ONE TO WATCH: Kevin Bérigaud

Kevin Bérigaud has added some much needed joy to Evian fans’ lives this season – and the striker may well find himself on some big manager’s wish-lists if he keeps up his blistering start to the campaign.

Kevin Bérigaud

Born: Thonon-les-Bains

Nationality: French

Club: Evian Thon Gaillard F.C.

Appearances: 152

Goals: 45

Evian TG fans endured a tough campaign for their club last season.  Struggling to make the grade in Ligue 1, the club sacked their coach Pablo Correa in September, and were many people’s favourites for relegation.

New manager Pascal Dupraz turned things around, to a degree, taking the team from 18th to 16th in the table.  No great shake, admittedly, however the task was a big one and survival was the most important thing.

However, the summer saw no end to the disappointment, as top scorer and fan-favourite Saber Khalifa eventually found his way to Marseille, and the club struggled to find a replacement of quality.

The new season may not have looked bright, even for the ever-optimistic Les Roses fans, and it started with a whimper.  A 1-1 draw at home against Sochaux followed by a 2-0 loss to highly-rated Marseille.

Enter Kevin Bérigaud.  The Thonon-les-Bains born striker began his career at Servette, just a short trip over the Alps away from his hometown club.  Evian brought him home in 2006 and he has grown as a player in the intervening years.

Match week 3 of the new Ligue 1 season saw him notch a goal in the loss to Rennes; however it was only the start for Bérigaud.  A week later, against much fancied Lyon, he struck two stunning goals to give the home fans something to shout about at last.  His delight was plain to see, and in truth he could have had a hat-trick with a little more luck.

The 25 year old looked fresh and full of energy, and his teammates responded to his call to arms.  The incredibly well organised defence of AC Ajaccio was torn apart in the clubs next game, away at the Stade Francois Coty.  Bérigaud scored the 2nd and 3rd goals of the game as his team raced into a 0-3 lead.  His first coming from a tremendous back-heel by Daniel Wass, finished with his right foot, and his second latching onto another through-ball, and burying it in the home goal with his left.

His 5 goals in 3 games burst came as a surprise to those fans expecting a lacklustre attack this term, but Bérigaud is no surprise to his coach at Evian.  Pascal Dupraz said last year that the player has “the potential to become one of the best French attackers,” and while he has only shown brief glimpses of this in the past, it appears he is reaching a peek early this season.

Bérigaud has added his 6th of the season against Bordeaux to the tally now, and his talents cannot be in doubt.  He is strong on the ball and, while not the faster player in the league, he is excellent technically, and makes the kind of runs that great centre-forwards love – always finding himself in the right place at the right moment to carve out a chance.

The local boy scored a fabulous volley against Rennes last season and drew more praise from his coach – “This proves that our Savoyard attacker has talent.”  The loyal fans of Evian know this all too well, and are delighted to have a local hero as the teams’ figurehead.

He had made 152 appearances for the club, scoring 45 goals before this current season, and that ratio will only get better as the year goes on.  The player has seen his side through 2 seasons in Ligue 2, and helped them gain promotion, although he has had his troubles with injury too.

A problem with his vertebra forced him to play through pain for a whole season, and allowed no continuity in his appearances, often ruling him out of crucial games.  Eventually he succumbed, and was out for four long months; however Bérigaud is not the sort of player to shy away from adversity.

He returned to the Evian team in February that year, and announced his arrival with a fine brace against Nancy.  He went on to notch 4 more goals for the season and more importantly managed an extended run in the team without a recurrence of the injury.

A disappointing return last year does not tell the full story – the club struggled, and Khalifa became the focus of much of the attack.  Bérigaud was instrumental in the team’s run to the Coupe de France final – scoring three times in games against France Vertou and Le Havre to help the team on its way.

It may just be that the disappointment of that final loss to PSG last term has lit the fire under Bérigaud that sees him currently burning bright in Ligue 1.  If he can continue to put away his chances, and work as hard as he does in every game, then it can only be a matter of time before the big clubs, and perhaps national team coach Didier Deschamps come looking for the Savoyard boy.

Andrew Davidson

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