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Hamza Bencherif

Journey man centre back with a touch of class
Hamza gave the following detailed interview on 8th March 2020 to French journalists Thomas Bernier and Teva Vermel, a large section detailed his time with York City. It was published in early May 2020 and you can read the original (in French) here and read more from the journalists here. PS Apologies if anything is lost in translation.


I am from the Paris region. I started football at the age of 9 at the Paris training center which is located in Orly. Lots of professional players have been there. I spent all my categories of young people at home until 16 years old. Then, I joined the ACBB where I really exploded to sign at the Guingamp training center. The trainer and the manager of the training center looked at me during a training session with the pros and they directly appreciated what I had shown. I stayed there for a year. From there, I was offered an opportunity to go to England. At the time, it was Nottingham Forest. We went to see the facilities with my parents and my agent. Coach, Colin Calderwood, and training center manager, Nick Marshall, watched me during a training session with the pros and they directly appreciated what I had shown. I then signed for a year. I came back for the pre-season and I was directly integrated into the pro group when I was only 18 years old.

In France, I played with the under 18s, it was extraordinary! A few months later, my contract was renewed for three years. Nottingham Forest had a big team and the best reserve in England. We won the Premier League reserve championship twice in a row with a lot of talented players. They are mostly pros, like Félix Bastians (Tianjin TEDAk, D1 Chinese), Lewis McGugan (late career), or Brendan Moloney (late career). The second year of my contract, I was sent on loan for three months to Lincoln City. I made my debut in this club which played in League Two (D4) at the time. I really loved this period. At 19, I started my pro matches, the fans loved me. Unfortunately,


After the third year, Billy Davies arrived. I did a lot of benches but no appearance. It was starting to weigh so at the end of my contract, I went to Macclesfield in League Two (D4). Once arrived in the club, the coach immediately trusted me, but in the position of defensive midfielder while I played central defender during this period. In the end, it worked well for me because I went on to score a lot of goals. People kept remembering my name more and more. In November, when I was really installed as a holder, we played Rochdale and following a very nasty tackle, I find myself with a broken leg. It was a serious injury. My ankle was broken.

In fact, he completely blew my leg! At the time, I was really scared, I went to see the specialist and he said to me: "It is an injury that can prevent you from playing football for the rest of your life" . It was a really difficult moment, especially since I found my place within the team. In the end, I came back even stronger after my rehabilitation. We were talking about a selection with Algeria because I had already known a lot of selections among young people, but the injury disrupted everything. I do a full season the following year as a defensive midfielder where I put eleven goals in all competitions. In the end, it was the real highlight of my career. I chained the big games by repeating my performances and being consistent.

English football is totally apart. Until you taste it, you can never understand.

In England, when you score a goal, for a week, it goes on Sky Sport. By dint of seeing your name appear, we remember it more easily and we come to ask you lots of questions after the meetings. I had a lot of clubs that were interested in my profile. I do not stay in Macclesfield and I sign two years in Notts County (D3). The coach was Martin Allen. Since the first day I arrived in England, I have never thought of leaving. English football is totally apart. Until you taste it, you can never understand. As I had spent three years in Forest, I always wanted to return to this city despite several other offers. I lived there and I didn't want to shake everything up. At the beginning, everything was going well, I was performing well. But the coach, it's difficult to work with him… Finally, what I mean is that you have to understand him. Outside of football, it is called "Mad Dog". He has a barking character. I have always had a rather shy personality, especially with people I didn't know, so I was surprised! For three, four months, I held, then I lost my place and I had a big loss of confidence thereafter. Doubt has settled. But Notts County is a great team. then I lost my place and I had a big drop in confidence afterwards. Doubt has settled. But Notts County is a great team. then I lost my place and I had a big drop in confidence afterwards. Doubt has settled. But Notts County is a great team.

We went to Turin, we played against Juventus in their new stadium!

The fans gave me a lot of love. In 2012, it was the anniversary of the club, which celebrated its 150th anniversary. They have a big connection with Juventus Turin, especially by the jersey and we therefore inaugurated their new stadium, an incredible experience. We went to Turin, we played against Juventus! This is where we see the scale of a League One club (D3), if only by its connections and its history. The supporters are very proud of their club. I stayed until the end of my contract without finding the level I had at Macclesfield. The two years I was there, we really pushed to play the play-offs. The first, we miss them on goal difference and the second, we lost several important meetings at the end of the season. It's hard to swallow. I had a climb with Forest, but I didn't play.


