He’s the Club’s final recruit in a summer window that was a little unique, having been extended due to the health crisis. James Bunce, 34, an ex-professional rugby player, was named AS Monaco’s Performance Director earlier this month, working in close connection with Niko Kovac and his staff. His arrival is one that corresponds to the desire of the Croatian coach and the Sporting Director, Paul Mitchell, to unify the supervision of the physical and medical staff, but also do work relating to nutrition.
After having had an initial set of interviews with the players to explain his role within the team, the former performance manager of US Soccer took the time to detail his mission on the program “Au coeur des clubs,” presented by Marina Lorenzo, on Téléfoot, the official broadcaster of Ligue 1 Uber Eats. Here are some excerpts.
❤️ AU COEUR DES CLUBS [FOCUS]
🪙 Une rareté en @Ligue1UberEats
— TELEFOOT LA CHAINE DU FOOT (@telefoot_chaine) October 9, 2020
How are the first exchanges with the players going?
I’ve been here for ten days (this interview was conducted on Friday), I was very well received by the staff, by the players. I was introduced to the team and I have already had the opportunity to interact a lot with everyone. I even traveled with the team, since I was traveling to Brest. I gradually give them information about my role in their performance, and how I will be able to help them.
How did you become Director of Performance at AS Monaco?
I’ve had the chance to work in several sports, having been a professional rugby player myself. After my career finished, I studied medicine and started to get interested in the area of performance. I had the chance to work for the Premier League in the medical department among other opportunities. I was then head of performance in the United States for US Soccer. It allowed me to grow in different aspects, to meet incredible coaches and specialists in their fields. I always want to learn. I am young and I am hungry to discover many things. I had a great opportunity to come to AS Monaco, and it’s great to be able to put something into place from the ground up.
Did you know the late Nick Broad, who was a pioneer in your field in Ligue 1 at Paris Saint-Germain?
Yes of course, he did exceptional things at PSG.
Only six clubs in France have just one person in charge of performance, but they have very different profiles. Do you all perform the same job?
No that’s true, it’s a unique job, we don’t all do the same thing.There are different ways of practicing this profession, and each club has its own structure. The goal is to bring several fields together, those of medicine, science, and physics, and this union is really specific to each club. In football of course, but also in sport in general. The goal is to bring together information from these different areas and deliver it to the players. We try to collect data from all areas and share it, explain it to the players. Then we try to make better decisions based on that information. And of course the most important thing for us in all of these statistics is that the players don’t get injured.
Does it require a lot of adaptability and a lot of communication?
Yes that’s right, each team I work with is specific. There are different matches, different players, different roles and you have to have the big picture in mind as you adapt to it. I was very lucky to join this setup — thanks to Oleg Petrov and Paul Mitchell, I’m working in close collaboration with Niko Kovac. The goal is to make the players more aggressive on the pitch and to respond to the physical side of things. There is a lot of communication obviously and this is also what made me accept this project, the fact of being able to explain to everyone what I am going to do.
Are you happy that you joined this project at the beginning in terms of establishing your role?
Certainly with all the changes that have taken place this summer to restructure the club, this is not a project that is going to be completed in a year, it is truly a long term project. It was knowing this that I agreed to come here to Monaco. I will be here as long as it takes to complete this project. I am very happy to have this opportunity, and of course I will give everything to carry out my mission.
Is the first step in your job to gain the trust of the players?
Yes of course, it is very important to have deep conversations with the players, to explain all the details of my job to them. We explain the context to them, my role, and I have already started during these first ten days since my arrival. We also explain to them how it will benefit them to follow our advice, how to reach their best level, how to have the best possible lifestyle.It obviously takes time to put all of that in place, to chat with each of the players, but at the moment they’re very open to a conversation.
How will your work with the Cercle Brugge go, you will be traveling a lot?
Yes of course, I am in charge of performance at AS Monaco but also at Cercle Brugge. I haven’t been able to get there yet, as I only arrived ten days ago, so for now I’m focusing on my job here, meeting the players. But I will obviously be in regular communication with Cercle Brugge. I will do my best to support them and use our working standards with this club as a baseline.
What they say about him
Oleg Petrov (Vice President/CEO):
“Welcome James. For several months now, we have been carrying out important structural work in order to give the club the momentum and the assets necessary to move forward and be as efficient as possible. His arrival in the field of sporting management, working under the leadership of Paul, is in line with this desire and fits as well the perspective of the opening of the Performance Center in 2021, which will be one of the most modern in Europe.”
Paul Mitchell (Sporting Director):
“We are very pleased to welcome James Bunce, who has established himself in recent years as a leader in the field of high athletic performance. With the arrival of James, the goal is to bring to our structure the intelligence and expertise necessary to develop and challenge the best in the field of athletic performance. We want to provide the conditions necessary to perform well on and off the pitch using the latest technologies and best practices in high performance sport. All this work will allow us to optimize the sporting and extra-sporting work done with the players to meet the ever-increasing demands of the game.”
Niko Kovac (Manager):
“The arrival of James follows many discussions with Paul Mitchell, because we thought it was important for us to have someone in this position, both for AS Monaco and for Cercle Brugge. He is not necessarily a person who will be working with the players on the pitch, but rather taking the lead in the analysis of their performance. James has a lot of experience, he is a former professional rugby player who has worked in England and the United States. I am certain that he will give us the benefit of his skill and bring us a great deal of assistance.”