Utaka grateful for Girard guidance
After playing a pivotal role in Montpellier's title-winning side, John Utaka says he owes his renaissance to head coach Rene Girard.
The Nigerian scored both goals in the side's 2-1 win over Auxerre that secured Montpellier's maiden Ligue 1 title last season and has finally found his feet in France.
The 30-year-old endured an unsuccessful spell at English club Portsmouth but thanked Girard for giving him the opportunity to play consistently in the first team.
"Rene Girard is one of (my most important managers) because he gave me confidence and practically played me in all of the games and for me it's something I won't forget because you play week-in, week-out and people will see you and see what you're capable of," Utaka said.
"Doing that and winning games, it was a turning point.
"It shows that all the work I did during those years paid off. That's why when I play I give 200 percent - it doesn't matter."
Montpellier's success earned them a place among Europe's elite for this year's Champions League for the first time in the club's history but Utaka is set to miss their opening clash against Arsenal on Tuesday with a groin injury.