It was a complicated year. When I left Notts County, I wanted to regain confidence, to be by the people who knew me. Before the end of my contract, several clubs called me, including Rochdale. Their coach had seen me many times and he liked me a lot. The club asked me to come. It was my choice. Unfortunately, like an idiot, I refused at the time. I was badly advised by certain people who proposed to me to go to the test abroad, in particular in MLS. I thought the United States was becoming concrete. It ultimately did not happen. In July I panicked, I trained alone or with teams from the region like Chesterfield. You miss the preseason, physically, you are late and mentally.

Towards the end of August, the Plymouth Argyle coach (D4) called me, he had a problem in the midfield. Everything is going well and I sign from September to January. From my first game against Cheltenham, I scored but it was above all the passion and the envy, I really wanted to give it my all. After that, it was hard to get back into the bath without preparation. We are not physically inside. I gradually felt it. You start to tire and not take on the efforts. I played two full months, the injured guy came back then. I really played less and in football, I was not comfortable at all.

In September 2013, Hamza Bencherif relaunched for a few months at Plymouth Argyle, a club known for its "hot fans".

Plymouth is really exiled, five hours from all the big cities. It's like you're in Brest (laughs)! Afterwards, you cannot say geographically speaking that they are disadvantaged. They have a recent history and all the people of the region are for them while in certain cities, there are countless numbers of teams. John Sheridan, our coach at the time, had a kind of dual personality. Outside the field, he is a simple person. Then, if you missed a pass, he was able to say, "It's a shit, he can't play" or to turn against your own players. Personally, I did not take it badly because they are like that, it is their mentality. For League Two (D4), Plymouth, it remains exceptional. The stadium is impressive and the infrastructure is good. When I arrived in England, they were playing in Championship (D2). At the fan level, they are very demanding. You pay the past of the players who led the club in the fourth division ...


At the end of my contract in January, I spoke to the coach because I absolutely wanted to come back down as a central defender, in a position where I feel much better. I had several proposals including JS Kabylie, in Algeria. I followed the championship a lot and it's a big club on the African continent. I did not ask myself any questions and I signed directly. If it went well, so much the better. And if it was the opposite, too bad. I would have had it in my list. Especially since Adlene Guedioura (ex Nottingham Forest - Ed) knew a little about football there. I asked him for his opinion and I was convinced. When I entered this championship, I had a big shock. The players were all 1.75m tall! We played on synthetic, contacts were prohibited. In fact, it's an indoor football championship, but eleven (laughs)! Whether from the goalkeeper at the center front, what the fans expect is that you make a technical gesture, that you amuse them. There is no intensity, we only want to see dribbling. I am a physical player, of English type and box-to-box so it was in total contradiction with my style of play (laughs).

In Algeria, you really have to reduce your salary, you have no choice, otherwise, you will never see it.

After that, I liked it because I went back to central defense and the team went to the cup final. But the problem of Algeria is that outside of football, there is a lot going on, whether it be in the locker room, in the stands or in the press. You really have to play the game and I am a withdrawn person. I was doing my job as a professional. I had a year left on the contract and the club wanted me to stay but cut my salary. In Algeria, this is not a question. You really have to cut your wages, you don't really have a choice, otherwise you will never see it (laughs)! I told myself that I couldn't stay a year here and I left on a bad note with Plymouth. I had to go back to England. We agreed and it was better that I come home.


My priority was to return to the Football League. During one week, three clubs appeared at the same time. I first went to Blackpool (D2) to give it a try, a good opportunity that presented itself. I arrive and the coach Jose Riga says to me: "Look around you" . I think there were eight players in July! I'm starting to see that the atmosphere was super weird. I never saw the president. On the street, supporters asked you: "What's going on?" and I couldn't answer. At the weekend, Riga comes to see me again and says it's dead. I didn't want to miss the pre-season like last year so I had to find a club soon enough. The other two teams who asked me to come and see them were Cambridge (D4) and Partick Thistle (D1), in Scotland. I call the sports director and he replies: "Look, we signed a player ..." Then two days later, Partick also recruits a guy. The two clubs pass under my nose. The Cambridge coach tells me that he knows me, that he has played against me several times. On Tuesday evening, I come directly to make the friendly match without having trained with them. We win 7 or 8-0 and the same evening, I thought he was going to tell me something. But instead: "Stay with us, we have a weekend tournament". Clearly, I explain to him that it is impossible and that I also had to be at Partick Thistle. I gave my advantage to Cambridge by not leaving immediately for Scotland. He replied that he was expecting me to return the test there. I train two days with Partick and exactly the same situation occurs. I am asked to wait (laughs)! I repeat my words from Cambridge: "Ok, but I want an answer on Monday". I'm waiting for the phone call on Monday and there I see Cambridge signing someone ... After that, I was tired of trying out. I wanted to sign in a club where they knew me and get back in shape. I always said to myself that I would like to return to Lincoln. I was on familiar ground since I had made a loan with them in 2007. The coach of the time also trained me in Macclesfield and even today, we have remained very good friends. I also knew several players and there were two Frenchmen: Tony Diagne, Arnaud Mendy. It was the right club to revive me after my year in Algeria. In addition, the fans liked me compared to my loan made at the beginning of my career.

