Saint Etienne Ligue 1 2015 – 2016: Could they Slip into the Top Three?
For Saint Etienne Ligue 1 2015 – 2016 play has got off to a slow start, losing their first match 1-2 at Toulouse, and settling for a 1-1 draw against Bordeaux in their first game at home. But following a strong run in 2014 – 2015, could Saint Etienne surprise us all this year with a push toward the top three?
Needless to say, fans in the Saint Etienne home shirt 2015 – 2016 would love to believe that their football club might have a chance at a title run this year. The Greens remain the most decorated soccer team in Ligue 1 history, having won the national French football championship title on 10 occasions. The next most successful club, Olympique Marseille, have only won nine.
A Long Title Draught
Unlike Olympique Marseille, though—who won their most recent Ligue 1 trophy in 2010—Saint Etienne have now spent decades languishing in a long title draught. Indeed, the Greens haven’t been able to claim victory in the French top flight since 1981. In fact, when Saint Etienne won their last title, Olympique Marseille had only won the league four times, and clubs such as Lyon (the winners in consecutive years from 2002 to 2008) and Paris Saint Germain (who have won the last three straight Ligue 1 seasons) had never won.
A lot of things have changed in French soccer since the Greens added a 10th title to their trophy case. Can they still return to prominence in the Ligue 1? Or has their status as France’s finest soccer club completely drifted away in the years since that 1980 – 1981 season.
The 1982 Scandal and Aftermath
Much of Saint Etienne’s status and respect in the French football community disintegrated in 1982, when a series of scandals took the focus off the game and placed it on other matters. A financial scandal got the club in trouble—and actually got club president Roger Rocher arrested—while the discovery of false passports for a number of players only damned the Greens further.
The scandals killed Saint Etienne’s momentum and saw the team drop from a second place finish in the 1981 – 1982 season, to a 14th place slot in 1982 – 1983. By 1984, the Greens had fallen all the way to 18th place—dipping into the red zone and suffering relegation to the second division, despite having won the top-flight just three years previous.
Saint Etienne spent two seasons in the second division, scoring a top position in the 1985 – 1986 campaign to earn promotion back into Ligue 1. But the damage had been done, and the Greens would never be the same football club again. A 16th place finish in 1987 suggested that the team’s days as a French football powerhouse were over, and while a fourth place resurgence the next season gave fans hope, the Greens would ultimately spend most of the next decade languishing in the middle of the pack. By 1996, they had been relegated again.
A Modern Renaissance
In recent years, Saint Etienne have begun to show promise once more. They climbed from a 10th place finish in 2011, to a seventh place berth in 2012, to a fifth place slot in 2013, all the way up to fourth in 2014. Last season, the Greens held a spot in the top five for the third year running, managing a record of 19 wins, 12 draws, and just seven losses.
Saint Etienne also put their star scorer in the top five for the entire league last season: Max-Alain Gradel, who netted 17 goals in 31 league appearances. Unfortunately, Gradel won’t be back to wear the Saint Etienne home shirt 2015 – 2016, after transferring to Bournemouth. As a result, the Greens’ success this season might just depend on their incoming forwards: transfers Nolan Roux and Neal Maupay, and loans Jean-Christophe Bahebeck and Valentin Eysseric.
What do you think? Can Saint Etienne manage a top three finish in the 2015 – 2016 Ligue 1, or is the departure of Max-Alain Gradel just the latest turn of bad luck for the embattled soccer club? Follow Soccer Box on social media to share your thoughts and keep up with the latest French football action! You can find us on Facebook, Pinterest, and Google +.