AS Saint-Etienne coach Christophe Galtier aims to stay "realistic and humble" after Les Verts hit the Ligue 1 summit on Saturday for the first time in 28 years.
A 3-0 home win against Montpellier Hérault SC, coupled with a goalless draw for previous leaders Toulouse FC, enabled the Rhone club to climb two places to top spot on goals scored. That they are in that position is in no small part down to the form of 23-year-old striker Dimitri Payet, who took his tally for the campaign to six in as many games with two goals – including a perfectly-placed free-kick – at the weekend.
Amid the euphoria at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Galtier is doing his utmost to play down St-Etienne's lofty status. He sees difficult times ahead for a team which finished a place above relegation in each of the last two seasons. "We have 13 points now; it's a good start," said an understated Galtier. "It's going fine for us, we're enjoying it; but we'll stay realistic and humble.
There is no real satisfaction for me so far, except for how happy our fans might be."
Keeping tabs on the uncapped Payet at the sold out 'Cauldron' was France coach and former St-Etienne defender Laurent Blanc. He was in good company, with many of the players who helped the ten-time French title winners reach the 1975/76 European Champion Clubs' Cup final, which they lost to FC Bayern München, also in attendance to support the stadium's bid to be a UEFA EURO 2016 venue.
The last time the supporters witnessed their club set the pace was on 20 February 1982 after a St-Etienne team, led by Michel Platini, won 1-0 at arch-rivals Olympique Lyonnais. A trip to the Stade de Gerland to play Lyon is next on the Ligue 1 agenda for Les Verts after Wednesday's League Cup tie at home to OGC Nice. Having ended one long wait, few would bet against St-Etienne registering their first win in the derby du Rhone et de la Loire since 6 April 1994.
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