Han-Noah Massengo hails Bristol City's unsung hero making a difference behind the scenes

By Gregor MacGregor

Bristol City's French tourbillon [whirlwind in French, ask Kalifa Cisse] in midfield may be a storm rising, with Preston North End soon to be in the epicentre.

Han-Noah Massengo looks a player rejuvenated this season, having impressed in glimpses at the back end of 2020/21 and possibly playing his best football yet in the last two games against Welsh opposition.

The France Under-19 international has 219 minutes of match action in the Championship so far and looks to be an effective, energetic foil to the older legs of Matty James and Andy King in the middle for the Robins.

Now into his third season at Ashton Gate, last year may have proven more difficult for Massengo as his league starts dropped from 23 to 18 and for a spell it looked like a place in the senior side would prove elusive.

But many supporters will forget that, at 20, the box-to-box midfielder is still so young. Of those to have played more minutes than Massengo this season, only Alex Scott, 18, is his junior, while the Frenchman received the 13th most minutes of any players last season as the Robins continue to give first-team opportunites to young players.

It's all about learning and developing. And to that end Massengo paid tribute to fellow French speaker (and Northern France-born) Kalifa Cisse, who has played an important role for many of the club's signings from abroad in recent years, after anchoring the midfield and defence for two years from 2010.

"He's [been] massive for me," Massengo told Bristol Live. "Even when I came in my first year and I was staying at the hotel, he was taking me out and showing me the city. He was going out to eat because I was at the hotel.

"Even now he's always working with me, on how can I improve my game. We're always talking and because he's French it's easier for me as well.

"We're watching clips, working and doing other stuff, but yes, he's massive for me," said Massengo.

As to that recent 'worldie' goal captured in training that Cisse scored and the club featured on socal media, we need to tread carefully according to Massengo: "He's a good player but you can't say too much because he's going to... [makes head getting bigger gesture]".

A double act then? It was Lee Johnson who explained back in the summer of 2018 that Bristol City needed to improve on how they get the best from their signings from beyond these borders: "We haven’t got a coach who speaks foreign languages and we need to get better at helping foreign players to settle in."

Cisse, who speaks five languages and scored two goals in 61 competitive matches for City between 2010–2012, arrived a year later followed by Massengo in August.

Cisse's role at City is a little ambiguous as the 37-year-old is listed as a coach/scout, with his specific brief unclear, but he's regarded within the club as a vitally important member of staff, as the "glue" between staff and the dressing room.

Meanwhile, the former Monaco player who supports PSG gave an insight into his life around Bristol. Although he is not one for the high life, Massengo admits having his close family around him has helped him to settle into life around Failand and beyond.

His father Auguste-Bernard will be at Ashton Gate to see the match against Frankie McAvoy's side, which has proven a difficult fixture for the Robins in recent times.

"Life is okay around Bristol. I don't really go out," he added. "I do a lot of things [though], I go to my family's home as they live near by too, and I'm watching TV or I read or I'm on my phone.

"I have five of my little sisters and my dad and my step mother living nearby. They love Bristol, they've been here since I was here. We went to the Bristol Zoo but we can't always go to places together as we are so many and they are young children. They love exploring the city.

"My dad wasn't there for the first few games of the season but he will be there on Saturday watching the game."

Massengo was regarded by many as outstanding against Swansea City last time City played at home and another such performance, with some fine work against Cardiff City recently following up, albeit stationed wide on the right.

The midfield terrier, who has recently found a fondness for photography, will be looking to add his customary snap in the middle of the pitch on Saturday if selected.

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