Norwich's very own 'International Man of Mystery' stepped a little further out of the shadows this week as Julien Brellier fielded reporters' questions for the first time since his official unveiling five, long weeks ago.
Norwich City Independent Supporters Association helped ease the one-time Inter Milan midfielder into the limelight by coughing up ?70 to buy a big French tricolour off E-bay. Not any old flag, mind.
This one came fresh from the Tynecastle home of Hearts and had 'Le Juge' embroidered on it – evidence, in theory, that the Hearts faithful must have taken the 24-year-old to their 'Hearts' at some stage in his two-year career in Edinburgh before his free transfer switch south this summer.
On hand to meet both said flag and representatives from NCISA at Carrow Road yesterday, despite a clear command if the English language it would be fair to say that not every mystery was resolved. That nickname – 'The Judge' – for a kick-off.
?It came from the Hearts fans, but to be honest I don't really know why,? said Brellier, once of course of both Montpellier and Inter Milan.
?Maybe the way that I play the game; I don't know; not really sure, really.?
Put the same question to one or two people north of the border and the nearest Hibs fan will insist that it was because of the Frenchman's colourful disciplinary history – red and yellow, in particular. Hence he spent a lot of time on the bench…
From the other side of the Edinburgh football divide it was something to do with his original hair-cut; either that or his style of play – in that he invariably judged where the next danger was coming from.
Or, this week's suggestion, was it because he was a bit of an enforcer on the pitch? ?Yes, maybe,? he said, with a classic Gallic shrug of the shoulders.
So how would he describe himself as a player? ?A ball-winner. I try to win as much of the ball as I can and I try to play a simple pass – and a good pass for the forwards.?
City boss Peter Grant has added a few more strings to the Frenchman's bow, but in essence his job is very simple. To do everything – and more – that Youssef Safri did, but just about 20-yards further up the pitch.
So when that big, gaping hole opens up down the left in his lordship's wake, Brellier has one eye on it; that if Darel Russell bursts forward towards the opposition box and leaves another hole inhis wake, Brellier has one eye on it.
It is why, for many, his appearance this summer is so crucial; his performances so key. He won't make or braek Norwich's play-off prospects. But what is fair to say is that both Grant and Brellier's one-time coach at Hearts, Jim Duffy, have both invested big political capital in him – he's a big cog in their wheel. He needs to work.
And he needs to keep a calm head on his shoulders. The likes of Kevin Nicholls will like nothing better to wind him up and watch him walk.
He certainly seems happy enough to be here. He is, by several accounts, something of a loner; the quiet assassin, happy to stay in the shadows.
?The boys have all been very good, very kind to me; the club is very nice. And I'm just looking forward to Saturday and my first English game – and just excited about the start of the season,? he said.
At least, Deepdale won't be a complete mystery to him – he played there for Hearts in a pre-season friendly last summer.
?We played them last season in a friendly game and I thought they were a good team, but I don't know about them this season.
?I think we just have to think about us – and not about the team that we will be playing.?
Brellier's own summer didn't quite go to plan after picking up that slight thigh strain in his opening bow against King's Lynn. Missing for the whole of the Dutch tour, he has since played less than a hour of 'competitive' football – in the very 'After you, no after you…' clash with Vitesse last Friday night.
Brellier himself insists he could have gone on for longer if required. On the evidence of his Hearts record, he plays games – suspension, not injury, is his Achilles heel.
?I was quite pleased about the game on Friday night because I think I could have played more than I played, but maybe it was too much of a risk for the first game of the season,? he said.
?Obviously I'm not the fittest at the moment because of my pre-season – it's been a little bit strange. But just now I'm OK – I will tell you how I feel after the first game.?
There is a quiet sense of humour there too – he missed Sunday's now infamous barbecue. ?I just eat French cooking…? he said, with a smile.
As for the flag, it will be interesting to see whether it will travel up the M6 tomorrow or whether it's debut will have to wait for Tuesday night's Carling Cup clash with Barnet at Carrow Road.
Right now, supporters and players alike are both setting out with the best intentions. If Safri was once their midfield king, the king is dead – long live The Judge…
?It's always nice to have a good relationship with the fans, so it's very nice of them,? said Brellier.
Whether he knows it or not, a lot rests on his shoulders this season. About him a whole new midfield has been built as Grant and Duffy set out there 2007-2008 stall rather nearer the opposition half than Worthington and Safri were wont to play.
Everyone ready? Let's roll…
Leave a Reply