(We continue our PIMP debuts with Mike Schwartz, better known around these parts as RipCityVillan. Mike is a lifelong soccer fan, who grew up watching the World Cup and playing FIFA 95 in Princeton, NJ. He is a passionate supporter of Aston Villa and FC Nantes, and moved to Portland last year. He can be found most weekend mornings at 4-4-2. Here's his contribution to our series, featuring a keeper from Ligue 2 French side FC Nantes. As a note, we don't have any (legal) access to photos of Guy through Getty Images, so here is a link to his GIS page)
Guy Roland Ndy Assembe (aka: "Guy-Ro") - surname prounounced "En-dee-ah-SEM-bay", nickname prounounced "GEE-row"
Club: FC Nantes
Age: 24 (which is 16 in keeper years)
Height: 6'0 (before you say anything, remember that Iker Cassillas is 5'11)
"Guy Roland Ndy Assembé (born February 28, 1986 in Yaoundé) is a Cameroonian football goalkeeper currently under contract for French side FC Nantes."
As a lifelong Nantes supporter, I thus anoint myself the foremost anglophone authority on Mr. Ndy Assembe.
But on to the football, and to why Guy-Ro is a PIMP:
It has to say something about your ability when you are called up to the full international squad of a top-50 nation from a mid-table Ligue 2 side. Guy-Ro (who proudly wears "Ndy Assembe" on his shirt) has come a long way in his four years with Nantes, and 2010-11 has been his breakout. A product of the Nantes youth academy, signed at 8 years old, he spent 2007-08 and 2008-09 stuck behind Tony Huertebis and the legendary-but-aging Jarome Alonzo respectively. For me, Guy-Ro was always that guy who started pre-season friendlies, always did well, but never really factored into the regular season. He was loan
ed to Ligue 1 side Valenciennes in 2009-10, as Nantes attempted to hand the #1 shirt to a new signing, the budding Slovak prospect Lubos Kamenar. But Kamenar was nothing more than a tall stiff pylon in goal, allowing 16 goals in 13 games (looking extremely uncomfortable in so doing) and les Canaris, a club with a deep history and a tremendous sense of pride, finished an embarrassing 15th. Guy-Ro only started 17 games in Valenciennes, again (and we're developing a theme here) stuck behind veterans Nicolas Penneteau and Jean-Louis Leca. But Penneteau was inconsistant, and Leca suffered an injury, and suddenly all pressure was thrust onto Guy-Ro, who shined for his club, beating top teams like Bordeaux and Toulouse.
His performances did not go unnoticed, and, in January of 2010, Guy-Ro was called up to the senior squad by then Cameroon coach, Paul Le Guen, for the African Cup of Nations. Stuck behind veterans Carlos Kameni and Souleymanou Hamidou, he never got into a game, but it was a good first step towards recognition by (seemingly) both club and country. Back in France, Guy-Ro was forced to cede his starting place to Penneteau. Le Guen was, however undeterred, and boldly named Guy-Ro in his World Cup squad, ahead of another young prospect (and a fellow PIMP, Joselyn Mayebi). But - you guessed it - Guy-Ro never got into a game. He did, however, earn his first senior cap in a WC warm-up vs. the Republic of Georgia, and Guy-Ro kept a clean sheet in a nil draw. After a disappointing performance in South Africa, Cameroon played a friendly in Poland, and Guy-Ro earned another cap, a clean sheet, and his first victory, 3-0.
He returned to Nantes for the 2010-11 season, and after week one, in which Nantes lost 2-0 at home to Le Mans, Kamenar was finally and mercifully benched in favor of the agile Guy-Ro. In the 23 matches since, he has conceded just 18 goals, in the often hectic and high-scoring lower division. Kamenar was shipped to Sivasspor on loan in January, and the #1 job is finally Guy-Ro's for sure. Nantes sit seven painful points outside of the promotion zone with 14 games to go, but don't blame Guy-Ro - Nantes are 16th in the league in goals for, and 3rd best in goals allowed.
So, how does this translate to Aston Villa? Well, outside of non-factor Andy Marshall and the unsettled Brad Guzan, Villa are in need of a long-term replacement in goal. Big Brad is 39, will turn 40 in May, and, while he has certainly aged like a fine wine, we cannot expect to get many more quality years out of him. I see Guy-Ro as ready to start in the Premiership as early as next year, and if Kamenar returns to Nantes improved and ready to excel in goal, we could buy Guy-Ro for an extremely reasonable fee. We have a coach with strong ties to the French league, and a new star who happens to be a regular in the Cameroon starting XI. I think this makes sense, and in a few years, you could hear the English pundits wondering out loud where in the world this 'keeper with the funny name came from.
Finding a youtube highlight reel is near impossible, but here's a quick piece done by a local TV station, entitled "Ndy Assembe, le dernier rempart nantais!" (Nantes' last line of defense).