You have a lot of players who have had a solid career in France, but who don't succeed here. Was it hard to come back? Of course, you should know that England is a gateway for many players. Here, players who have never managed to integrate the professional world in France, succeed. Conversely, you have many players who have had a solid career in France who do not succeed by coming here. It is difficult at all levels. For me, it was difficult to leave and then come back. Coaches and clubs have built a network of players over the years.They don't want to take a risk. Therefore, they mainly choose players with whom they have already worked. At Lincoln, I had a good season. I played all the games, I also had the captain's armband, I scored six or seven goals, but I also got two red cards in a month (laughs). I had a good relationship with the Lincoln fans, they loved me a lot. They always wanted me back because I had proven myself on loan, especially during the derby against Grimsby Town where I scored at the last minute the goal of victory in front of more than 10,000 people. It's intense to play with so many spectators. Lincoln has a big fanbase. You wouldn't say the club is in the fifth or sixth division. In England, people systematically support the club of their city. They are not going to be fans of the big English clubs. You feel this atmosphere in the street, before the match, after the match.

During one season, Hamza Bencherif wore the colours of Lincoln City where he had the opportunity to wear the captain's armband several times.

Many people cannot understand this atmosphere without having experienced it. I did not stay in Lincoln because the club was going through a difficult time. The coach who brought me in at the start of the season was fired in December because of the poor results. It was his agent who had taken control of the club. It's a little weird story. This guy was not mean, but he had nothing to do with football. He was a local businessman and he had invested money in the club. But at the end of the season, when extending some players, the negotiations went bad. He liked me, but you felt that he negotiated like an entrepreneur. I wanted to stay in Lincoln, I liked the project and the infrastructure was exceptional. But I did not have certain guarantees.


Halifax offered me an interesting project. The club had just made the accession playoffs. I had good discussions with the coach, who also offered to be the team captain. I liked it all. On the other hand, by signing there, it was the first time that I tasted football part-time. I no longer trained every day, but twice a week. When I signed, I didn't realize the impact it was going to have. In England, you frequently play two games a week. You keep the pace no matter what. But from the start of the season, I felt that training twice a week was going to be problematic. We quickly had galleys. You should know that the club did not have its own training center, which meant that we systematically changed places to train.

Sportingly, the results were not good while the team was not bad. We had interesting players, except that the mayonnaise did not take. It was a shame, especially since in the past, the club had managed to find very good players, like Jamie Vardy (Leicester City), Lee Gregory (Stoke City), Marc Roberts (Birmingham City). These are guys who quickly went from the amateur world to the professional world. But at some point, it no longer works. And the year I was there, the recruitment system did not live up to expectations. There were too many new players at the same time. It took a long time to get to know each other. The first six months were catastrophic. From memory, we were fifteen points from the first non-relegationable team. Then we started winning our matches. We were coming back little by little.

It was a strange feeling. On the one hand, the club was relegated and on the other, it won a big trophy.

Unfortunately, we come down at the last minute of the last game. Personally, I was injured and I had not played this game against Macclesfield. At the same time, the other team lost and this result was favorable for us. But we take (concede) a goal late in the game. The pill had a hard time passing. The game before, we beat Forest Green which was one of the biggest clubs in the division. We had done everything to maintain ourselves and finally, at the last minute of the season, we take a goal that we should never take. What is paradoxical in this season is that at the same time, we qualified for the FA Trophy final at Wembley which was played two weeks after the end of the championship and we won it in front of 40,000 people (laughs) ). It was a strange feeling. On one side, the club was relegated and on the other.

Despite the descent, Hamza Bencherif had time to savor his first trophy in England with Halifax.

