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Interview 06 October 2020, 21:06

Julien Serrano: "The intensity in Scottish football is incredible"

Julien Serrano: "The intensity in Scottish football is incredible"
On loan from AS Monaco to Scottish first division club Livingston FC, Julien Serrano shares his impressions since arriving in a country and a league he had never experienced before.

He is a pure product of the AS Monaco training center, which he joined at the age of 15. Having arrived at the Academy in 2013 from the Vaucluse club of US Le Pontet, Julien Serrano grew up at the foot of the Rock. Passing through the various age groups, he broke onto the scene under Frédéric Barilaro, playing alongside Loïc Badiashile, Ibrahima Diallo, Irvin Cardona and Kylian Mbappé, winning the Coupe Gambardella in 2016.

He scored from 30 meters against Celtic

He then joined the first team during the 2017-18 season, and totaled 11 first team games, including a Champions League appearance. This was before being loaned to Cercle Bruges in the summer of 2019, then to Béziers last January, just before the end of the league season due to the health crisis. Currently on loan at Livingston FC, a Scottish Premier League club, Julien is enjoying his second spell abroad, which should allow him to achieve “a full season”, in his own words.

Between two league matches, and after a start to the season marked by his sumptuous goal scored from more than 30 meters against Celtic, the 51 times Scottish champion, and his winning the player of the month title for September awarded by the fans of the LFC, the former Academy player took the time to give us his first impressions.

Julien, how have you been feeling since arriving in Scotland?

Honestly I feel good, I have adapted well here. There is a good group here, and I’ve integrated very quickly and the staff have also made me feel at ease as soon as I arrived. I have settled down well from a personal point of view as well. It’s nice to experience another league, one quite different from Ligue 1 in terms of commitment in particular. I find it really interesting to discover style of another football.

Can you tell us about the fans’ passion, even in this time of health crisis?

From what I’ve been told, football is very popular here. Once again outside the COVID period, the stadiums are always full, there are a lot of supporters. Football is alive here, it’s really similar to England. For now with the health crisis has everything is behind closed doors, and there is little social interaction except when we go shopping — even the training sessions are not accessible to the public.

It's a little less technical than in France or other league, but really high in terms of intensity -- you have to be hard at work all the time. There are a lot of duels, a lot of tackles, so it's really about the balance of power between the teams.
Julien Serrano

Is Scotland a country where you feel good?

Yes frankly for the little I’ve lived here (Julien arrived in Scotland a month ago) I feel very good. Apart from the different weather to Monaco (laughs) … but I will quickly adapt to it. There are beautiful landscapes, I feel good here, plus the people are very polite so it’s really nice.

What are your first impressions of the style of play in this league?

So far, in the first few matches that I’ve played, I’ve noticed that there is really a lot of intensity in the game, in the duels. It’s a little less technical than in France or other league, but really high in terms of intensity — you have to be hard at work all the time. There are a lot of duels, a lot of tackles, so it’s really about the balance of power between the teams.

What does this imply for you playing as a left back?

To play in this style, which is very tough, and offers avery engaged game, it will teach me to increase my workrate first and foremost. Adapting to a new style of football can only be beneficial for the rest of my career.

What differences do you see between this and your experience at Cercle Brugge in Belgium, a league that is also less familiar in France?

In Belgium I had a good start to the season with Cercle, and then it was more difficult at the start of 2020, I had much less playing time. I also discovered the Belgian game, which is roughly similar to what we see in France. But it was my first experience abroad. Today, if I had to choose between the two leagues, I would say that the Scottish league is perhaps more suited to my qualities. And also I feel like I have adjusted well, and very quickly here in Scotland for the moment.

I was high up on the pitch, the ball came back to me and I tried to play a header to set up a one-two. The one-two worked well, so then I stepped forward and as soon as I had control, I just had one thing in mind, and that was to shoot. The strike ended up in the back of the net so that was cool for me.
Julien Serrano

Have you set goals for yourself this season with Livingston FC?

Our goal is to finish as high as possible in the table, of course. But the goal is really to be in the top six, so that we can make the play-offs in the second half of the season. Knowing that, last year they finished in a good position. Then from a personal point of view, the goal is really to play a full season, because until now I have never had the opportunity to play a full season as a professional. I want to play at least 20-30 games to have a good season in my legs. After that I also want to record some good statistics, to create assists from my position as a full-back, and even to score goals. I want to assert myself and improve my skills and have a lot of playing time.

Tell us about your exceptional goal scored from nearly 30 meters against Celtic…

We were losing, so obviously we  were playing higher up the pitch than usual. It’s true that we were playing Celtic so we had suffered a lot in the game, so we had to try to come back into the match. I was high up on the pitch, the ball came back to me and I tried to play a header to set up a one-two. The one-two worked well, so then I stepped forward and as soon as I had control, I just had one thing in mind, and that was to shoot. The strike ended up in the back of the net so that was cool for me.

Is that something you work on in training?

It’s true that during the week in training I like to shoot, but I never had the opportunity to find myself in this situation, in this position in a match. In the end, it worked out for me so good for me and especially for the team. Plus we were playing five at the back with me on the left wing, so I was a little higher than usual at the time, beyond the scenario particular to the match.

It must be fantastic to score against 51-time Scottish champions Celtic, even without a home crowd …

Yes it was. It was already special because it was my first professional goal, apart from a shot in the Coupe de la Ligue, but it’s different. So I was happy, although it would have had an even more special flavor if it was a goal to give the victory to my team (Livingston ultimately lost 3-2). But hey we must remember the positives.

AS Monaco is all there is for me. I played my first minutes as a pro there, I signed my first pro contract there. So even here in Scotland I watch all the matches and when I see young players from the academy playing for the first team, it makes me happy.
Julien Serrano

Some French players are doing very well in Scotland, such as Moussa Dembele who had some breakout performances there, or Christopher Jullien, Olivier N’Tcham and Odsonne Edouard, wh is currently at Celtic. Does that give you any ideas?

I really see this experience in Scotland as a springboard. The goal for me is to perform well and to go through the matches, because indeed a lot of French players have managed to prove themselves here. It can be cool to win here in Scotland and, why not, play for the biggest clubs in the country. There are really good conditions here to succeed and continue one’s progress to reach the top level.

Finally, what does AS Monaco represent to you?

Monaco is the club that trained me, I’m still attached to it. With all they have done for me at the Academy or in my discovery of the professional world, I cannot say anything bad about the club. AS Monaco is all there is for me. I played my first minutes as a pro there, I signed my first pro contract there. So even here in Scotland I watch all the matches and when I see young players from the academy playing for the first team, it makes me happy. You can see that the club is growing, that a good team is being formed, so it’s cool and I hope it will continue for the best for them.

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