Big Interview: Wolves' Romain Saiss washed pots, now he is dreaming of lifting the FA Cup

He used to spend his time playing semi-professional football before washing the pots in his father’s restaurant.

Romain Saiss (AMA/Sam Bagnall)
Romain Saiss (AMA/Sam Bagnall)

But now Romain Saiss is daring to dream that he could make history by becoming the first Moroccan to win the FA Cup.

The 29-year-old looks set to start on the right side of Wolves’ back three when Nuno Espirito Santo’s men take on Watford at Wembley tomorrow.

And after being an integral part of the side that won the Championship last season, the former Le Havre man admits he is desperate to lift more silverware with Wolves.

Born to a French-Moroccan father and a French mother, Saïss is now enjoying success that seemed unthinkable just a few years ago.

The versatile star had to wait until the age of 21 before he signed his first contract as a professional with Clermont.

Prior to that, he played in the French equivalent of non-league with Valence, where he earned 500 euros a month.

To make ends meet, Saiss would wash dishes in his father’s restaurant whilst also babysitting his little brother. But he is adamant working hard himself and watching his parents graft has made him the man he is today. “When I was young I watched my parents work very hard,” Saiss said.

“I was playing in France semi-professionally at the time, but the money was not enough.

“I got 500 euros but that just about covered my petrol.

“So I worked in my father’s restaurant to help him. I was only allowed to wash the dishes and give out the menus.

“He paid me a small amount. But it was important for me to see and to know the work because it was hard to work.

“I did it for a couple of years. Sometimes I would come back after training and stay with my brother because he was only five. I babysat him.

Midfielder Romain Saiss has been one of Wolves most versatile and dependable players when called upon so far this season

“I remember my parents would go to the restaurant at 6pm and finish in the early hours of the morning. It was hard, that’s why I’m so lucky to play football, I do what I like.”

Saiss joined Wolves three years ago when Walter Zenga was in charge at Molineux.

Over the past few years, he’s seen the club sign star names including Rui Patricio, Ruben Neves, Joao Moutinho and Jonny.

But while a host of players had to leave to make way for the stellar arrivals, Saiss has gone from strength to strength.

And the 29-year-old says the work ethic of his parents has turned him into a fighter.

“They worked so hard, my wife’s parents work really hard as well so I appreciate what I have and I will fight for it,” Saiss continued.

“My mentality is to fight, every time. Even when it is hard, you have to fight.

“Last season I was involved all the time in the first XI but I kept working because just because you were good last week doesn’t mean you’ll be good next week.

“You have to work, work, work.

“I was never in an academy or anything like that. I signed my first contract when I was 21.

“I know that work is very important. And I never forget my targets. Even at school when my professors said forget football, I never forgot my targets.

“That mentality is why I am still here.

“We know the type of player that’s coming into the club. Good players who have played for very good teams like Joao, Rui Patricio.

“Before them, Ruben and (Diogo) Jota played for Porto in the Champions League.

“When you are young and you want to play football, you want to play at his level.

“So when you have the chance to play with this kind of player, you have to show you are ready and you can play with them.

“My mentality is to trust in me. I know what I can do and I will fight to the maximum I can.

“I do everything to make sure I can give my best. I don’t want to have any regrets because football is a short career.”

While Saiss is loving his time at Wolves, his career in this country couldn’t have got off to a worse start.

In 2016, Jonjo Shelvey was found guilty of racially abusing the Moroccan in what was his first game on these shores.

Saiss in action (AMA/Sam Bagnall)

Racism in football has again made headlines this week after Juventus striker Moise Kean was abused by his own fans.

Kean’s team mate Leonardo Bonucci then said the forward had to take 50 per cent of the responsibility for the abuse he received.

And Saïss believes it’s time players took matters into their own hands to stamp racism out of the game once and for all.

“My first game in England, my first game, I received some bad words from an opponent about my ethnicity and religion,” he said.

“But the problem was my English was basic and I couldn’t understand what he said.

“After the game, I didn’t realise what had happened. But my team-mates told me.

“Now if a player is abused, it’s a good idea if the player leaves the pitch.

“But I think it’s a better idea if all the players in his team leave the pitch – if they follow him.

“Sometimes you see players try to catch the guy. But no, we have to be together in this because it shouldn’t matter if you are white, African or Black. We have to be more together.

“We saw with Juventus, I was surprised with Bonucci who said it was 50/50. I don’t think if he was black he would say that.

“If during a game you can hear someone stupid shouting at you, being racist and saying things like monkey. It is very hard for the player.”

Since being in England, Saïss admits he has fallen in love with the FA Cup.

And he has even dared to dream about walking up those famous Wembley steps and lifting the trophy.

“The history of the FA Cup is really important,” he added. “On Wednesday I went to a school in Dudley where they have an exchange with a Moroccan school.

“And all the young students who spoke with me were crazy about the FA Cup.

“They are 10-years-old, 11, 12. If you were in France they would only take about Neymar or Kylian Mbappe.

“The French Cup is important but it’s not like it is in England. It’s totally different and we can feel that.

“I have dreamt about winning it of course because it’s another title with Wolves and one of the most important in England.

“Winning that cup in front of 30,000 Wolves at Wembley, I can’t even imagine it.”

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