“OLLIE WATKINS AND YOANN BARBET BOTH OVER ON THAT SIDE OF THE PITCH. IT’S BARBET… IT’S PERFECT! IT MAY JUST WIN THIS GAME FOR BRENTFORD. LEEDS UNITED IN TROUBLE AGAIN. THE BIGGER THEY COME, THE HARDER THEY FALL, AND THEY’VE JUST HIT THE DECK WITH AN ALMIGHTY BANG.”
Brentford 3 Leeds United 1 (4 November 2017)
In his own words, 2017/18 has not been the season that Yoann Barbet expected.
A centre-half by trade, injury to Rico Henry has seen the Frenchman deployed at full-back for much of the current campaign.
An elegant defender with a wand of a left foot, the former Bordeaux man has become a firm favourite amongst the Griffin Park faithful. His late free-kick during the televised victory over Leeds United in November – and the celebrations that ensued – underlining such status.
From the secret to a strong beard to fighting a horse-sized duck, Yoann answers your questions as submitted on Facebook and Twitter.
Thanks for talking to us, Yoann. With over two thirds of the season behind us, how do you reflect on the campaign so far?
We’re playing okay at the moment but this is a critical phase of the season if we want to remain in the race for the Play-Offs. It’s a shame we didn’t start the season well as we’d comfortably be in the top six by now if we had done. There’s still plenty of games to go and anything’s possible, but if we don’t pick up some positive results over the next few weeks then we’re going to have to go and win four or five games on the spin to stay in contention. I’m pleased with how the season has gone, however we’ve got the potential to do a lot better.
Rico Henry suffered a serious injury in late September which has seen you move across to left-back for the bulk of the campaign. How have you found that positional change?
It’s not the season I expected but, like I’ve said 100 times already, it’s better to play at left-back than not at all. I’m pleased because I’ve shown my versatility, but of course I would like to play in the centre. I was cramping during my first few games at full-back because it’s a different type of fitness required to play there. Not only do you run more but there’s also more sprinting involved; it’s easy to go forward but then you have to go backwards which is tough! I worked differently during training to adapt to the position – I feel okay at left-back now.
Having found the back of the net on three occasions this season, which goal would you say is your pick of the bunch?
The Bolton goal was a beautiful free-kick, but the most important one was against Leeds. It gave us the lead with five minutes to go and it was a great atmosphere at Griffin Park that evening. You can see from my celebration how good a feeling it was. I had my family and friends watching back home in France and we were on a good run at that moment. That strike won us the three points, even though Woodsy (Ryan Woods) went on to score at the end to make it 3-1. It’s one of the best moments I’ve had since I arrived here, without a doubt.
Speaking of your celebration against Leeds, do you think it’s such displays of passion that have made you the popular figure you are amongst the Griffin Park faithful?
I had a lot messages about my celebration against Leeds but it was just a natural reaction; I was pleased to score and help the team to gain three points. You can see that sometimes I celebrate other players’ goals as though I’ve scored myself! I’m passionate about playing football.
You’ve scored two set-pieces this term and come close to adding more; is that something you work on after training?
Yes, I work on set-pieces at least twice a week. I can still improve in this area; I’ve scored two goals but I’ve also missed some opportunities where I could have done better. Sometimes people don’t understand the difficulty of free-kicks, I’ve been practicing for the past two years on set-pieces but you can’t score with every attempt. Juninho, for example, who in my opinion was the best set-piece taker in the world, missed more than he scored. I’ve always taken set-pieces but I wasn’t as efficient as I am at the moment. The technique I have now is very good but it’s hard to execute; if you take the shot perfectly there’s a very good chance to score, but it you come at the ball three or four centimetres either side of the right spot then it can fly over the crossbar or wide of the post.
You were subject to a bid from Reading in the January transfer window. Although the Club rejected the offer, how challenging is it when your future is up in the air like that?
Firstly, it’s nice to have clubs who are interest in buying you as it shows that you’re doing a good job. Reading are a massive club with history in the Premier League but I never saw myself moving on as I’m really happy at Brentford and playing almost every week. It’s flattering that clubs are interested but I was clear in my mind that I wanted to stay.
60 seconds with Yoann…
The secret to a strong beard?
Some oils sometimes but there’s no real secret - it’s all natural!
Bordeaux. It’s the team where I played for eight years and grew up supporting. I still follow them nearly every weekend.
What’s it like being the best French player in England since Thierry Henry?
I wish! I don’t think I am but it’s always nice to be appreciated!
Would you rather fight one horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses?
I’ll take the horse-sized duck
On a scale of one to ten, how cool are you?
How good a player is Chris Mepham?
I’ll keep it clean this time! He’s a great player and very funny off the pitch - we all have banter about him but he loves it!
Who do you admire the most?
Like all French people I’ll go for Zinedine Zidane. If I’m choosing someone in my own position, I’d say a mix between Sergio Ramos and Thiago Silva.
Ultimate five-a-side team of players you’ve lined up alongside?
Paul Delecroix; James Tarkowski, Maxime Colin; Alan Judge; Andre Gray
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