"Waste of space" Dugarry has heard it all before

Last updated : 11 January 2003 By Rags

The World Cup winner is bristling at jibes by ex-Reading and Stevenage player Ray Houghton who dismissed him as "a complete waste of space" , claimed he was only here for the money and wouldn't have the stomach for the Premiership.

Certainly Houghton should know all about 'stomachs' having displayed a rather portly one himself as he ended his career struggling to complete 3 games in 6 months for Stevenage. He eventually managed to find the energy to face Forest Green, Morecambe and Dover. His record at Stevenage? ... played three , lost three.

After being dumped by Simon Jordan from his position as assistant manager at Crystal Palace, Houghton seems desperate to resurrect some sort of a life for himself by being deliberately controversial and opinionated on TalkSport Radio. Instead he just comes across as being spiteful and sad.

Dugarry has heard it all before. In France his is the reputation of an impostor.

Still, as he talked to Colin Tattum of the Evening Mail after training at Wast Hills, the barbs on this side of the Channel have already been translated and got under his skin.

"It is not true to say I have signed for Birmingham just for the money," he states.

"I will get less here than I was earning at Bordeaux, and I had two-and-a-half years left on my contract there.

"It is disappointing to read and hear that is what journalists are writing and saying already. I am here to play football. I am here for a new challenge.

"I hope that when people watch me play, they will see the real person, the truth."

Dugarry's command of English is excellent and he is determined to integrate himself quickly, avoid the 'us and them' divide that can develop in a dressing room following an influx of foreigners.

His close friend and advisor, Michel Benguigui, sat in on the interview to help Dugarry express himself better by polishing up some of his phrases.

He couldn't resist chipping in: "Christophe is not motivated by money. He is a wealthy man anyway.

"When he was at Marseille, Lens offered him a five-year contract. Bordeaux were also interested and proposed a salary that would have given him £2.5 million less. He joined Bordeaux."

Benguigui struck up his friendship with Dugarry during the forward's first spell at the club, where he was the sports manager.

He thinks the move to England will provide Dugarry with a welcome respite from criticism back home, which has wearied the 30-year-old.

"In France, many people are jealous of Christophe. He is a good-looking guy, he is rich, he has a good family and he does advertising, which is not accepted."

Dugarry is married to Frederique and has two sons, Tom (aged four) and Louis (2). The family home - or "chateau" as Steve Bruce decribes it - comes complete with its own vineyard.

Dugarry says: "For years I have turned up to training driving a Porsche.

"I have long hair, a beard. People judge me incorrectly because I am different. I am a bit like Ginola or Cantona. We are not understood because we are not afraid to be individual, to speak our minds.

"In France, nobody is indifferent towards me - they either love me or hate me. There is a feeling there.

"Everyone has a piece of advice for Christophe Dugarry.

"In England, I know the people respect you as a football player. I am looking forward to being judged fairly, on my ability in my job."

Benguigui points out that Dugarry is not simply planning on his arrangement with Blues being a short-term one.

"Christophe has been out looking for a house. He wants a car with a right-hand drive, an English mobile phone.

"On the way into training on Wednesday, he told me he would sit and eat only with the English players because he had had his food with some of the younger French players at the club the day before."

Dugarry has the option of a 12-month contract, on the same money, should Blues avoid relegation.

And he knows how hard survival is going to be; facing Arsenal and their French connection for his debut on Sunday represents a baptism of fire.

"I will do my maximum to save Birmingham in the Premiership," he declares.

"Arsenal, of course, have a lot of French players. I haven't spoken to them yet but I will call Robert Pires. We used to play together at Marseille.

"I am looking forward to the game, we have to be very confident for the match."

Ray Houghton should prepare to eat his words. They will go down well with all the pies.