It took a while to realize the scope of our victory because I'm not going to hide it, we still had the descent across the gorge. It was only by celebrating on the ground that we understood the scope of what we had done. Great players never had the opportunity to play a final at Wembley and we had this chance. Personally, it was the first time I played Wembley. The atmosphere was incredible. It felt like being in a tank. In the past, I had the chance to play in big stadiums, like that of Juventus, or other international stadiums when I played with the youth teams of Algeria, but Wembley is a stadium apart. The atmosphere ? She was completely different from Lincoln. But like I said, the infrastructure was huge for a Vanarama National League club. The stadium could accommodate 20,000 people. I liked everything. It was only after a few weeks that I realized that in reality, their fan community was tiny. We played matches in front of 1,500-2,000 people to break everything ... This is undoubtedly the low attendance that I have had during my career so far. I was far from the warm ambiances of Lincoln (laughs). And I think it played out at the end of the season. The team was not necessarily supported. Despite everything, it remained a family club with good infrastructure. We played matches in front of 1,500-2,000 people to break everything ... This is probably the smallest crowd that I have had during my career so far. I was far from the warm ambiances of Lincoln (laughs). And I think it played out at the end of the season. The team was not necessarily supported. Despite everything, it remained a family club with good infrastructure. We played matches in front of 1,500-2,000 people to break everything ... This is probably the small crowd that I have had during my career so far. I was far from the warm ambiances of Lincoln (laughs). And I think it played out at the end of the season. The team was not necessarily supported. Despite everything, it remained a family club with good infrastructure.


Halifax had offered me a new contract, but personally I couldn't afford to play in a lower division. During the summer, I received a proposal from Wrexham and accepted it. Coach Gary Mills was a former Nottingham Forest glory. He had won numerous trophies during his career. He called me on the phone to convince me to come. He had wanted me for several years. The sports project was once again interesting, especially since Wrexham has a great history. It is a club which long evolved in Football League before going down in Vanarama National League. He plays on average in front of 10,000 people at the Racecourse which is a great stadium with large and beautiful stands. In Wales, there is also a championship, but several teams still play in England like Cardiff City, Swansea, Newport County and Wrexham. People are very attached to their championship and above all, to their language. Welsh is a completely different language from English with different letters. When I arrived, I didn't ask myself a lot of sports questions because I was playing in the English championship. On the other hand, to get there, it was difficult to locate oneself because the signs are in Welsh (laughs). In the stands, it is also different from the English atmosphere. As it is truly a country of rugby, the fans are more aggressive.

The deal was simple: be you sit until the end of the season, be you go. No, don't ask - Ed

Unfortunately, I'm not going to stay much time in Wrexham, only half a season. These are the galleys of football we will say (laughs). When you play in a big club, like Lincoln for me, people expect you to win the championship by 20 points. If you are not at the top of the ranking, they are critical with you. Gary Mills had built a good team, we were in the first half of the table, but for the leaders, it was not enough. He got fired in November. You should know that in Wrexham, I had a clause in my contract, like other players. This contract was automatically renewed for one year from the moment I played a certain number of matches as a holder. Personally, I had to play 30 matches. Honestly, I didn't care because I had played all the games since the start of the season. Around December, I am in 29 games played and that's where the trouble started. All players with this contract stopped (being selected for games) at 29 games (smile).

Overnight, with several players, we found ourselves not playing anymore. We waited three or four weeks to find out if the situation was evolving and finally, we quickly realized that there was no point in waiting. The deal was simple: either you sat on the bench until the end of the season, or you left. In addition, the new coach had the objective of not keeping us during the next season. He wanted to renew the workforce in depth. So I waited six weeks, because I was only missing one game so I could be extended for a year. But the coach never put me in charge. In fact, the problem with this contract is that the re-entry into play did not count. You had to make the 30 matches as a holder. In the end, I went to the winter transfer window, like other players and it was a good thing for us. In this story, what annoyed me was the fans' spite. They did not understand why we were leaving. They saw us as opportunists, they thought we were not respecting the history of the club, but they were not aware of the situation. The club never communicated on it. I did not want to spend six months on the bench before leaving. The best choice was therefore to go away to find playing time. I didn't want to spend six months on the bench before I left. The best choice was therefore to go away to find playing time. I didn't want to spend six months on the bench before I left. The best choice was therefore to go away to find playing time.


York was in League Two the previous season. He had just graduated from the Vanarama National League. There had been a lot of changes within the club. A new sports director (Dave Penney) had arrived and he had recruited forty players (laughs). Their start to the season had not been good, which seemed logical given the many arrivals. He had already changed his coach. And guess who had arrived? Gary Mills, my coach at Wrexham (laughs). He already had a little history in this club. It had allowed them, a few years before, to go up in Football League. When he arrived, he brought back some of my former teammates. In January, seeing that I was no longer playing at Wrexham, he called me to find out what was going on. I explained the situation to him and he told me to join him in York. To be honest, I wasn't very hot at first. York struggled in the league. The club was in the relegation zone and must have been ten points behind the first non-relegation. I had a difficult choice: either I went there and there was a good chance of going down, or I stayed on the bench at Wrexham and the club ended quietly in the middle of the table. Personally, I didn't want to relive the same scenario as in Halifax (laughs). It took me a long time to make my decision. I was afraid of experiencing a new relegation with York. Finally, I accepted the proposal. York remained a great English club and despite the problems it encountered, I was convinced that it could get away with it. I knew the coach very well. In addition, to save himself, the club had just signed players experienced in the matches of the Football League and the Vanarama National League, including Jon Parkin. In the last six months of the championship, you have to lose three or four games. We had done everything to save ourselves. But during the last championship match, here we go again ...

