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Edouard reveals formative challenges - from Glasgow accent to south London slang


Moving countries for a man with nine major titles in three seasons as Celtic’s top scorer may seem like a straightforward hurdle to overcome. But, with five years’ experience behind him already, Odsonne Edouard is still only 23. Here, he explains how he’s handled challenge after challenge as a young man, and why south London vernacular remains the toughest of them all.

This interview originally featured in the Palace v Everton matchday programme. To read more like it, subscribe to our half-season bundle here.

It’s often forgotten amid the constant online speculation and frenzied media coverage that there is a third party involved in a transfer, beyond the selling and buying clubs. There is a person in the middle of it all, too.

How much responsibility would we have wanted as a teenager? How much attention could we handle? How would we cope with moving far from home? These are the human questions that get lost among the furore. For Odsonne Edouard, this was a tricky road he had tried to navigate.

Aged 19, he moved from Paris Saint-Germain to Celtic. Learning English as a second language is hard enough; doing it in Glasgow is another challenge altogether. “It was difficult,” Edouard says, now able to laugh at his early struggles.

“In Scotland, it was very hard at the beginning. It was the first time I moved away from France, and when I came I didn’t speak English. The Scottish accent is very hard to understand, so it took me a lot of time.

“But we had a few players who spoke English and French at Celtic, so that helped me a lot. I tried to learn by speaking to teammates.”

Excellent preparation for a catch-up with James McArthur.

If there’s one thing that can help settle a player, however, it’s success. At Celtic, Edouard was hardly short of that. “We won the treble-treble [Scottish Premier League, Scottish Cup and Scottish League Cup, with Edouard top scorer in every season],” he remembers. “In the three years I was there, we won everything, so you can’t do better.”

Almost as important was the Old Firm derby. “Everyone knows about this rivalry,” Edouard says. “When I play, I never feel the pressure. I just go to the pitch, enjoy it, and try to perform. I don’t feel this pressure.

“But I feel it from the fans and from others players – I would feel that this was a different game. After winning those games it is a big celebration. It is the only game you just cannot lose in the season. The only game.”

Playing under pressure is something Edouard has thrived upon, a quality that has helped him progress this far. From the streets of Paris to the Holmesdale Road and Premier League, he thrives with each step up.

“I first kicked a ball when I was three or four – it was a long time ago!” he remembers. “My dad played football, my brother [played football]. We all liked football. I played more on the street with my friends than with a club to start with.

“A lot of footballers come from Paris. We all start playing in the street – I think the best players from the street come through that. We would play every day: at school, and then after school we would play for like four or five hours outside. We just play, play, play.”

After playing for local side Bobigny as a child, Edouard joined Paris Saint-Germain aged 13. It meant competing with the city’s very best players, a challenge he relished.

“Three or four in my team went to the Academy. The step-up was not hard. I was ready to leave. It was different, because we had more quality and more coaching. I played with the best players in Paris, so it was different, but for me it was more easy. When you play with better players, it is more easy.”

Edouard was at his childhood club, the team he had supported as a boy. “I was too young for Ronaldinho,” he remembers. “But I watched Paris with Nenê, [Javier] Pastore, [Thiago] Motta.”

Then, as he settled in, the club changed forever. “The same year I joined the club, the Qatari [owners] came,” he says. It meant the arrival of players with a global reputation: David Beckham, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Edinson Cavani.

“It was crazy… it was amazing,” Edouard recalls. “We would watch them play on TV, and then afterwards we would see them in person because they were training so close to the Academy. When we looked over we could see them training.

“It was different. I watched and I watched. I thought: ‘One day, I want to train with those kind of players.’”

It wouldn’t be long before Edouard realised his dream. He travelled to the UEFA Under-17s European Championship in 2015 as a talented youngster, and helped France win the tournament.

Quote Icons

When I play, I never feel the pressure. I just go to the pitch, enjoy it, and try to perform.

Odsonne Edouard

Eight goals in five matches later – including a hat-trick against Germany in the final – and he returned as one of Europe’s most sought-after prospects. “After this game, everything was different,” he says of France’s title win. “A lot of people started speaking about me.

“It was the step up after this tournament too – after this tournament I started to train with the first-team at PSG, and that changed everything for me. The club warned me about the attention, but always the club will look out for a player like this.

“When you start growing, the press come to you. We were ready for this after the Euros, and I could focus on my job and keep training. It was hard, but I am someone that doesn’t take notice of the media saying it’s good or bad.

“I focus, I have my friends and family to speak to. I still keep in touch with the same friends from when I was young. We played in the same team since we were six-years-old, and they’re still my friends. They’re helpful for me.”

And so to Palace, and the Premier League – arguably the toughest test of all. Edouard, still just 23-years-old and honing his language skills, had to make a huge leap.

“Now I speak English so it’s easier,” he says. “I feel good in south London. When I came, from the first game I felt welcome there. That was good for me – it means I can play good football at Crystal Palace.”

We ask him if he has learned any local slang. “Not yet,” comes the response. “You have some for me?”

Erring on the politer side of the capital’s colourful vernacular, we tell him about Jaïro Riedewald displaying his south London credentials in the programme, describing his early challenges as ‘not that deep’.

“'Deep'? I don’t know this one,” he laughs. It’s just as well our questions are in plain English. “They will teach me in the changing room!”

This is a light-hearted moment, but again demonstrates the human challenges of leaving home as a young man that go beyond the well-publicised transfer fees.

At Palace, Edouard has French speaking companions – Patrick Vieira being chief among them. “He’s an amazing help for me, because we can speak French as well as English. It’s a big help for me. You have Saïd [Aïgoun, Development Coach] too, who speaks French. I know him from PSG, where he worked before.”

Playing under Vieira is an honour for Edouard, as it is for most players. “He’s a big legend in France. When he’s the manager, you are very excited. My friends ask me about him: ‘How is he? What kind of coach is he?’ They have lots of questions like this, and I tell them.”

But despite Edouard’s confidence, support and experience at an early age, the Premier League was another step-up. For all of his success in Scotland, he was instantly aware of how tough his new role would be. “It was a big, big difference,” he admits.

“There was more intensity, it was more technical, more physical. The first few games it took a little bit of time, because it was a big difference. But I worked hard, I trained hard and I got used to the intensity of the game.”

The best way to ensure one beds in quickly? Once again, to succeed. Edouard managed that in double quick time, scoring within 28 seconds of his debut – and adding a second soon after. “I didn’t expect this from the first game! I just came on, tried to play and tried to help the team to win.”

Now he – and Vieira – have settled in south London, a long season lies ahead. What can Palace achieve? “It’s a hard question,” he says, pausing for thought. “I just hope we keep playing well. We have to work hard for this. The way he has us playing gets us results.

“We have to put everything from coaching into the game, and play well for the fans and for each other.”

Upon mention of the fans, we couldn’t end an interview without asking Edouard about his first Selhurst Park experiences.

His work on his English comes to the fore again. “I like the ambience. Is this the right word?” he asks. “Ambience, atmosphere. It’s different from before at Celtic, it’s more small – but I like it because it’s close and it’s high, so it’s more intense when I play.”

In a world of talk shows, phone-ins and social media pile-ons, we often forget the human side of a footballer making their way in the biggest league in the world. Edouard is a firm believer in honing his skills both on and off the pitch, keen to learn about the culture of south London as much as he is the game itself.

Selhurst Park will always make itself heard, but Odsonne Edouard is a young man finding his voice. More challenges await in the near future, but you can be sure he will be preparing to meet them.