubert: 'The role of the chairman is to stay behind his manager'
Ahead of a vital relegation game against Wigan, Julien Faubert tells Simon Hart why West Ham's poor season is not Zola's fault
Saturday 24 April 2010
Upton Park will be tingling with noise and nerves when relegation-threatened West Ham United step out to face Wigan Athletic this afternoon but that pressure-cooker atmosphere seemed a world away at the club's Chadwell Heath training ground yesterday lunchtime.
Indeed, sitting on a bench in the spring sunshine, Julien Faubert – the Hammers' French full-back – was even able to joke about an altogether different Call of Duty: in this case, the video game he plays to wind down after training.
"I play with some players here, especially Manuel da Costa," he said. "We go to our homes, we have our headphones on and talk to each other, and we play maybe all afternoon. It is good to relax. My wife doesn't like it too much but she understands we have to let the pressure out."
Pressure is an oft-used word for a West Ham outfit entering the season's third-last round of matches with a three-point advantage over 18th-placed Hull City. Faubert, whose form has been of the pluses of a difficult campaign for Gianfranco Zola, is confident the east London side can get out of it, provided they beat Wigan.
"We have to win tomorrow, no excuses. There is no other thing, no draw, nothing," said the 26-year-old who believes "four more points" should be enough. "We are at home against Wigan, we have two big games after that, against Fulham away and then Man City, so we have to win. It depends on Hull's results but if they lose and we win tomorrow we have a big chance to stay up."
Faubert may appear relaxed now but that will change when he crosses that white line. "I don't want to be a player who is relegated. If we go down, people will say, 'Julien Faubert, he went down with this team'. That is why we have to fight tomorrow."
It is fair to say Faubert has never cared as much. The Frenchman's third season in East London after arriving from Bordeaux has proved easily the most productive. Injured for much of 2007-08 after rupturing his achilles in pre-season, he spent the second half of 2008-09 loaned to Real Madrid.
Since returning from Spain, however, Faubert – signed as a midfielder – has been a revelation in a right-back role he had only previously filled during one of three seasons at Bordeaux.
Key to his form, he explained, was the week spent at a summer fitness camp in Merano in the Italian Alps. "After one week, I lost six kilos. [It was] running and a special diet so I didn't eat too much – no oil, no sauce, no salt.
"That is why I have played every game this season. I was a little bit overweight last season, I have to accept this. But now when I am on the pitch I can run all game and I feel better because I lost some weight. I will go back one week before pre-season this summer."
For Faubert, it seems the penny dropped during his loan stint at Madrid, where he made just two substitute appearances. His move from the Boleyn Ground to the Bernabeu raised eyebrows and it was an opportunity he failed to take. "I learned if you want to play in a big team you have to work hard and be fit. I don't think I was really fit to go over there."
Yet he does not regret the "good human experience" he found at the "biggest club in the world". He said: "I know Lassana Diarra and he helped me a lot. You have pressure everywhere – when you go in a restaurant with your family, when you start training and the press are there."
A YouTube clip of him with his eyes shut on the bench during a game against Villarreal did not help his cause, but Faubert was "disappointed" by criticism he received from the French press at the time. He fast won over his manager on returning to West Ham, however, replacing Lucas Neill and prompting the fans to reprise the old "Julian" chant once reserved for Julian Dicks.
Zola said: "He has been a player we've relied on. Last year he was not the same player he is this year. He has done well for us. Last season's experience made him realise he had a big opportunity. He worked hard before the pre-season and when he got here, he was good."
Faubert, who struck his first Premier League goal in the February "six-pointer" against Hull, underlined his impact by delivering the wicked right-wing cross that set up Ilan's spectacular late equaliser at Everton on Easter Sunday.
It was West Ham's first point since beating Hull and arrested a run of six defeats. "For me, it was like a goal, a very good feeling. If we'd lost at Everton we were in trouble. But I have to do more crosses now, the new generation of right-backs play forward."
That display was a show of defiance from West Ham's squad, coming shortly after co-owner David Sullivan had responded to a home defeat by Wolverhampton Wanderers with an long, emotional apology to fans on the club's website, criticising the efforts of Zola and his charges.
"The players want to stay in the Premiership and we have to stay behind the manager and stay together," said Faubert. "We are in the same bad position all together. It is not good for the team or the club to talk like this. I can understand the chairman is disappointed about the position and the team but the role of the chairman is to stay behind his manager and the players.
"We train well with Zola, we have not had the results but we have a quality team. Maybe we made too many personal mistakes. I can't explain it – if I could we wouldn't be in this position. But with the quality of player we have, we have to stay in the Premiership, we have England players and other players in their national teams who are going to the World Cup."
Besides West Ham's struggles, Faubert has also had to cope with his mother Elisabeth's death in January after suffering a brain tumour. Less than 48 hours later, he played in the goalless home draw with Blackburn Rovers. "I lost my mum and it is very hard. Growing up, I just lived with my mum, I didn't know my father. My mum was proud of me, she told me before she went, 'Keep going, keep playing football, you have your wife and your son and don't think about the bad things'. So that's why I keep going for her as well."
A Muslim convert with "Allah" tattooed on to his arm, he has found comfort in his faith and also his family. His wife Pamela is expecting their second child and he said: "I don't know my father so I'm very happy when I'm with my son [Noam]."
And he is also looking forward to meeting an old friend from his own boyhood in Le Havre at the Boleyn Ground today – namely Charles N'Zogbia, Wigan's own Frenchman. "We come from the same city and I played with his brother, Aimé, in my boys' team, Frileuse. He is a very good player, very dangerous. I hope he is not dangerous against us."
Julien Faubert, Right-Back
Julien Faubert has scored just once in 64 games for West Ham since joining from Bordeaux in 2007 – against Hull in a 3-0 win in February
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