The same scenario as in Halifax is happening (sigh). And what's funny about this story is that we also qualify for the FA Trophy final at Wembley. So I was going to play for the second year in a row at Wembley. We are playing the last game against Forest Green. In my head, I said to myself: "It can't happen a second time". In addition, Forest Green no longer played anything, they qualified for the playoffs. Ten minutes from the end, there are 2-2 and this result suits us because in the other match, Guiseley, our direct opponent, lost to Solihull. We start to manage the score and keep the ball. But in the 93rd minute, Guiseley, on a mistake by the goalkeeper of Solihull equalizes ... We must then score to save ourselves while we make a pass to ten for a quarter of an hour (sigh). So we rush on the opposing goal, the Forest Green goalkeeper stops several shots and the final whistle sounds ... We descend. The catastrophe. It was hard to take, but I had fewer regrets because unlike Halifax, we had done everything to get out of it.

In York, the central defender of Algerian origin experienced moments of pain, but also moments of joy.

Two weeks later, we play the FA Trophy final at Wembley and we win the match against Macclesfield (3-2). Unlike the first time, I felt a lot more emotion in this victory. I knew it was a unique moment. I won this trophy for the second consecutive year. I appreciated much more, especially since I felt the team serene and sure of its strengths, some players had experience of its meetings. Like I said, great players have never had the opportunity to play Wembley or even win at least one trophy there. Me, in two years, I had won two (smile).

Unlike Halifax, I decided to stay in York despite the descent. Simply because it was not the same thing. The club is much more important. It has a history, huge infrastructure, including a brand new training center which had been inaugurated by Sir Alex Ferguson. You had everything: beautiful grounds, a gym, a canteen, a games room. When I was there, I felt like I was in a professional club. I could come early in the morning, have my coffee, then work out, eat at noon and do my gym in the early afternoon. Not all clubs at this level have such facilities. We ended up staying a lot because we wanted to go back directly and offer this gift to the fans who were numerous at the stadium each weekend. The problem in England is that a lot of the big clubs go down every year. Unlike France, where recognized clubs like Strasbourg or Le Mans have gone down for financial reasons.

Clubs with a long history, like York, must go back to the Football League.

Here, for the most part, the clubs descend "sportingly" and the level is much higher. You have a dozen clubs fighting to go up. In addition, we must now take into account another parameter, the arrival of foreign investors. Today, several clubs in the lower divisions have been bought by investors from the Middle East, Asia and the United States. Suddenly, the leagues are competitive and the level extremely tight. Despite this, clubs with a long history like York must go back to the Football League. The fans are demanding. We are starting the season, things are going well, we are 5th in mid-October and there is nothing to worry about, we will play the leading roles. But for the leaders, it was not enough. They then decided to fire Gary Mills in November. And the concern is that after his departure, a coach arrived with around twenty players. There were forty of us in training (laughs). We went from a season where we had to play the climb, to an average season, quite far from the play-offs.

Bootham Crescent? Frankly, it's a great atmosphere. It's sad that the club decided to leave it. I find that the new stadium lacks personality, it's the kind of municipal stadium that looks like things put together quickly. I have a feeling that all the new stadiums are a bit alike. Bootham Crescent is different, it's an old stadium which is made with big red bricks and which has a very big atmosphere. It is located in the city center. You should know that there is a lot of tourism in York despite the fact that the city is quite rich. I think the owners of the club wanted to destroy it so they could build things that would be a little more profitable instead.

In a few months, Bootham Crescent will no longer be York's lair. The ground, opened in 1932, will give way to a new stadium.

Which is a shame because at Bootham Crescent, you had a great atmosphere. You felt the fans at the edge of the sidelines, they sang constantly and put pressure. They were inhabited by the club. They experienced more hassles than most of the fans I knew because they descended from League Two in Vanarama National League, then from Vanarama National League in National League North.They may have had 200 (Not quite - Ed) players in two years and the fans have had enough. You are insulted in the street, you are insulted on the edge of the field. Currently, they are first in the championship and on Tuesday they lost their second or third game. But that didn't change anything in the ranking. However, two players were insulted and attacked in the street ... People quickly forget that it is also difficult for players to play in a historic club. You can do great performances in the league and get insults on the street, but it's the law of soccer.


