Herve Renard came to the public's attention as the quiet assistant to Claude Le Roy – a man who led Cameroon in the 1998 World Cup and won honours in France with Paris St Germain. When Cambridge United vice-chairman Roger Hunt said the club needed "…miracle workers…" following the sacking of John Taylor he turned to Renard and Le Roy, as they took over on 23rd March 2004. Well it worked and their French revolution managed to save the club from the drop in their first season. They began with a 2-1 win at home to Cheltenham in first game, and were safe from relegation with a game to spare after 3-2 home victory over Scunthorpe.
Following the short term solution to the club's woes, the structure of the managerial team became more defined as, on 14th May, Renard was awarded the post of manager whilst Le Roy became the Director of Football to allow him the chance to take over as international manager of the Democratic Republic of Congo – the team was anything but conventional. When appointed he had high hopes saying:
“I have signed for two years and I hope to stay for three or four years because I think with this time we can do brilliant things. Claude is a teacher for me and I learned every day from him because he is a coach with a lot of experience.”
His first full season in charge began full of optimism that a relegation dog battle would be avoided, especially as he managed to avoid the break up of the team, losing only Fred Murray and adding some interesting continental players, as Abdou El Kholti, Georges Mongin and defender Igor Latte-Yedo. The fact that Mongin torn his knee ligaments in training hours after signing, and Latte-Yedo was sent off on his debut (a decision later rescinded on appeal) were perhaps a sign that things were not going to quite pan out as expected.
The season began with a 2-1 defeat at Wycombe and got worse from there – by the third game the captain was fighting with his players, in particular Danny Webb, whilst the goals were getting hard to come by – it was not until the ninth game that Cambridge actually scored. By late September, the club slipped in to the relegation zone and the in-house bickering again surfaced, this time Renard himself grabbing Stev Angus as he came off the pitch following his substitution. By December 11th, and a third successive defeat (2-1 at Oxford), he became the 14th manager in Cambridge United's League history to be sacked.
As Renard now plots his next move, he gave us a useful insight to what makes him tick as he admitted that:
“Football is not for the dreamer. If you work very well and play very well, the results arrive.”
Well though it was an unusual journey – the events at Cambridge were not a dream – and who knows what Renard will do next – but when we see him next we can be assured he will be there working hard, playing hard, and enjoying the results that naturally would follow.