The first French coach to win a still-existing European club competition after leading Olympique Lyonnais to the UEFA Women's Champions League last season, Patrice Lair is known for his rousing team-talks and his winning mentality, but behind the iron mask lies a sensitive soul.
A UEFA Women's Cup semi-finalist with Montpellier Hérault SC in 2007, Lair left the female game for spells in Ligue 2 and in Africa, but two years ago he was appointed by Lyon to succeed the long-serving Farid Benstiti. The French club had just lost the UEFA Women's Champions League final on penalties to 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam. However, with totally different methods to his predecessor, Lair's side beat the same club 2-0 at London's Craven Cottage to clinch the title and cap an outstanding first campaign.
"It was the objective and we did it," said Lair. "That was my job and you don't survive at Lyon if you don't do it." On Sunday they face the German champions again at Stade de Gerland, as part of a bid to retain the league title and win back the French Cup. "I can only enjoy football when I win," he told OLTV. "That's why I am here. Otherwise I'm fired."
But Lair has not always been an obsessional match winner whose intense, special look when he speaks to his players before a game is met by immediate silence. "I was a lazy player," the 50-year-old confessed. "I trained once or twice a week. Fortunately coaching called me on Sunday but I didn't do enough to have a decent professional career."
Two broken legs also took their toll as a midfielder at the famous FC Nantes academy in the late 1970. "Some of the players who had their professional career told me I could have done better if I'd trained more but when you're young, you don't care sometimes and prefer partying to training," Lair said. "That's it. That was me.
"I clearly don't want my players to repeat what I failed to do when I was their age. It's the reason why I'm after them, demanding in every detail. It's clear."
To heal the wounds of a career he never had, the former Stade de Reims coach is keen on winning "as many trophies as I can as a coach in the next ten years. At 60 I'll retire, because after that, life can be short."
To those who blame him for this policy of maximum gain he has this answer: "I'm an adventurer, not a mercenary," Lair said. "I need a challenge and I can go anywhere if I feel like it. It is good from a human point of view."
His reaction, every time he speaks about last year's final is further proof of what he says and feels. The often hard-faced coach is almost speechless when remembering those moments, saying: "I kept that inside, but it was a great moment. My best in women's football."
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