I had been in York for two years. We really tried to get the club back in Vanarama National League, but I think the group was out of breath in this project. Personally, I needed to change the air and find a new project that suited me. I wanted to coach young players and help them progress. Guiseley's proposal has arrived. I liked the project because this club has a less important past than York and that I could have responsibilities. I met the two coaches, because yes we have two coaches (laughs), and they told me about their project: "Look, we have a very young team, with a lot of players who are between 18 and 23 years old. We need someone who can supervise them".

At the start of the season, Hamza Bencherif joined Guiseley in the National League North (D6) to bring his experience to an extremely young squad.

I did not think about it and I got involved because the sports project suited me. The season (2019/20) is going very well (NDRL: the interview was carried out before the final stop of the championship because of the coronavirus pandemic), I coach young players. For example, yesterday, out of the 20 players who made up the group, 70% were between 18 and 21 years old. Our goalkeeper is 18 years old, the two defenders who are next to me are 18 and 21 years old. And it's the same for all positions. I'm the oldest on the team (laughs), but despite that, they are very talented players, even though they have never played in the sixth division. Some have never done a full pro season yet! But the workforce is really tight and the results follow. Both coaches are excellent. One is super tactical and the other has a more tempered character. They motivate young people well!


When I got here, I had a poor level in English, even close to zero (laughs). But the best thing when you go abroad is to be alone. I learned the language extremely quickly because I was in a house with many young players: English, Irish, Germans. I could only communicate in English with them. So I progressed quickly. Personally, I find that the French know much better English than they think, unlike the English who are more closed in on their language. French people have a better command of English through the films they watch, through music, but they don't know how to use it. However, they have the words in mind. For example when you watch a series in loop, you know the whole story, or even all the words used in each dialogue. So if you watch it again in English, you start to understand what the actors are saying. And when you force yourself not to speak with any French speaker for 6 months and to speak English because you have no choice, it can be learned very quickly and frankly in 6 months, I was doing really well. Language was the least problematic thing we will say.

When I got to Nottingham, people really went out of their way to help me.

Personally, it was a complicated situation. When you go abroad for a new adventure and you are very far from home for the first time it is something that is difficult to take. But you are with many young people who are in the same galley. The only difference compared to France is that in England, people will do their utmost to ensure that you have a healthy development. You will be helped and welcomed. When I got to Nottingham, people really went out of their way to help me. They asked me what I needed. You had the right to go see a psychologist, a priest if you are a Christian if need be. If you need anything they will do anything to keep you well off the field. Everything is well structured. You have the school that is in the stadium, the football academy too, you meet the pros every day. You are actually living a dream. You're really close to the pros, while in France, each category is really divided each on its own. You never see anyone and it's really about soccer. This is really the difference that I personally feel at the level of English football and French football.

Younger, on the Nottingham Forest side of Notts County, Hamza Bencherif made important meetings in the construction of his career.

Often there is a lot of talk about the disrespect of the new generation. Here, young people are always with the pros, despite the fact that they do not train with them. They wash their shoes, they make them coffee, they move the goals to training, they do the cleaning in the locker rooms. In France, young people will not find it normal and will say: "I do not go to a training center to clean the locker rooms" . But the question is not whether you should clean up, it's just a question of personal discipline that allows you to move forward in your life as a footballer. The British have a reputation for being disciplined in everything they do.

What struck me most was that they have a pretty impressive way of looking at things. They're going to go out, they're going to party, they're going to do it in a crazy way, but at the same time, they're going to come to training at 9 a.m. and they're going to be in the gym before everybody. I was frankly shocked by that in the sense that we can say that it is not serious to have such a healthy lifestyle. And yet, they are capable of not being serious in their hygiene, but of being extremely serious in other areas. They will also be open-minded to be able to communicate or even to be able to approach people they do not know. This is what attracts me the most in their approach to life. They know how to share things.

I decided to choose my clubs based on the distance and the route I had to take to get there.

Isolation? When I was in Plymouth, it was really hard. Between Plymouth and Nottingham, there is a 12 hour round trip. On the map, the city is above Brittany and it is far from major cities like Bristol for example. I signed there from September to January. It was short term. As a result, I didn't live in Nottingham during the week, I had taken an apartment on my own there. My wife and daughter stayed in Nottingham during this time. The week I lived alone, it was quite heavy. Every weekend after the match, I returned to Nottingham. I had 6 hours of driving there and 6 hours of driving back. In Plymouth, I met another Frenchman, Maxime Blanchard. He helped me a lot during this period. Behind, I did not necessarily want to relive all that.

