Skip to content

‘I believe in the process and vision’ – new SAFC boss Regis Le Bris confident of success

Regis Le Bris is the new man in charge at Sunderland AFC, installed to take a talented squad to the next level. Here, North East Times' Colin Young hears from the Frenchman about his plans for the club and his determination to deliver on-field success.

Retro is working in Sunderland.

Sales of the new Sunderland AFC kit – a rekindling of a partnership with Hummel and reintroduction of an iconic late 1980s, early 1990s top – reached the numbers expected for nearly half a season in the first 24 hours.

But while the familiar Hummel design is a nod to the past, the club is very much looking to the future.

Last week’s kit launch in the newly-located Black Cat House was also an opportunity for fans, who queued in their hundreds for several hours, to meet owner Kyril Louis-Dreyfus and new chief business officer David Bruce.

It also coincided with the arrival of new manager Regis Le Bris, and a canny low-key introduction to supporters.

And after the dress rehearsal, the softly spoken Frenchman met the players on the first day of pre-season.

His first team meeting, he revealed, was his first attempt at public speaking in English; 24 hours later, he met the press in the same conference room at the Academy of Light.

It was hard to tell which was more nerve-wracking, but he handled the Mackem media with aplomb – and a smile.

The friendly but slightly gnarled faces in the pressroom will become familiar over the course of his three-year contract.



But if the majority are sceptical about Le Bris still being here in three years, they may have a point.

For some in the room, this was the eighth manager in four years, the 13th in ten, the 21st in 22 years – and arguably one of the most anticipated.

The club – on the pitch at least – became rudderless when Tony Mowbray was unexpectedly sacked at the end of last year, and his two replacements Michael Beale and Michael Dodds were unable to steer a young, but talented, squad towards promotion.

And Le Bris, who was actually relegated from the French first division with Lorient last season, is not the first choice and took a while to be appointed, which hardly helped the mood around the club and among the keyboard warriors.

He is probably the first Sunderland AFC manager who was asked to provide the correct pronunciation of his name before he spoke… but these things are important to TV and radio commentators.

And they were all present at the academy to hear the 48-year-old, who made less than 100 appearances as a defender with lower league clubs in France and Belgium, set out his plans for the club – even if they will be shaped by the powers above.

He said: “I knew there was interest about coaches who are able to develop young players and improve the team.

“I was searching for this kind of vision, and this kind of organisation, to be able to improve a team. It’s a way of thinking.

“You can buy many players and put them on the pitch with their talent but, in France, when I was at Rennes and with Lorient, our ideas were always about development.

“For 20 years, I’ve been this kind of coach and I improve the model, I improve with my team and my team-mates and different staff.

“It explains why we are here together, because this is my methodology and this is the way of developing the club here at Sunderland.

“If I want to express myself, if I want to be the best version of me, I need to find a project which is aligned with this idea.

“So, when I had this opportunity, it fitted really well.

“It wasn’t an objective for me to be in a prestigious club, but this opportunity is incredible for me.

“The fans and the environment around the club are very exciting, and the energy of the city, the people around it and the organisation is a great, great strength of this club.

“The history is very important for the fans and we all expect this objective can happen quickly.

“But we need to build some strong foundations because football at that level is very high and we need to be a very strong club and organisation, with a very strong team and a very strong coaching staff to be able to compete at that level.”

Sunderland may have ambitions to return to the promised land of the Premier League, but the club is very different to the one which fell from the richest league in the world seven years ago under David Moyes.

A self-confessed development centre for young talent, under Louis-Dreyfus and sporting director Kristjaan Speakman, Sunderland has concentrated on players with potential in their transfer market dealings.

And the policy has now extended to the coaching department.

Le Bris has not brought his own staff with him from France.

Like the playing staff, he will assess what he has before making decisions on anyone’s future.

Then he will work with his new bosses to shape the coaching team and the squad.

It is a model he is clearly comfortable with.



Supporters who had seen significant progress under Mowbray – and frustrating stagnation for half of the last season – will be happy with the noises from a coach who has nurtured young talent in his previous jobs.

Le Bris has just a handful of coaching sessions under his belt on Wearside but revealed he has spent hours watching the team’s performances from last season on video.

He has gorged all three Netflix series, set up camp in his office at the academy, ditched watching the Euro finals from Germany and is clearly ready to embrace the opportunity of a lifetime.

He said: “We have meetings every day about the team.

“Here, the club wants to understand my game model and the way I can assess the players and also, because they know the players, they bring me some information.

“We’re working together. Then we train, which is a very important step because some players could have the answers to training methods and others haven’t responded the same way.

“So, we need to experience this together. Maybe in two or three weeks, we will see how it evolves?

“It’s a talented team. It’s very young. The last two seasons were very interesting for the experience.

“Sometimes they were good on the pitch, sometimes they were not good on the pitch – that experience is very important.

“It’s not always linked with the age, you can be very inconsistent without being 30 or 35.

“Now the mindset is to improve. The mindset is to believe as a team.

“The competition is very hard and very tough, so we need humility.

“But the willingness and commitment to improve is the best advice I can give to the team.

“A club and a team can have different experiences.

“Sometimes it can be wrong, sometimes it can be good.

“The structure and the organisation must be very strong in order to compete at that level.

“I think all of these experiences this club have had before help to build stronger foundations and now we want to have an objective and have better feelings with our fans, our style of play, our team and winning.

“I like the feeling of the fans because I think we can play with 12 players if they are with us, and they understand our commitment and our style of play.

“The possibility to meet the fans and be close to them was very interesting and it’s not difficult for me because I was in the stands when I was young.

“I like the way the fans enjoy the game.

“I’ve experienced many problems and many strengths as a coach, but I think the vision is very important.



“Here, with the owner and the sporting director, they are very clear on the way they want to pilot the club.

“The whole organisation is strong and very clear in their goals.

“We also needed to be clear about the identity of the club and what we want to do together and how we want to achieve our goals.

“After, there is another layer, we as a team, as a coaching staff and the whole of the staff surrounding the team are very well organised. If we have this structure, we can train and exploit our strengths.

“The whole team and identity are very linked and this provides a high strength.

“I want to feel the energy, I want to feel the willingness to be a team; the opponent can be strong, and maybe better than us, but if the mentality is good, that’s the first step to improving and where we can solve problems on the pitch.”

Sunderland head to a training camp in Spain next week after their first pre-season match under the new manager at South Shields.

They will also face Nottingham Forest, Gateshead, Blackpool, Bradford City and Eldense, with more games planned before the season opener at lunchtime in Cardiff on August 10.

That’s when Le Bris will be judged.

That’s when the talking stops, the planning comes to fruition and Sunderland fans, and their coach, hope they will finally have a goalscoring centre forward.

And Le Bris knows it.

He has said and done all the right things so far.

But it means nothing if he doesn’t win football matches.

He added: “This job is very unstable.

“We all know we need some results, we need some confidence and we need some support to achieve our goals.

“So, it’s always uncertain and we need to accept this as a coach.

“It’s different when you are a director of an academy, for example.

“I believe in the process and I believe in the vision, so I am confident.

“But we need to be lucky sometimes, and we need to work hard and believe in the hard work.”

July 5, 2024

  • Feature

Created by Colin Young