LIBERATING FOOTBALL TRAVEL

Troyes AC

French outpost of City’s global football empire

A fan’s guide – the club from early doors to today

Promoted to Ligue 1 in 1999, 2005, 2012 and 2015, each time for short stays in the top flight, Troyes AC have been nothing if not inconsistent since being created in 1986.

Or rather recreated. Officially founded as Association Troyes Aube Champagne three decades ago, Troyes can trace a lineage back to 1900.

Fin-de-siècle flagship club of the Seine-side town of Troyes, Union Sportive Troyenne merged with neighbouring AS Savinienne in 1931. Promoted to the Première in 1954, French Cup finalists in 1956, ASTS set the standard for football in Troyes – but also established the precedent for clubs to fade then disappear quickly.

Stade de l'Aube/Peterjon Cresswell

After they folded in 1967, Troyes Aube Football lasted a decade until suffering a similar fate.

Association Troyes Aube Champagne had to start at the bottom, topping the regional division for Champagne-Ardenne straight away but then taking ten years to clamber up the French League ladder to reach Division 2 in 1996.

They did so under Alain Perrin, a junior assistant to Arsène Wenger at Nancy, later to have mixed but dramatic results at Portsmouth. In his decade-long stint, Troyes rose from the very lowest rungs to knock on the door of Ligue 1. Attendance figures at the Stade de l’Aube, the town’s main football stadium since 1925, soon levelled at a healthy 5,000-plus.

Stade de l'Aube/Peterjon Cresswell

With Serbian midfielder Sladan Djukić and locally born one-club defender Mohamed ‘Momo’ Bradja, Troyes matched the achievement of Troyes Sainte-Savine and Troyes Aube Football before them by reaching the top flight.

Changing their acronym from ATAC to ESTAC, Espérance Sportive Troyes Aube Champagne, the club survived a bumpy debut season in Ligue 1 to settle in the top ten for two seasons. As a result, the club twice qualified for the Intertoto Cup, later Monaco and PSG star Jérôme Rothen helping Troyes to a dramatic 4-4 draw at Newcastle in the final of 2001. Bobby Robson’s United almost pegged back the away-goals deficit after being 4-1 down.

Troyes then lost narrowly to Leeds in the subsequent UEFA Cup.

Troyes AC kiosk/Peterjon Cresswell

With the departure of Perrin in 2002, Troyes yo-yo’d once more, enjoying another brief stint in Ligue 1 thanks to goals from Sébastien Grax, who would come back and play for another promotion-winning Troyes side in 2012.

This unexpected triumph, with coach Jean-Marc Furlan in his second stint at the Stade de l’Aube, was achieved thanks to astute bargain-hunting for players from the lower leagues – and the midfield leadership of Moroccan international Mounir Obbadi.

With Obbadi’s departure for Monaco, it was another Troyes returnee, attacking midfielder Benjamin Nivet, who helped the club romp the Ligue 2 title in 2015.

Touching 40, Nivet was unable to rescue Troyes from a disastrous top-flight campaign in 2015-16 – with only two wins between August and mid March.

Stadium Guide

The field of dreams – and the stands around it

Set near a pretty stretch of the Labourat Canal by a pool-equipped campsite east of Troyes, the Stade de l’Aube was built in 1924 and opened a year later. It has been the town’s main football stadium ever since.

Redeveloped in the mid 1950s when then Association Sportive Troyes were top-flight, the stadium wasn’t modernised until current incarnation Troyes AC ascended the league ladder in the late 1990s. Its four stands were built or rebuilt, the main one completed in 2004 by Troyes hosting a France-Ireland under-21 European qualifier, Franck Ribéry involved in a 1-0 win.

Capacity increased to 20,000, filled for the vital promotion clash between Troyes and Amiens in 2012 – and again for the visit of Ajaccio for a Ligue 1 spot in 2015. Average attendances, though, are half that.

Home fans gather in the Tribune Champagne, by the training pitch on the town side of the ground while visiting supporters in Bloc A have their own entrance by the narrow river at the Tribune Seine end towards the campsite. In between is the main stand, the Tribune d’Honneur on avenue Robert Schumann, with the Tribune Marcel Vitoux opposite.

getting there

Going to the stadium – tips and timings

Stade de l’Aube is east of town, a walk from the centre of some 20min. Buses to the stadium set off from the market place, Les Halles, where rue Général de Gaulle and rue de la République meet. The 1 bus leaves Halle quai 1, opposite the Paul bakery, every 15mins Mon-Sat, hourly Sun, until 9pm. Allow 10mins for the bus to reach Stade Arbouin and Stade de l’Aube immediately afterwards, both close to the stadium.

Buses 21 and 25 also stop at the stadium but only during school hours.

getting in

Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much

There are two ticket offices, Billetteries Nord and Sud, either side of the main entrance on avenue Robert Schumann. They open on the Tuesday before a weekend game, 1.30pm-6pm until the Saturday, then from 10am on match day itself.

Tickets are also sold online through ticketmaster.fr and francebillet.com, who also distribute through Auchan, Carrefour and other hypermarkets. The club also distributes online, registration required.

Except for crucial promotion fixtures or the visit of PSG, availability is rarely a problem.

Prices range from €10 behind the goals to €20-€25 along the sidelines, cash only at the ticket offices.

 

what to buy

Shirts, kits, merchandise and gifts

The modest ESTAC boutique on main avenue Robert Schumann opens on match days sells logo’d sweatbands, flags and frilly pennants.

Where to Drink

Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors

If you’re walking to the stadium, then you pass a small hub of shops at the main crossroads one bus stop nearer to town, the Carrefour de l’Europe. There you’ll find corner betting bar L’Européen, with plenty of sports talk.

Opposite the stadium, Pizz’A Bella is more than just a pizza oven in a small room decorated with Troyes team line-ups – its front terrace fills with pre-match drinkers, Belgian Leffe among the beers on offer.

Just past the stadium across the bridge, Stadio Pizza is perhaps a more convivial option, a friendly bar/pizzeria that opens meal times Mon-Sat and also for Troyes games on Sun. By the door, taps of Pelforth Blonde and Affligem flow freely if you’re just after a pre-match swiftie. From there, towards the stadium, nearby Le Bois du Bon Seigneur is an upscale outlet for the inventive, seasonal cuisine of chef Christian Chavanon in a century-old villa surrounded by greenery.

At the stadium, kiosks and a wooden hut behind the Tribune Marcel Vitoux dispense merguez sausages and beer in 25cl and 50cl measures.