That's when I decided to choose my clubs based on the distance and the route I had to take to get there. Wrexham was for example 2 hours from York, the same for Guiseley. England is a small country. You can make a lot of trips in a short time. If I feel English? Often, my French friends tell me that I caught the English mentality (laughs). I think I have it, but I still kept French roots. I watch French TV, French football matches, I listen to French radio every day, especially RMC. I know what's going on in France. On the other hand, in the way of being and good manners, I acquired the codes of the English mentality because it has been fourteen years that I live here. In three years, I would have spent as much of my life in England as in France. So, I have the feeling of having captured the English mentality. I think I have adhered to a true philosophy of life.

Here, you really have a work philosophy, including in football.

In England, the social mentality means that you have a lot of opportunities and you can progress in a lot. You may have someone who has a firm opinion, but that person will explain to you clearly what opinion they have. However, he is really able to listen to you and try to understand your point of view. Here you can grab opportunities all the time. In France, there are a lot of advantages, but the problem is that people are used to these advantages, but they are not promised forever. In England it is totally different. Here, you really have a work philosophy, including in football. You can not fault a player for going out for a drink in the evening if the next day is the first at the gym or bodybuilding.


They live soccer intensively. I have always had the chance to play in recognized clubs across the country. I spent three years at Nottingham Forest which won the European Cup and several times the English championship. It is a club viscerally linked to its city, as can York or Lincoln. Football is a real obsession among the English. The sports course of a club really has an impact on the map of the country. And that changes the whole dynamic of a city. For example, Leicester has its point on the map compared to its football club when it is a city much smaller than Nottingham, but the title of champion of England has changed everything. In addition, the city also has a rugby club voucher, you have recognized universities. All of these elements make Leicester today an important city in the country.

In England, the football club has a huge influence on city politics.

In France, there are fans who invest in their club, but they are not considered and it is a shame. Here, English fans are really considered by every city. They make sporting events an unmissable and family event. I am not sure that this is the case in France. I felt it in Guingamp, but it is linked to the fact that the stadium is much larger than the number of inhabitants. There are no big clubs around, so people support the local team. In England, the football club greatly influences the politics of the city. For example, if tomorrow PSG goes down to Ligue 2, I don't think that the city of Paris will be interested in its club and the fans will be much less numerous than today. This is what is unfortunate.


When I arrived in England, I really saw the changes compared to France. We spent three days working out a week. I landed with a little over 80 kg and exploded physically with the workload that we have here. It was beneficial. Over the years, I have met extraordinary people, also allowing me to create a connection fabric. When you play with Andy Cole in Nottingham Forest or Neil Lennon, the Celtic coach today, you learn so much personally and professionally. I have known very good players. Afterwards, when you are young, you are more easily influenced. Guy Moussi, in his first year in Nottingham, when he played, he was a physical monster. He adapted so quickly. Kris Commons also, it struck from anywhere that returned. . Otherwise, I was really guided by Junior Agogo (NDRL, ex-Ghanaian international bodybuilder physique). He really helped me through his professionalism.

In Millwall, it felt like you were in a movie, a real movie trap.

The worst place is Accrington Stanley. We were playing on a Tuesday evening, it was raining, the ground was muddy in addition to being sloping… Quicksand (laughs)! At my age, I already felt strong for the position I occupied. But there were some impressive players, especially Troy Deeney who now plays in the Premier League with Watford. In Football League, it's impressive. For example, in Bradford City, there are 10,000 people. The derbies too. In Nottingham Forest, I made the match twice on the bench against Derby County, the atmosphere was exceptional. It went off in a fight in the stands. Otherwise, a trip to Millwall, we really felt like we were in a movie, a real cinema trap. I am totally imbued with this football culture because I have been swimming in it for several years now.

Afterwards, I'm not going to lie, the football community is really not a beautiful environment. When I say that, I'm mostly talking behind the scenes. Soccer remains the most beautiful adventure of my life despite everything. When I was little I used to play soccer and watch soccer all the time. Today, I still enjoy playing in front of a stadium of 10,000 people just as much, as I enjoy watching the matches. But currently, the football community is not healthy. So yes, you build friendships, you meet great people, but besides that, you have the agents, leaders who hang around in shenanigans…. That's why there are a lot of problems.

In York, Gary Mills was known to be an old-fashioned coach. He was educated by legendary Nottingham Forest coach Brian Clough. Basically, the guys won titles while going to the bar frequently. Gary Mills had the same mentality. He liked taking important, responsible players who knew how to make decisions. He said to them: 'You do what you want the week, as long as you are good on the field on Saturday'. He wanted 100% players in training and matches. He also had a ritual, that of taking his players outside to the bar the day before. With York, we went to a bar in Northampton. We played darts, billiards, listened to music, we ate fries, sausages for those who could eat them and finally, we could drink. The goal was to get together and have a good time. He wanted to build a team spirit. But he had a problem with the new generation, unlike ours. They knew that the older guys in the locker room were responsible guys and knew how to put things right in those moments. These guys, instead of being responsible, they complained and blamed Gary Mills".

