Forget Wigan: What Andy Delort Did Next
In September 2014 one of French football’s longest sagas drew to a close. After a sensational season with Tours FC, Ligue 2’s second top scorer of the 2013/14 season crossed the channel to sign for a new club. The man in question, Andy Delort, signed for Wigan Athletic, and his move to England saw comparisons drawn between him and another former Tourangeau striker, Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud.
With the club reportedly having beaten Championship rivals and Ligue 1 clubs to his signature, Wigan supporters were justifiably excited, but after an ill-fated start to his career in England, Delort soon found himself playing reserve football and he played his last ever first-team game for The Latics after just eleven appearances.
So what became of the man for whom the Lancashire club were prepared to part with £3million?
The former Borussia Dortmund and Celtic trialist, who scored 24 goals during the season in which he caught the attention of scouts on both sides of the Channel, recently signed a four-year deal with Ligue 1 side SM Caen, helping him to achieve his dream of once again playing in France’s top-flight. As a promising youth talent, Delort played for Corsican outfit AC Ajaccio in the top division before moving on to Tours at the start of the 2013/14 season for guaranteed first-team football. After negotiations between both Wigan owner Dave Whelan and his counterpart at Tours Jean-Marc Ettori, Delort returned to the Stade de la Vallée du Cher on a loan deal in January, helping to relaunch his career, whilst simultaneously helping to save his former club from the drop out of professional football and into the National, France’s third-tier.
The number nine’s passion was never in doubt during his sixteen game return spell at the club, and his two goals, including a long-range free-kick effort on his home debut against Arles-Avignon, and more crucially his five assists, really did enable the former France U20 international to have a marked impact on Tours FC’s survival chances. He was an inspirational figure for his teammates and few other individual performances last season lived up to that of Delort in Week 32 of the season.
With the threat of relegation still very much alive, the men from the Centre-Val de Loire region travelled east to take on Auxerre, with very few people giving the away side any chance of taking any points at all. However, Delort had other ideas as, under rainy Burgundian skies, the visitors stunned the home support with a sensational 3-2 victory. The dynamic centre-forward galvanised his side with a fantastic individual performance in which he provided his side with assists for all three goals. This game epitomised the Delort effect on Tours’ survival battle – the relegation-threatened club won 14 vital points out of a total 27 available during his loan spell.
In truth though, Delort’s true potential as a prolific goalscorer was held back during his second spell at Tours because of the fact that he found himself leading the attacking line in what was a rather weak side that had struggled desperately before his arrival. The fleeting return spell was however enough to convince a number of Ligue 1 clubs to reignite their interest in the forward’s services.
Perhaps still haunted by Delort’s goal and strong performance in Tours’ 3-1 victory in 2014 which delayed his Caen side’s eventual promotion to Ligue 1 by another week, Pascal Garande decided to bring him to the club in June. With Sloan Privat and Emiliano Sala’s loan spells having ended, and with Mathieu Duhamel expected to leave the club in the current window, the new Caen number nine could be an extremely crucial addition to the former Cherbourg coach’s squad ranks.
As a well-travelled Ligue 1 marksman and an Olympic gold medal-winning French international in his own playing days, Garande knows a thing or two about what it takes to be a successful goalscorer, and this probably explains why the 54-year-old moved for Delort. Despite not offering much during his short spell at the DW Stadium, Delort is widely regarded in France as having the potential to be a prolific finisher and he could have the attributes necessary to help him find the net in the country’s top-flight.
What Delort lacks in height, he more than makes up for in terms of his use of physique when holding off defenders with his shoulders and he uses his excellent ball control to quickly move the ball out of his feet to release venomous shots from range. His strength also allows him to play with this back to goal and his placement of shots is extremely accurate. On his day, Delort is a technically gifted player who makes the best use of his great first touch and it was this attribute that enabled him to be selected to represent his country’s Beach Soccer team, a football discipline in which emphasis is placed upon the need for agility, technique and shooting, as shots per game averages dwarf those in conventional 11-a-side matches.
He demonstrated these skills perfectly with the 2013/14 goal of the season scored against Angers, chipping a hard pass played into his feet up in front of him before juggling the ball twice and then volleying the ball home from around 20 yards out and leaving the goalkeeper helpless.
In an excellently-written and revealing interview with the French language website Hat-Trick, Delort shed light on the fact that his failure to adapt to life at Wigan had an impact on his on-field performances, rightly pointing out that even more experienced French exports such as Bafétimbi Gomis have taken considerable amounts of time to adapt to life on the other side of the Channel. As covered by Stefan Szymanski and Simon Kuper in their insightful book Soccernomics, many clubs are lagging behind in terms of their ability to help players integrate as smoothly as possible into life in a new country, with many having left their homelands for the first time in order to join their new employers. In Delort’s case, he was left with little time to prepare for the move to England when he was signed by Wigan Athletic on the final day of the transfer window, arriving in Lancashire with just a week to prepare before his first game in English football. There is no doubt that the upheaval had a negative effect on Delort’s ability to settle at his new club.
In moving back to Tours, Delort opted to take a 50% wage cut in order to return to first-team action. Despite the short-term financial loss, it has proven to be a gamble worth taking as it has enabled him to achieve his goal of performing well enough to be able to draw an offer from a Ligue 1 club, and as a result, he will now be playing in France’s top league as opposed to playing in England’s third-tier with the since relegated side he left behind in England.
The ambitious 24-year-old has always impressed with his hard-working attitude and his professionalism has never been in doubt. He has shown mental toughness by overcoming the disappointment of his short-lived spell in England and this resilience combined with his striking ability could help him to become a hit with Caen.
He is a player who can excel when he is in an environment in which he feels comfortable, and supporters of the Norman club will be hoping that the Stade Michel-d’Ornano will be one such place.