Nick Judd talks exclusively to former Swindon Town striker Vincent Pericard about the stresses of life as a professional footballer away from home, his time at the County Ground and how he’s rebuilding his career at Havant & Waterlooville.
Could more be done to help foreign players settle in England, and beyond? One former STFC player believes so…
With so many foreign players coming and going at Swindon this season, the County Ground has resembled something of an airport.
And while the transition to English football has been relatively easy for imports such as top scorer Medhi Kerrouche and, more recently, winger Lander Gabilondo, others have found it more difficult.
Mattia Lanzano, Alberto Comazzi, Allesandro Cibocchi, Lukas Magera and Oliver Risser have all showed signs of promise but have struggled with form or injury problems at some stage following their moves to Wiltshire.
One former Town player who can sympathise with the plight of Town’s foreign legion is striker Vincent Pericard.
Now a long, long time ago...
The Frenchman is trying to rebuild his own career at Havant & Waterlooville following his own disappointing spell at Swindon. His move to the County Ground didn’t work out well and instead it proved the latest in a string of problems that have followed his switch to England from Juventus including numerous injuries, a 10-week stretch in prison and depression. Pericard believes it’s hard for foreign players to adapt to a new country.
“I see young foreign players struggling with loneliness or failing to settle in an alien country, not just England,” he explains. “Some players simply don’t know what’s going on. You know yourself when you’re on holiday you don’t know where anything is, you don’t know the language and you don’t have any resources – you’re open to a series of risks. Imagine living your life like that. And then imagine not being able to do your job because you’re injured and not having any family around to support you.
“There are a lot of potential pitfalls that prevent a player from performing to his maximum. Agents and clubs sometimes don’t do enough to help their new arrivals. It’s not possible for agents to give all of their clients 100 per cent all of their time, but it’s not just the players and agents who lose out, the club and the fans want their players to do well, too.”
I believe I ended up in prison because I made a mistake and because I was badly advised afterwards
“I believe I ended up in prison because I made a mistake and because I was badly advised afterwards,” he continues of his own experiences. “I can’t even begin to explain the consequences of that on and off the pitch. I lost my place in the starting line-up at Stoke and off the field I struggled with a succession of injuries, then depression. Every little piece of good or bad advice can have huge consequences for a footballer.”
Pericard’s journey saw him signed by Danny Wilson in 2010. Unfortunately his injury problems continued and he wasn’t in the right frame of mind to succeed.
“I didn’t feel pressure going to Swindon but circumstances let me down,” he reveals. “I was so desperate to impress I played earlier than I should have done and injury set me back a couple of weeks. I could see and hear fans getting frustrated early on while at the same time Charlie [Austin] and Billy [Paynter] just couldn’t stop scoring. I had no chance!”
Happier Times: Pericard finally grabs a goal for Swindon - from swindontownfc.co.uk
“The manager was never going to change a winning team so I had to bide my time on the bench. There’s nothing wrong with that. The team went to Wembley, which was superb for the club, but for me I never got going and I found that really hard.”
I wanted to work hard, I wanted to sweat and give anything to succeed in that team and achieve success
“It was frustrating,” he continues. “You want to be part of it. You want nothing more than for the fans to say, ‘yep, he was part of the reason we were successful’. You don’t want to be seen getting an easy ride and picking up money without doing anything. For me that’s not what it’s about. I wanted to work hard, I wanted to sweat and give anything to succeed in that team and achieve success.”
“Yet one of the biggest things I struggled with was the fans. They didn’t always know what was going on in my life and in my mind and body. At times I was not right mentally. I would ask the manager if I could sit out because I didn’t feel right in my head.”
Pericard is rueful about his time in Swindon but says he has no regrets. He’s moved on, but now he’s hoping to prevent others from experiencing the lows he endured on and off the field by launching Elite Professional Management, an agency aiming to advise young foreign players and prevent them making mistakes and suffering from things like stress, loneliness and depression.
“Out of 10 players who move abroad, only one of them will go on to succeed straight away,” says Pericard. “Yet football fans don’t see the potential problems of life as a footballer. When players arrive they’re expected to turn up, play and perform miracles. But without support, it’s not always easy. When a player is settled the club sees the best results whether that’s in the Premier League or League Two, but instead of dealing with what might be affecting players, managers sometimes give up on them. They’d rather buy another player. I just want to help players perform to the best of their ability,” says Pericard.
In Swindon’s current squad, Lanzano appears to be out of the picture following the arrival of loan star Wes Foderingham while Alan McCormack’s form in defence means Cibbocchi and Comazzi can’t get a game.
Hopefully we’ll still get to see the best of these players and they’ll have a role to play this season. If not, there’s always one player who knows what they’re going through, and who’s keen to lend an ear.
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