This article also featured in the 2018 GFFN 100
“Miracles happen” joked Flavien Tait after a rare headed goal set Angers on their way to beating Guingamp in March. Heading, the technically gifted midfielder admitted afterwards, “is not my best attribute”. Ariel abilities aside, Tait has made a habit overcoming the odds. A serious knee injury at then National Chateauroux might have ended his career, now however the dedicated Tait is irreplaceable for Stephane Moulin’s Angers and perhaps Ligue 1’s most underrated player.
"It could have been worse.” explained Tait in Ouest France, “The surgeon fixed the broken and re-solidified cartilage,” while club doctors were “pessimistic” on his recovery. Having trodden the typical path of many a young player in France, graduating from an academy before bouncing round the lower divisions, searching for a professional deal, the now 25 year old Tait had finally found at home with Chateauroux.
A disastrous knee injury which halted a string of standout displays meant, as Angers coach Stephane Moulin states, Tait ended up in the lower leagues “by accident”. Angers however, remained admirers and, following an impressive recovery and return to the Chateauroux team, were quick to sign the stocky midfielder in 2015. Tait’s time in Ligue 1 started slowly, rarely making the team. "Initially, he did not accept the change, the physical challenge and had a hard time doing defensive work ," explains Moulin. ”So there was a lot of work to be done but he always tried to find out what he had to do to reach the level he wanted.”
Although Tait concedes he was initially “grumpy”, he seized every opportunity afforded him. "Flavien is a smart person who has worked hard to get where he is today. He put in a lot of effort, raised his level and his intensity.” Although Moulin explains he was "sometimes severe with him but it was always for a good cause. There are players who, when you are tough with them, give up. He never gave up. He hung on, and today he is harvesting the rewards. All the credit goes to him."
A stunning 2018 is the culmination of the hard work Moulin spoke of. Having cemented a place in the side last winter, Tait assumed responsibility as Angers’ creative hub. Whether playing from the left or centrally, his deft use of the ball, his eye for a pass and his tenacity drives Moulin’s typically organised and bullish outfit forward, Tait dicating play and tempo. The Ile-de-France native not only leads but perfectly represents his team - powerful and intelligent, brave in possession, the product of desire, commitment and a touch of class.
Despite being one Ligue 1 leading assist providers, Tait’s game does lack goals; averaging just one every ten games. This, however, is simply the next barrier for the Angers forward to overcome. Nothing about his form has surprised his Angers colleagues, least of all winger Pierrick Capelle who referred to Tait as ‘petit Ribery’ and joked that he could have made Didier Deschamps World Cup squad. For the player sat in Chataeroux’s treatment room just 4 years ago, career in doubt, any suggestion of a call up must have seemed impossible. But, as Tait pointed out, miracles do happen.
by Adam White