Morgan Schneiderlin sat down with Everton's Official Matchday Programme to give a wide-ranging candid interview on his passion for football and family - and why he is a "happy man" with the Blues.
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I know my dad was proud of me and everything I did was for them, for my family, to provide for them.
It is 14 months since Morgan Schneiderlin went home to the tiny village of Zellwiller in France for his dad’s final days.
Albert Schneiderlin passed away on 12 September 2018 and four days later his son played for Everton against West Ham.
Morgan was replaced one minute before half-time.
“My dad was in a bad condition for a couple of years, so I knew it would happen one day” says Schneiderlin.
“I went back to France to spend his last days with him. His funeral was the following week [17 September, 24 hours after Everton’s meeting with West Ham].
“The manager told me he needed me for the game and that he believed in me. I jumped on a plane and played the match.
“I was drained. Drained mentally. Drained physically because I had not trained.
“But I tried. I gave my best.
“If the manager needed me, I would play. It is my job.
“After, I said to myself and my family, ‘Why did I play this game?’ Perhaps I shouldn’t have. But you live with no regret.”
Does Schneiderlin suspect his dad would have told him to play?
“Yes. That’s why I played.”
On the last day of Albert Schneiderlin’s life he learned he would have a grandson.
“I had the chance to talk to him the night before he passed away, face to face,” says Schneiderlin.
“We wanted to keep the sex of our baby secret.
“But I told him my baby would be a boy.”
Mae Schneiderlin was born on 10 October 2018.
“It was a blessing for that time,” says Schneiderlin. “My dad passed away, then I had my son.
“I wasn’t playing and I was sad about that – but maybe it was a blessing in disguise in that period.
“I could recharge my batteries and spend time with my wife [Camille] and son.
“Of course, I was sad my dad was not there. But he could not go through what he was going through anymore.
“That is what I am thinking. That he would be a relieved guy.
“To not be too sad. He is in a better place now.”
Morgan Schneiderlin mimics his dad’s exasperation. Five-year-old Morgan had been driving his parents up the wall, pleading to join a football club.
Zellwiller’s team had an age limit of six. Schneiderlin asked in the next village. “Too young,” he was told.
One of Albert’s friends mischievously alerted him to imminent trials being hosted by Ligue 1 Strasbourg, 55 minutes north given a good run on the Alsace region’s narrow, wearying roads.
“’It’s long, it’s long’,” protested Albert.
“But he took me, with my mum,” says Schneiderlin.
“We did the test and the guy from the club said to my mum, ‘We will take him’.”
Schneiderlin was 13 when he eventually left home for Strasbourg’s academy quarters.
“That is what made me a man,” says Schneiderlin.
“You are on your own, put together with other people, our ages were from 13 to 20.
“You understand what respect is, [understand] the differences between religions and countries.
“People came from Senegal, Malia, Congo, there were Christians and Muslims.
“You have to live together and it is the best thing.
“We had such strong relationships. My best friend today comes from the Strasbourg academy.”
Schneiderlin can reel off his former daily routine.
School would start at 8am and be followed by two hours of training at 10am.
The same four-hour block would be repeated from 1.30pm.
At 15 he was training with the first team and asking mum Caroline if she’d persuade Strasbourg’s academy director to pare down her son’s schooling.
“She said, ‘Okay, but you need one qualification,” says Schneiderlin.
“I studied sales for one year.
“I had to work for one month in a sports shop as part of the course.
“When I got the qualification, my mum said I could leave school.”
Was he a decent salesman?
“No,” Schneiderlin laughs. “Very bad.”
Schneiderlin taps his temple, explaining why his parents were fighting a losing battle when they urged him to concentrate on his education.
“It is hard at school when all your focus is on training,” he says.
“I wanted to do everything to give myself the best opportunity in football.”
In that respect, he was following Albert’s instructions. Schneiderlin adheres to his dad’s overarching doctrine today.
“He told me to pursue my dreams,” says Schneiderlin.
“But first, he taught me to be a good man.
“He made some mistakes. So have I.
