Off the field Southend United defender (and occasional hot-shot striker) Bilel Mohsni is pretty nice guy and certainly an endearing character.
After his opening day goal against Hereford the French-Tunisian high-fived reporters and in the Shrimpers’ pre-season tie with local rivals Canvey Island the tall, curly-haired centre-back grabbed the microphone at half-time and praised teammate Anthony Grant for his display.
The former Sainte-Geneviève Sports defender is also known for his love of the Shrimpers support, always taking time out to sign autographs and chat with his adoring fans.
But for some reason on the pitch Mohsni just can’t seem to control his temperament.
He was involved in a ‘fracas’ after the Carling Cup defeat against Leyton Orient while against Ipswich in pre-season, following several running battles throughout the game, Mohsni was hauled off by boss Paul Sturrock before he could be sent-off.
After the game his manager warned him about his conduct and promised that he would help him change.
‘We’ve tried to work out why he gets involved and really get to the bottom of what’s happening because it needs to stop happening’ said Sturrock.
‘Bilel is the heartbeat of our side and we don’t want him sat in the stands suspended all the time’.
And he places some of blame at his lack of education within the sport following his time on the park pitches of Paris.
Plucked from the amateur leagues across the channel, the enthusiasm and passion he had for playing lacked the discipline needed for professional football and Sturrock hopes Mohsni can change his ways.
‘You learn about discipline and things like that during your upbringing in football but Bilel hasn’t really had that,” Sturrock continued’.
‘Hopefully with more games he can learn to keep calm but we don’t want him to lose the spark which makes him stand out’.
‘That’s what has made everyone take to him at the club because no-one has ever seen someone play with quite so much passion before’.
Advice has also come from Southend United hero Paul Clark. The former Shrimpers player and manager starred well over 300 times for the club and he thinks to get the best from Mohsni both player and manager have to alter their mentalities.
‘You have to decide if someone is worth continuing to work with through all of this’, said Clark. ‘I think Bilel definitely is but it’s only worth the risk it if he’s also willing to work on improving as well’.
‘It has to work both ways but he definitely has a lot going for him and has a lot of potential but he has to realise he’s a footballer first and foremost and not worry about being a tough guy’.
Clark also believes Mohsni needs to learn the subtleties of English football and the Benfleet-born defender, who knew a thing or two about a tackle has offered this advice to him.
‘Learn to kick people when nobody is looking… because a real tough guy is one who does things that nobody really notices’.
Mohsni himself seems to understand his own issues but as of yet doesn’t appear to be dealing with what the club feel is a pressing problem.
‘I think I need to try and calm down when I play’, he told www.echo-news.co.uk. ‘Last season I was sent off a couple of times and then had to miss games being suspended so I don’t want that to happen again. I think I can do it and need to stop getting involved in silly things on the pitch’.
And showing his usual off the field style directed praise towards the Shrimpers’ support insisting that any success this season would be dedicated to them.
‘Hopefully we can make the play-offs at least this season and I want my second year to be even better than the first because of the fans. They have been great to me and I would love for them to have something to really celebrate’.
The reported ‘fracas’ after the Orient cup tie saw the versatile star given what was seen as a ‘final warning’ but with their being no repercussions from his silly sending off against Gillingham it appears all will be done to make sure Mohsni stays with the club whatever his actions.
But the most telling words came for Southend chief executive (and MMA fighter!) Tara Brady who said of his defender: ‘Bilel is an asset to the club and in many ways he’s a real warrior, but even warriors need discipline’.
Written by Anton Stanley, We Are Going Up’s Southend United Blogger
Anton tweets at @antonstanley