Benjamin Collard longs for a return of a more direct style of play. It may not be a popular opinion for someone who has spent the majority of their career playing in Switzerland but maybe it is his English heritage which wants him want to get stuck in more than others.
“Yes in these days I miss the crosses because in Switzerland all coaches want to play the new Barcelona tiki-taki style and that has affected the way people tackle as well,” he says. “In England you would not get even a card but in Switzerland it would be almost red.
“So I think I have a lot of English blood in my body!”
Collard is a midfielder who is born and raised in Switzerland but his Derbyshire through and through father has clearly had an impact. The 24-year-old still visits his father’s side of the family in England regularly, especially to visit his older brother. His upbringing in Switzerland came after his father met his Swiss mother in London before the pair then decided to relocate to the continent.
He arguably may not have had as good of a football upbringing if his parents had never decided to settle in Switzerland. The midfielder grew up in the academy of 12-time Swiss League winners Young Boys, playing alongside some of the country’s best prospects.
“Of course, the time I spent there was amazing,” he says. I still have a lot of friends I knew from that time like Florent Hadergjonaj (Huddersfield Town) and Michael Frey (Fenerbahce), especially. We were a very good side in this time and beat clubs like Basel and Zürich.
“We trained in the stadium all of the time because it was synthetic grass so it was perfect. I learned a lot and still support them in the Champions League and in the Super League.”
Playing for Young Boys meant he grew up learning to play the Swiss way under some of the country’s best coaches but that does not mean his heritage did not affect his style of play. His Derby County mad father seems to have affected the way his son likes to play football.
“I can play in midfield almost everywhere, it depends on the tactics of the club, but most of the time I have played winger or number ten. I like to shoot and dribble and of course, because of the English style, I like to cross the ball, like Beckham in the old days.
“When people see me play, I think they would say I play like the a young Samir Nasri, back when he was at Marseille. I’m courageous and try to make things happen.”
After leaving Young Boys in 2010 as a 16-year-old, he went on to spend several years in the youth setup of fellow Swiss Super League side FC Thun, playing for their U21 side in the fourth-tier. Collard’s favoured crossing style paid off as in three seasons with the U21 side, he contributed 14 assists.
In 2015, he joined fellow fourth-tier side Zug 94 in the north of the country before deciding to venture abroad for the first time.
“I was at Zug at the time and I wanted a new adventure,” he says. “I know an agent from Greece and he asked me if I wanted to play over there so without much thinking, I said yes and went.
“I played there in Crete for a team called Almyros before I joined Niki Volou.
“I had a one season contract and stayed at the hotel of the president. It was a good time and I’d never seen as much sun in all my life. With my English colour I got sunburned everyday but I enjoyed life very much and we had good games.”
During his time with Niki Volou in the third-tier, he played alongside English forward Sadik Balarabe before heading back to his native Switzerland to join third-tier club Köniz and then joined Naters Oberwallis in 2017 where he has been since.
This year, he’s made eight appearances so far with his side sitting just above the relegation spots before they headed into the near five month winter break. Having played in the third and fourth tiers during his career, the level has always been of a high standard.
“There are players that live on playing football but most of them work alongside football.
“I think the league is quite competitive. We have good training pitches and train as hard as the professionals. We play in the cup games too and sometimes the teams in this level win against the Super League sides like FC Luzern so as you see, it’s not too far off the standard.”
Still only 24, Collard has a lot more to give in his football career and time for him to complete an ambition of his.
“Of course why not?” he says in reply to the question of whether he’d like to play in England. “I’m very interested in English football from Premier League to League Two and I try to watch as many games I can.
“I was once in Manchester and played a friendly game with a local team against Bala Town from the Welsh Premier League. I played well but they couldn’t afford much salary so I came back. I don’t play for money but I wouldn’t have been able to afford the rent.
“England is always in my heart and I love the country very much.”
It’s clear that the midfielder has a passion for his father’s homeland and with time on his side, he may well get the chance to make an impact in the leagues of the country which he feels very much attached to.