“But you need to go through it and be a good guy.
“That is what I try to do.”
What does the term ‘good guy’ mean to Schneiderlin?
“I come from a modest family,” he continues.
“My mum worked at a hospital caring for people. My dad was outside, working on people’s roofs (Albert worked for a small carpentry business, Charpentes Wurry).
“They worked hard to provide for me and my sister [Camille].
“My mum and dad told me to never forget where I came from.
“I know we are very privileged be football players.
“I will never forget what my mum, my dad and my grandad did for me.
“That was why I had to be strong and mature and make good decisions.
“When you see your friends going out, drinking, meeting girls, we [young footballers] had to stay focussed. That helped me mature.”
In Schneiderlin’s junior years his grandfather would drive him from the northern French outpost of Zellwiller to Alsatian capital Strasbourg.
“Our village was far away from everything,” says Schneiderlin. “It is very small, only 800 people.
“I was up at 5.45am to be at school for 7am and waited one hour outside the gates before they opened.
“That’s why I left to go to the academy. I couldn’t get up at 5.45 any longer!”
Schneiderlin’s one concession to his ‘no regrets’ outlook concerns leaving the family home so young.
He wouldn’t change his decision but knows it denied him more time with dad.
Being parted from his family was tougher as Albert’s cancer reached its later stages.
“It was the hardest thing ever,” says Schneiderlin.
“We train every day, so I could not spend the time I wanted with my dad.
“I left home when I was 13.
“But I know my dad was proud of me and everything I did was for them, for my family, to provide for them.
“I have no regrets about that.
“But it was very hard to have my mum or sister on the phone, crying because my dad was not well.
“My dad would be on the phone – he wanted to put me in the best condition – he never told me he was in pain.
“That is something which will drive me for the rest of my life.
“He went through the hardest things you can imagine. So I can never complain.”
Schneiderlin joined Everton from Manchester United in January 2017.
He was outstanding in his first half-season, dictating from midfield and on the winning side in six of his opening nine games, losing only one.
Schneiderlin’s injury-enforced absence from a Merseyside derby blew a hole in his side’s plans. When he returned to the team, Everton won three and drew one of five matches.
Everton had a difficult start to the following campaign and somewhere along the line Schneiderlin’s stock fell.
“We didn’t perform well and I didn’t have my best time,” says Schneiderlin.
“Then this thing happened.”
The thing was an inaccurate report painting Schneiderlin in a negative light.
With each retelling of the story, another drop of accelerant was added to the fire.
“In every game, I feel a long way behind everyone [in terms of popularity],” says Schneiderlin.
“That’s why sometimes in the past I asked, ‘Should I stay?’
“But I didn’t want to leave like that.
“I am not a coward. I could have hidden after the story, but I will always play.
“In some people’s minds, I will always be that guy who had a bad attitude when the Club was in a difficult situation.
“But the people working with me every day know I am someone who tries to have a smile on his face, to be happy and work hard and be ready for my teammates.
“I had an incredible first six months with this club.”
Schneiderlin refers to the team’s poor start to 2017/18. To the fallout from the thing.
“For any player, to go on the pitch and be booed by your fans, it is very hard,” he continues.
“I had never been in that position.
“I was thinking, ‘Oh, God.’ (Pauses, mimes taking deep breath) ‘Okay… okay’.
“I finished the game and everyone was saying, ‘Morgan, forget it, it will be better’.
“I am just sad the story happened because the reputation it gave me is completely different from who I am.
“It was hard for my wife, she was in the stadium.
“People I know were asking, ‘Morgan, did you do that?’
“So I had to explain.
“I was so frustrated for a couple of weeks.
“To come into the stadium, to play in a game in this shirt, feeling people don’t want you in this club, that was the hardest thing.
“I spoke with a lot of people, my agent, friends who play football, some old players, they said: ‘Morgan, just play football, you are here for one reason, you have the quality, keep going and change their minds.
‘If you can change the minds of everyone it will be the best thing you have done in your career’.
“That is what I am trying to do.”
