Bernard Lacombe : "My dream as a Gone has come true"
"Bernard, you will be celebrated on Sunday during the meeting between OL and Rennes, just over 50 years after your professional debut with OL, a club that has left a deep mark on you. What do you expect?
(He thinks) ... I don't know. I expect a lot but I don't know what. Not all of the young people today have seen me wearing the colors of OL. These are the children and grandchildren of some people who saw me play at first. Sometimes, men who have become dads or grandfathers meet me and tell me “you know, with Fleury (Di Nallo) and Serge (Chiesa), you made us dream so much. When I am told something like that ... (he clears his throat then continues). It seems to me that it is going to be a great and beautiful celebration.
OL represents more than half of your life. Did you imagine spending so much time at OL when you joined in 1968?
Oh no, not at all! I joined the club when I was fifteen. One day, Lucien Genet, Guy’s dad, took me to a tournament. He said to me: “Bernard, you have to prove yourself in these matches. Play as at Fontaines, as you do with us. The rest will come.” I scored three goals and people around started to ask where I was from. I was then playing at CS Fontaines. OL spotted me through Paul and Marcel Haenhlen (editor's note -- then responsible for the amateur section, and present since the founding of the club). So I trained with the club at Chartreux, at Croix-Rousse, on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. These were great times. I remember our journeys in the Coupe Gambardella. We lost once in the semi-finals and then played two finals, one lost to ASSE but the other won in another derby (2-1, with a Lacombe goal). I started as a number ten before moving on to playing as a striker in the CFA where I was promoted.
What are your first childhood memories of OL?
The first time I came to the Gerland was in 1962. I was ten years old. I came with my dad on Sunday afternoon. It was the era of Mignot, Aubour, Leborgne, Rambert ... They had a great team. And in the middle, there were two phenomenal players, Fleury and Nestor Combin (he sighs) ... There, it was very very high level!
What memories do you have of December 7, 1969, the day you made your professional debut for Lyon, at the Gerland against Red Star?
It’s of course a special day. I was playing CFA matches. One day, François Félix, who was called "Fanfan", left OL. I was seventeen then and Fleury said to the leaders: "Felix can leave, the little one is there". I learned that a few years later. That day, my sister took me to training and I saw Aimé Mignot pacing, approaching me and then saying: "you're playing!". “Ah really?” I said to him. “Yes yes, Fleury is sick, he has a 40 ° fever. You’ll play left winger with the number eleven. ”Well, I didn’t like playing left winger, I didn’t like being a number eleven but I didn't say anything (he laughs). It was a fabulous match. You go through a lot of emotions.
You take this opportunity to score your very first pro goal. Do you remember?
Yes of course. André Guy put in a ball from behind me, I took it with a volley on the right. The ball could have ended up in the stands (he laughs). Laudu was in goal and Monin marked me. It was he who, a few years later, would break Fleury Di Nallo's leg. This match, this goal ... It was a special moment. I went home at night, I was on a cloud. In that moment, I was feeling incredible emotions.
What type of player were you? How would you describe your style?
If I were to compare myself to someone, I would say Lacazette. Among my strengths were that I could shoot with my right foot as well as my left. I was better on the left on the volley; I could put the ball wherever I wanted. Sometimes, when I felt so confident, I would say to the goalkeeper, "You can go to the locker room, today you are not going to be of any use". I felt like the goals were the size of Place Bellecour and the ball would go in every time (laughs).
Did you have idols, players who made you dream when you were younger and with whom you identified?Fleury Di Nallo, "The Little Prince", was a great player. A pure striker, a real goalscorer. There was also Hervé Revelli at Saint-Etienne. He’s a player I liked very much, a little in the same mold as me. He had a particularly good heading game. A great footballer.
What does it feel like to play alongside one of your idols, as you did with Fleury Di Nallo?You are intimidated. I came to see him play with my father when I was little. Playing with Combin, they were exceptional. Later, I learned that he had played an important role in my beginnings as a pro.
You returned to OL at the end of your football career. How did that happen?
President Jean-Michel Aulas asked Raymond (Domenech) and me to come and form a tandem of former Lyon players at the head of the club. I never expected to return to OL one day.
Tell us a bit about your role and your influence in the change in ambition made by OL at the dawn of the 2000s ...
I have a very specific example. One of the most important things I did was when I was a coach. One day, there was a meeting with the management committee and Jérôme Seydoux, who had just arrived, asking me what I needed. I tell him I need a great striker. He tells me that he will buy one. And that striker was Sonny (Anderson). I wanted him and everything that happened afterwards. Juninho arrived just afterwards; I spotted him in Brazil thanks to Marcelo. And the rest is history ...
Looking at your journey is a bit like going back through the ages and witnessing the transformation of the club. What legacy do you leave to OL?
Well, that's not up to me to say...
What image would you like people to have of you?
Honestly, I do not know. When I see everything that's going on, I tell myself that it's not bad already. I think I impressed people during my visit but I never really thought about it ...
Sunday, an important page in your life will be turned ... What will you remember from all these years and how do you see the rest of your life?
A very important page,yes… (He thinks). The rest, I don't even want to talk about it. The impression I have, I'll tell you ... (he clears his throat). When you’ve been playing football for several years like me, the day you quit your career is like a little death. Pouf! It stops suddenly. Here, I feel like I'm dying a second time. It’s a void… But I’ll only remember the good, all that I’ve been fortunate enough to experience. When I was little and dreamed of being a Gone, I said to my parents, "I will be a striker for OL." And my dream came true ... "