When you hit the bottom, the only way should be up. But despite sitting at the foot of Ligue 1, there remains a feeling that Toulouse could still sink so much deeper.
These are dark days for the Violets after losing their last 10 games, having just one win since August and the second-worst points total in the big five leagues in Europe.
But how did things get so bad? This is a tale of death threats, protests and managers leaving, starring an Arsenal flop, a Bournemouth outcast and a former Aberdeen centre-half.
The best place to start is at the beginning.
Toulouse are in chaos after losing their last 10 games and face a huge task to stay in Ligue 1
Toulouse, who only narrowly avoided relegation in the last campaign, started the season relatively smoothly as they took seven points from their first four games – the only real alarm bells coming from a 4-0 defeat at PSG. Two home wins out of two at the Stadium de Toulouse – so far so good.
As we move into September, this is where the cracks begin to show. Three points were snatched away from them as they surrendered a two-goal lead at St Etienne to draw 2-2 before back-to-back losses to Nimes and surprise package Angers.
Late heroics from Wesley Said and Efthimis Koulouris twice rescued them from the clutches of defeat away at Metz before they were beaten 3-1 at home by Bordeaux – which proved to be the final straw for manager Alain Casanova, with unrest building among the Toulouse faithful.
Alain Casanova resigned in October after receiving death threats with the team winless in five
With no wins in five, he ended his second spell at the club after the shocking revelation that he had received death threats as the team was plunged into the drop zone.
‘I can no longer live up to my responsibilities, or work in good conditions,’ he said upon his departure.
Up stepped Antoine Kombouare as his replacement, a man who won the league and both domestic French Cups with PSG and led Lens and Valenciennes to promotion from Ligue 2 as a boss. He also starred for Nantes, Sion, Aberdeen and RC Paris as a player. Seen as someone who could provide stability, a glimmer of optimism was given to fans.
His impact looked to have been galvanising. Champions League outfit Lille came to Toulouse and were beaten 2-1. But what should have been a morale-boosting win proved only to be a false dawn. Now into mid-October, Toulouse are about to begin a run that would go down in their history – and all for the wrong reasons.
The Violets have capitulated in a number of games this season and lack resilience on the pitch
Toulouse’s run of 10 straight losses is the worst in their history as they head towards the drop
The Ligue 1 league table makes for bleak reading for Toulouse as they head into the new year
The steeliness that Kombouare was supposed to have provided went completely in the opposite direction, worse than anyone at the club could have imagined – and the key theme was capitulation.
The team were heading for a point at Rennes when they were flattened by a stoppage-time goal as the home side won 3-2 at the death, and it was the same story in the following game. Having led twice at home against Lyon, Toulouse looked set for a point against one of the the division’s heavyweights, then in came Memphis Depay to bag the winner in the 95th minute.
Unwilling to sit back and allow the team’s dreadful showings to continue, club supporters’ group LesViolets.com launched the hashtag #SAUVONSLETFC, or ‘save Toulouse’, urging fellow fans to send a letter to the hierarchy demanding change at the very top.
‘Before it is too late and this club sinks definitively, we invite you, Toulouse Football Club supporters, to take matters into your own hands,’ the message reads. ‘The first step is to make these leaders unable to raise the bar aware that we can no longer bear the situation.
Antoine Koumbouare was brought in to steady the ship but instead the team went backwards
The struggling outfit have lost their discipline at times this campaign with three red cards
‘This is only the first step in the recovery of our club. This is by no means a desertion from the stands, but to make leaders pay the consequences of their disastrous decisions by claiming what is due to us as supporters cheated for so many years by the broken promises of leaders of the Toulouse Football Club.’
Jean-Baptiste Jammes, who created the group, told Sportsmail: ‘The situation is catastrophic, but it is not a surprise for the supporters. For years, the club has been declining in all areas and struggling not to go down.
‘The supporters are not listened to. Players are not affected and are not attached to the club. The president should have changed everything in the club for five years, but never did. The supporters are waiting for change and very quickly.