In contrast, young people much less. He ran into guys who didn't have a sense of responsibility. They spent 3 hours in the pub as if they were with their friends. The next day, he found them drunk. And these guys, instead of being responsible, they were complaining and blaming Gary Mills. Behind, things were going to be known and people were going to say: "yes but it's true, he doesn't have to do that and take his players to the bar" . Except that at one point, the world of football is a world of adults. You may have an 18-19 year old player in the game, but he is with other adults, so it is up to him to make decisions and not to others. If you play badly and get fucked on the pitch, it's your fault. You are not going to say: "Ah yes but it's because he did that" . You are an adult! And that's the biggest problem of this generation now, they don't want to take responsibility. If you make a bad match or get injured, you are responsible. You can't constantly blame other people. If you know something is not going to be right for you, you don't have to do it. That's the problem with this generation today, it is disconnected from reality.


Right now, I'm preparing my UFAB, it's the coaching certificate. I will pass it very soon. I cross my fingers to have it, just as I cross my fingers to be able to play for a few more years (smile). You never know, you can find yourself coach-player on a misunderstanding (laughs). It is enough that the coach is fired and if at that time, you are the oldest player, you take charge of the team for a few games. In England, this kind of situation happens every year. Afterwards, the goal is not to become a coach right away (smile). I still want to do something else in parallel. Last year, I found myself working for an American company in Nottingham when I had never worked in an office, nor even worked quite simply (laughs). I didn't even know how Excel worked. I have been doing this all year to gain experience. I think that my retraining will be done in several stages and all the experiences are good to take. I am still in this process but to avoid wasting time, I will pass my coaching diplomas very soon.


In England, you can have people with big personalities but who will remain open-minded whatever their personal opinion. And so that's what there is in England. When I am told that the Muslim religion is not developed as in France, it is simply false and the reverse. For example in France, the Muslim religion is directly assimilated to Africa due to waves of immigration. In England, you have very large Pakistani and Indian populations. You will find mosques and synagogues all over the country: in Manchester, in Tottenham which is the Jewish quarter of London, you also have many Muslim districts in Birmingham and Leicester. Here, unlike France, it is the Indians who are connoted as Arabs.

English people talk a lot about religion, they try to understand things.

Personally, I am of Algerian origin. When I came to England, people seeing me thought I was Indian or Pakistani. There are always preconceptions, including in the world of football. People sometimes make connotations that are false. You have guys who have tattoos all over their bodies and who are open about religion. You have guys who have a head to go to the pub, and in fact, it's not that at all. These are guys who are the opposite of what you think. The English talk a lot about religion, they try to know things and know how you work, how you feel. They don't want to know if you're wrong or if you're right.

From the moment they know who you are, you do what you want. If that's what you want to do, you do it, there's no problem for them. They make your life easier, no matter which club you play at, in Nottingham Forest or elsewhere. They try to make your life easier with food, like eating meat or not. In fact they don't calculate what people want to do because for them, it's not a problem, if that's what you want to do, you do it.It's really something that I like. In France, I think there was a controversy over a canteen in Rouen at the end of the year. In England, you go to a school, a meal is a meal, so parents pay. If they want children to eat certain things, they leave them. There are far fewer controversies. Here, there are mainly controversies at the political level, as everywhere. But you will have much less controversy on subjects which are not real subjects in my opinion.


When I arrived at 18, I thought I would never stay so long in England. I have been based in Nottingham for 14 years now. This is where it all started for me. I never wanted to live anywhere else. I got married here, I had a little girl. I don't see myself coming back to France after the end of my career. This is where I have experience, contacts. I really think I will definitely settle in England. The difference with France is that the Anglo-Saxon countries judge more on your experience and your know-how, than on your diplomas.

So for example, in France, if you are in football, most of the time, you will stay in football, because that is what you can do. While here, people can use soccer to take you to other routes. They consider that by being captain of your team, you have the soul of a leader and that you can bring this charisma in a box. They see things this way, which allows you to get into a lot of other business than soccer. When I speak of "business" they are circles, not businesses in the first sense of the term. You can work in education, in journalism ... You don't necessarily have to stay in the soccer world, whereas in France, former footballers frequently become coaches, assistants, sports directors. Everything here is different.

Hamza speaks on Gary Mills ("mis understood"), Jon Parkin ("strong character, intelligent"), Matty Brown ("kindred spirit") and more on nonleaguedaily.com (January 2021).

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