Starliga: “A real, tight-knit team,” Montpellier captain Valentin Porte admitted to MHB-PSG
Montpellier Handball remain unbeaten in 20 matches ahead of the summit clash against Paris SG on Saturday, December 17 (9:00 p.m.). For captain Valentine Porte, an offseason was truly born.
You give the impression that nothing can happen to you right now. Do you feel the same way?
We are not naive. We know that things can move very quickly in sports. Everything is smiling at us for the moment. We are in a very good position (20 matches without defeat). I am pleasantly surprised, reassured. Even in adversity, even with major injuries, the team stood. We manage to have a level worthy of the name.
Aside from the significant offseason arrivals, what has changed from last season?
A great deal of work was done by the staff this summer with individual and group interviews. Also during the preparation there were many meetings with real enlightenment. That is, the arrival of new ones really did the group good. They are experienced and have brought a real dynamic, especially in spirit. This allowed for the reformation of a strong core that could go and find some lost, suffering boys. Today we see guys who are asserting themselves or asserting themselves.
Should abscesses burst?
Burst abscess, I do not think. On the other hand, there was a need for exchange. It is sometimes difficult to change in the group, especially for foreign players, newcomers, a little shy guys. Especially when things go wrong. Individual interviews helped the staff a lot. Everyone was able to express their needs and feelings. And this allowed us to change and develop certain things. Not everything is perfect today, but we are on the right track. Players find themselves there more and more. The staff is quieter. We form a strong team.
What was your performance as captain?
It revolved around the psychological aspect and the need to reform a stronger group to bring everyone to the same goals. Last year I felt a little isolated, a little lonely. I got the impression that my speech did not go well with the boys. This was partly due to poor results. The new ones changed that. The results followed. The trust is there. We perform better, we vibrate less. It works.
Has the coach’s speech changed?
After such a season, everyone was forced to evolve. He did it. So (laughs), you don’t completely replace Patrice Canayer. Patrice will remain Patrice with his qualities and faults. But he had the humility and intelligence to question himself. Today, we’re giving it back.
The team has done well so far, but with Paris this Saturday and Toulouse on Tuesday, it seems there is still a lot left to do?
Everything remains to be done, because we are not even halfway through the season. When you welcome PSG, a huge engine, and move on to Toulouse, who are unbeaten at home and beat Paris and Nantes, you can imagine that these two fixtures before the break are important. Substantial but not capital. I remember the 2017-2018 season when we lost the championship by a certain goal. Halfway through the season we were leading by six points… Whatever the scenario, disastrous or brilliant, everything will have to be done. But it remains a complex, dangerous loop that needs to be well-discussed.
Does Montpellier have a complex against Paris?
In the last few years I have had to go in your direction. Last year we lost by just one goal, but we still lost. It doesn’t matter if you lose by one or ten balls. If you lose ten times by one goal, you still lose ten times in a row. So it’s kind of like a complex. We’ll see on Saturday. Years follow each other, matches follow each other and sometimes they are not the same. I’d still like to be able to play this game with my full team (read elsewhere), unfortunately that won’t be the case.
Do you think Paris’ defeat against Magdeburg this week could have an impact?
The first word about our game with “Benfica”. We have to applaud the “excellence” of the team. When we saw all of Holst (Conan, Deskat, Skube, Simonet) sick as a dog the day before, we said to ourselves: “Houllala”. Finally, we managed to get out of it, which shows our evolution. Last year we would have definitely lost in such a match. Well, we look like a real team. If I were to go back to the Parisians, I would prefer them to win. It’s never good to play PSG after a defeat. Behind it is always the desire to heal and win.
Have you already prepared what to say in the dressing room, or will you improvise?
This year I walk with more feeling. I don’t think there’s much to say. Everyone is in the same state of mind. It will be played against Paris on Saturday. We have to tell ourselves it is possible and do it.
Do some guys surprise you?
When you play for Montpellier, it’s because you have the qualities. It often takes one click to express them. This click is sometimes never, sometimes late. It is clear that a player like Kyllian Villeminot has improved a lot this year. God knows, I was on his back, made fun of him at certain points, and made him understand what professionalism is. What he did today is pretty terrible. There’s also Charles Bolzinger. He surprises me even more. I could see that he had great human qualities and was on the field. But I never expected what he did from there this year. Takes up a lot of space in cages. And his attitude is remarkable and rare for a player of his age.