French muscle for midfield
CHRIS LAKEY Peter Grant was claiming a major coup last night after adding some Gallic muscle to his midfield in the shape of Julien Brellier. The tough-tackling 25-year-old becomes the City manager's fourth signing of the summer - and there are likely to be more before the end of the week.
Peter Grant was claiming a major coup last night after adding some Gallic muscle to his midfield in the shape of Julien Brellier.
The tough-tackling 25-year-old becomes the City manager's fourth signing of the summer - and there are likely to be more before the end of the week.
Brellier - nicknamed The Judge - has penned a two-year deal at Carrow Road, having declined the offer of a new contract with Scottish Premier League Hearts.
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His arrival will inevitably raise questions over the futures of Youssef Safri and Dickson Etuhu, who are reportedly being head-hunted by West Brom and Derby respectively.
But Grant insists Brellier brings a new dimension - as well as competition - to his midfield.
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“I think he is a different midfielder from the ones we have,” he said. “We have some guys who are good passers, we have some guys who are good players technically. I think Julien gives us a bit of both, but maybe a better understanding than most of the boys we have of people's positions.
“He understands the game, his tactical awareness is where I would put him at the top of the list, and the way he plays. I don't bring people in who are just going to be same as - it is very important that the ones we are trying to bring in are different to the ones we already have here.”
Grant - who is widely expected to add Celtic goalkeeper David Marshall to his squad in the next few days - believes yesterday's move for Brellier would have surprised some other clubs vying for his signature.
“We thought it was going to be a very tough call to get him, but there was the pull that he wants to play in England,” said Grant.
“With some of the clubs that have been mentioned and shown an interest in him I think it is a big coup for us and I think the fans will love him, I think he will be a fans' favourite.
“I think he will be a fantastic asset for us - he is different to what we have in the team and I think we will see that with the style of play he has will endear him to the supporters. I know what this support love, they want people to give 100pc commitment and that is one thing he gives in abundance.
“He plays with his heart on his sleeve - he is one of these competitors who wants to play on the front foot, and plays with a passion and a commitment and also, the most important thing, he can use the ball well.
“He has a great understanding of the game - he is 25 years of age but he plays with an old head on his shoulders. I am sure he will be a big hit here.
“He's a competitive, but very intelligent footballer, he understands the game and I think you can see when you play at a club like Inter Milan, even train at a club like Inter Milan, they are better than us, they understand the game better than us.
“I think you can see that in the way Julien plays. I have watched him three or four times live myself and I have seen a lot of TV clips. Even when I came in he was one of the boys I was looking at, that type of player, a competitive type of player who can use the ball well but has also got intelligence to read the game and understand where his team-mates are.”
Brellier had crossed paths with Grant's assistant, Jim Duffy, who spent a short time at Hearts at the beginning of last year - and it was the Scot who set the ball rolling on the move.
“I received a call from Jim Duffy two weeks ago,” Brellier said. “I think it was very important that someone knows you.”
The opportunity that Duffy was offering, of playing in England, was too good to turn down.
“I always wanted to play in England,” he said. “They play good interesting football and I think the championship is very good so I am very happy to be here.
“I am a tough player and I can play football as well. I like to win the ball and I am a team player - I just like to win the ball and play a simple pass for other players.”
It's a touch of that tough streak of muscle that Grant is keen to add to a team whose soft underbelly so often cost them valuable points last season.
“Yes - we were often a soft touch, there is no doubt of that, in certain games,” he said. “We lost games we shouldn't have lost, there were games we dominated and shouldn't have lost. There is no doubt Julien's experience, the combination of Scottish, and Italian football and now an opportunity in England, that his talents are set for it.”
Brellier began his career at French club Montpellier before being snapped up by Inter Milan in 2000. He played one senior game for the Italians, and spent spells on loan at Lecco and Legnano before joining Venezia, who loaned him to Salernitana.
He was released in May 2005 and was bought by then Hearts' manager George Burley, playing 51 games north of the border.