Everyone loves a cup shock and Hibs striker Franck Dja Djedje is no different, revelling in his old club Grenoble’s humbling of the mighty Olympique Marseille – even if it left him and his brother barely on speaking terms.
Grenoble, now playing in the fourth tier of French football following bankruptcy, stunned L’OM by knocking them out of this season’s Coupe de France, winning on penalties after a last-gasp equaliser from Selim Bengriba in added-on time at the end of extra-time had earned them a 3-3 draw.
And it didn’t go down well with Dja Djedje’s younger brother Brice, in his first season with Marseille, currently third in Ligue 1, and a second-half substitute on that fateful day at the Stade des Alpes.
Franck said: “My brother may play for Marseille, but I prefer Grenoble, one of my old clubs. I was very happy for them, everyone loves to see the underdogs beat the big team and at the moment Grenoble are playing three divisions below Marseille.
“I call my brother after every game for a chat but he was very angry, he didn’t want to speak and told me to phone back another time!
“But it just shows what can happen in cup games. Everyone likes to see the small team beat the big team – unless you happen to be the big team of course. That’s what cup football is all about, teams that are given no chance at all shocking everyone and causing great excitement.”
Dja Djedje is, of course, all too well aware that is the pitfall which threatens him and his Easter Road team-mates as they prepare to face Berwick Rangers in Sunday’s Scottish Cup quarter-final but, he insisted, Alan Stubbs’ players are determined they won’t suffer the fate of Marseille.
The 28-year-old said: “I know the importance of the Scottish Cup, it’s the same in France. Everyone wants to win this competition and because they are one-off games there’s the knowledge that there can be an upset, the small team plays without fear. The fact Berwick are two divisions below us makes it a very dangerous game for us.
“There are also a few players at Berwick who used to play for Hibs so when you return to an old club you always want to show why you should still be there and so you play strong. We won’t be thinking this is an easy game, we will be taking Berwick as seriously as any team we have played.”
Arbroath gave Hibs a fright in the previous round by taking the lead only for Dja Djedje to equalise just before half-time with his first goal for Hibs. And although head coach Stubbs later said he never felt his side were in danger, the much-travelled forward admitted his strike couldn’t have come at a better time.
He said: “I think the fans were beginning to become a little bit nervous so my goal just calmed everything down and we went on to win fairly comfortably. On Sunday I’d like to see us get the first goal quite quickly, that prevents them from gaining confidence.
“The longer it remains 0-0 the better they will feel and you don’t want to be getting to the stage of the game where you are worrying that one mistake, one free-kick or corner or a decision by the referee might make things difficult.
“It is important we are right on top of our game from the first whistle but I’m sure we’ll approach it properly.”
Dja Djedje confessed to being surprised to learn Hibs haven’t won the Scottish Cup since 1902, but after making the predictable observation that this might just be their year, the Ivory Coast player revealed he’d take promotion over cup glory.
He said: “Maybe it can be this year, everyone wants to be at Hampden for the final.
“Sunday is the first of three games in six days for us so it’s going to be a difficult week but for the moment the focus is on Berwick. Win that and we are in the semi-finals and who knows what might happen. But the first objective of this club is to win promotion, I’d take that before the cup.
“You play in every competition to win, but getting back into the Premiership is the main thing for us.”
A young player at Paris St Germain when they defeated Marseille to win the Coup de France in 2006, Dja Djedje has amassed a wealth of experience playing in his homeland, Ukraine, Norway and Belarus before signing an 18-month contract with Hibs and he’s determined to use the knowledge gained to the benefit of the Capital club and teenage striker Jason Cummings.
As you would expect he’s come up against some of the best French football can offer, Lille’s Mathieu Debuchy, Yohan Cabaye, Eden Hazard, Adil Rami, Gervinho, Joe Cole and PSG’s Claude Makelele and Mamadou Sakho to mention but a few while Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina was a team-mate at Nice.
Add in away winners for Chornomorets Odessa against Dyname Zagreb and PSV Eindhoven as he clocked up eight Europa League games for the Ukrainian outfit and a further six which included beating Italian’s Fiorentina on their own turf during a short spell with Dinamo Minsk and it’s easy to see Dja Djedje has plenty to offer in the way of advice.
He said: “I’m hoping my experience can help. Jason is only 19 but an exciting young striker. I’m telling him football is a game to enjoy although sometimes you don’t play with a smile on your face. I’m trying to help teach Jason the little things you need as a striker, when and where to run for example.
“But I remember as a young player myself and the older guys trying to talk to me, sometimes it just goes in one ear and straight out the other.”
Dja Djedje, though, believes he and Dominique Malonga are very much on the same wavelength – and not just because their native tongue is French. He said: “Being able to speak to each other in our own language on the pitch is an advantage, the opposition defenders don’t understand what we are saying to each other.
“But sometimes we don’t need to talk, all it needs is a look or a glance to know what the other is thinking – almost telepathic in a way.”