‘Today, supporters are worried, angry, tired. Many of them no longer come to the stadium. Whereas 10 years ago, the TFC was an innovative club, which fought for the jersey, which grew. Since 2010, the club has stagnated and even regressed.’
Protest, boycott the games or start a petition. Nothing was going to stop the slide of this team towards the depths of the league table and impending doom.
Already two losses down, add two more to wrap up November – a comprehensive 3-0 defeat at Montpellier and a 2-0 implosion at home to Marseille after Steven Moreira’s first-half red card and Andre Villas-Boas’ side scoring twice in the last 15 minutes.
December was a huge month with six fixtures on offer to put the brakes on the side’s alarming form, but there are no heroes in this story; only villains. Six games, six more defeats and an aggregate score of 13-3.
A 1-0 loss to French minnows Saint-Pryve Saint Hilaire was the lowest of lows for Toulouse
Ten consecutive losses, the worst run in the club’s history, drawing to a close the reign of their second manager of the season. Toulouse swung the axe on Koumbouare on January 6 after a result than can only be described as soul-destroying.
In what should have been a slam-dunk victory to salvage some semblance of positivity, Toulouse traveled to French amateurs Saint-Pryve Saint Hilaire, who compete in the Championnat National 2 – the equivalent of League Two – in the Coupe de France.
An opportunity to put a few goals past a team of semi-professionals and boost the confidence went amiss. The unfancied home side beat a Ligue 1 team for the first time in its history as a last-gasp goal from Carnejy Antoine sent them into raptures and put them through to the last-16 of the competition.
But how could a season that started in a more or less straightforward fashion be heading for such a disastrous ending?
The fourth-division side were jubilant after beating their first Ligue 1 team to reach the last-16
Yves Dussert, a member of Toulouse supporters’ group ADIST, spoke to Sportsmail about the club’s plight this season, claiming the problems they face start right from the top.
‘For more or less five years the fans tried to explain to the board that they’re going straight into a wall with their choices,’ he said.
‘Some people have been there for a long time and seem to make many errors. The recruiting cell is the biggest point of misunderstanding. Year by year they sold players without increasing the ability of the team. But the same people are still there.
‘On his last press meeting, the president (Olivier Sadran) said that maybe he made a mistake and some people have been there for too long. We can’t understand why nothing changes even though results are getting worse and worse.’
Furious Toulouse supporters have staged protests against president Olivier Sadran this season
He added that no-one in the boardroom can pinpoint who is at fault for poor decision making, and claimed that despite Toulouse avoiding the drop for a number of years, they only survived because their relegation rivals under-performed.
‘Another point of misunderstanding is that nobody is able to tell who is at fault for these failures,’ he said. ‘So anger is growing bigger and bigger and for the first time in club history we saw people really fed up trying to reach the president.
‘It seems that staying in Ligue 1 every year is not because of good work but because other clubs were worse than us. The only way out seems to be a sale of the club or at least the arrival of new investor.’
Toulouse, captained by Bournemouth outcast Max Gradel, certainly have to question their back line as they search for answers. They’ve conceded the most goals in Ligue 1 with 39 so far, that’s bad enough to be the second-most amount of goals conceded in the big five leagues. Only Norwich City have let in more with 41.
Yaya Sanogo (right) leads the line for Toulouse but has only been able to muster three goals
In the goals department things aren’t so sound either. Spearheaded by Arsenal flop Yaya Sanogo, who has just three strikes, the team have scored 19 in the league, which is by no means the worst. But with Koulouris their top scorer on four, they lack a clinical forward who can get them out of this mess.
Sporting Director Denis Zanko has now been placed in charge as a caretaker, and in a season where everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong, there remains hope for the club to avoid a return to Ligue 2 for the first time since 2003. Even with their last win coming in October, the plight of the teams near them means they are just five points from safety.
The final nail was hammered into Toulouse’s coffin a long time ago, yet somehow there is still a chance for resurrection.