“We have to finish the job”: AJA president Baptiste Malherbe discusses the race to climb before the reception of Paris FC

Before the reception of Paris FC on Saturday May 4, 2024 (3 p.m.), and the last three days of Ligue 2 which should validate the rise in the elite of the AJA which is also chasing the champion title, President Baptiste Malherbe greets the work of the staff, the players, but also of the entire club whose project is going in the right direction.

As president of the AJA, how are you doing during this high-stakes period?

I’m doing well, with a lot of work as usual, and I can’t wait for the next match. I am satisfied with what is happening around and in the club. We are on what we wanted, on what we want, and we are trying to continue as we have since the start of the season so that this great season becomes a very good season.

Do you feel any particular excitement at this crucial moment of the season?

Yes, but all moments are crucial. All matches are important when you have high ambitions. We feel positive pressure because we want to win. As the coach said at the end in Dunkirk, we switched to Paris FC which will be another big match. We want to continue on our merry way.

What are the scenarios that would officially bring AJ Auxerre up to Ligue 1 from the 36th day?

But now every match can be decisive…

Obviously, but once again, when you have high ambitions, every match is! On the 2nd day, when we lose at home (0-1 against Amiens on August 12, editor’s note), we’re already taking a hit to the head. Fortunately the club is solid, works well and has remained calm all season because there have been more difficult periods. We had two defeats in a row twice, and each time, we had to stay confident in what we were doing, working even harder to perform well the next match. There, we know that it’s a big match coming up against a very good Paris FC team. We take each match one after the other. Then, yes there is a consequence of what we do, but it is not the issue that makes us change. We stay on how we work, how we prepare for this next match and how we prepare for the future.

After the defeats at QRM and Rodez, were you reassured by the victories against Laval and Dunkirk?

Not reassured, but rather very satisfied with the team’s performance beyond the two victories. It is above all the content, the collective reaction, of the whole club moreover because I involve the supporters in addition to the staff and the players. Everyone had a great reaction with two high-level matches. It was beautiful to see, we had fun.

It’s not that it takes away stress, but it reassures us in what we’ve been trying to put in place for quite a few months. This team is beautiful to see.

You were already president during the 2022 climb. This season, there seems to be more serenity and confidence within the AJA…

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This is what we are trying to put in place with the shareholder (James Zhou), the staff and employees of the club. We want a project to have the most efficient and solid club possible without worrying about very short-term objectives. Without doubt, this facilitates a certain serenity because there is stability. I’m happy if it’s visible from the outside, but that’s what we try to implement on a daily basis. Work over time to progress in many areas, whether sports performance, training, welcoming the public, facilities, etc. This in-depth work brings serenity and for high-level performance, it is important. You need resources, unity, a lot of support and serenity to work well without being called into question at the slightest adverse event.

From the relegation last year, the idea was to bounce back and perform well in Ligue 2 this season. However, are you surprised by the sporting success of your team?

It’s a little early to answer the question because we will be able to see sporting success, or not, at the end of the championship. But we worked to improve the whole club, to progress within our means. The facts show that we implemented what we said, namely to try to come back stronger and continue to work to be even stronger. We have to finish the job, once again it’s not finished. We must remain measured and humble, and even if there is very good news at the end of the season, it will not be over, we will have to prepare for what comes next. But as the project is in the medium term to progress on many aspects, it should bear fruit in the days, weeks, months and years to come.

Beyond the climb which is very well underway, is the title of L2 champion important to you?

“When we are in our position, it would be abnormal not to have this ambition.”

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We want to perform well in every match, win every match. Our ambition is to win against PFC, to perform well in Amiens, then to beat Concarneau. If that’s the case, we know what will be at the end… We’re working for that, to get the best for the club at the end of the season.

Depending on the result of Angers against Pau this Friday, the climb could be official on Saturday. Are you preparing for the party?

No, we are mainly preparing for a new sold-out match. It’s exceptional what we’ve been experiencing for two years, almost three. We average more than 15,000 spectators this season. We live for that, so that the public responds and enjoys it. This environment helps performance. So we are organizing this new sold-out event, then a trip to Amiens with many more Auxerre residents. Afterwards, we will organize the rest if necessary (smile).

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