Schneiderlin’s selection for Everton’s 3-0 win at Cardiff on 26 February this year followed 163 days in which he played 39 minutes of Premier League football.
His return coincided with Everton’s blistering conclusion to the 2018/19 campaign. Schneiderlin was magnificent in Everton’s 4-0 drubbing of former club United. His team won three and drew three of the games he started between February and May.
Still, Schneiderlin went on his summer holiday unsure about his future.
It is a measure of the player’s renewed optimism over his possibilities at Everton that he was excited by the direction of conversations with Marco Silva and Director of Football Marcel Brands in pre-season.
“Marcel and the manager told me it was never their intention for me to leave,” says Schneiderlin.
“I was very pleased – and impatient to see what would happen.
“They said I would have my opportunities, I had to play well to keep my place, of course, but I would be part of the team.
“Marco explained where I fitted in his plans for this season.
“I have started eight games already and hopefully I’ll play a lot more.”
In those five months of relative inaction around the turn of the year, Schneiderlin fixed his mind on being ready to answer Silva’s call, whenever it came.
He worked alone and at weekends would bring over his own personal trainer from France.
“Even when you have a very good fitness coach at the Club, hard training sessions with the manager, I couldn’t do nothing at weekends,” explains Schneiderlin.
“I was working myself, doing things with a guy coming from France.
“I knew I had to do more to be ready.
“It is my body. I run a lot in a game. I have to be fit and couldn’t be tired when my chance came.
“Some people think I don’t care. I do care.”
Schneiderlin cares about football from a broader perspective, too. He talks about the game with the enthusiasm of that boy who would once tug at his dad’s sleeve begging to join a team.
“I am a massive football fan, I love it,” says Schneiderlin. “It is my passion.
“When I was young, I had the videos from every World Cup and European Championship.
“I knew every player.
“I was crying when my mum and dad told me I had to go to bed at 8pm if a match was on television.
“Even now, my wife tells, me, ‘Morgan, stop watching football. Please’.
“When my career is finished, I will stay in football.
“I want to be a manager but if I don’t succeed, I want to be involved somehow. It is part of my life. I love it so much.”
Schneiderlin garnered attention he didn’t seek last month when the story of how he invited an Evertonian to a match at Goodison Park entered the public domain.
The supporter contacted Schneiderlin after losing his mum to cancer and related how she would bid goodnight with the words, ‘See you in the Morgan Schneiderlin’.
Could Schneiderlin’s gesture, organising for the fan and his family to watch Everton beat West Ham, perhaps be attributed his dad’s influence? To that instruction: be a good man?
“Yes,” says Schneiderlin.
“I have 1.2 million people follow me on Instagram, a lot of people who write to me.
“Of course, I apologise I can’t answer to everybody.
“But is good when you can do some small things.
“I knew what he’d been through.
“What his mum was saying every night really touched me.
“I am just happy the family had a good day.”
Asked if he’s noticed more warmth directed his way of late, Schneiderlin’s answer reveals a desire, perhaps sub-conscious, to shield himself from further hurt.
“I try not to read too much, I mainly keep away from social media, so I can’t tell you if it’s [prevailing feeling towards him] better,” he says.
“But if it is true [that his popularity rating is climbing] I would be very happy.
“Every player wants to be loved by his own fans.
“But I don’t ask for people to love me.
“I just ask for people to be fair with me.
“If I have a bad game, of course I don’t expect them to say I played well.
“If I play well, it is good if they say, ‘Yes, he had a good game, well done’.
“For them to not judge me on what they thought I did.
Schneiderlin admits his life has been transformed by Mae’s arrival.
He is in a good place. Physically and mentally.
“When you go home and see this little creature smiling at you and crawling and being happy, you forget everything else,” says Schneiderlin.
“I love this country, my wife does, too.
“I talk to my family on Facetime or in our WhatsApp group at least once every two days.
“I feel very good, confident, physically good in training.
“My only focus is to keep healthy and try my best, then good things will happen.
“I am just such a happy man now.”