Today I seem to have decided to write about goalscorers, currently in the present and not too distant past, but then I decided to write about one of the best. Erwin Vandenbergh.
If you look at his physique, and you’ll see later, he looks like a stick figure. Somebody who probably may not have made it today physically perhaps, but he was somebody who probably also would’ve been worth millions due to his knack of finding the back of the net. In fact, he reminds me physically of Thomas Müller.
Born in Ramsel, a nearer club to start his career would’ve been Westerlo, and it’s no surprise his son Kevin started his career there, but Vandenbergh senior started off at Lierse S.K. His breakthrough season was the 1976/77 season, the season after the Pro League top scorer happened to leave Lierse, Hans Posthumus, went to pastures new, back to Holland with NEC Nijmegen.
Starting at an early age, the prodigious striker took 4 seasons til he really started to show his real goalscoring quality, netting 39 goals for a Lierse side that finished 6th that season. He went on to win the Taureau D’or another 3 seasons in a row, 4 consecutively. The unbelievable thing is that, a lot like my Taureau D’or blog today, he finished top scorer, but didn’t win a league title! Okay, at Lierse fighting against Club Brugge and Anderlecht, who were fantastic at home as well as in Europe at that time, when he finally moved to Anderlecht, he still didn’t win a league as top scorer, finishing second.
In that spell of fantastic personal glory, he managed 108 goals in 4 seasons, obviously averaging 27 goals a season. The year he joined Anderlecht, as already stated, they finished 2nd, but… he did manage to win his first piece of silverware helping Les Mauves win their first UEFA Cup beating Benfica in the final. Vandenbergh managed 7 goals in that seasons UEFA Cup, making him the second top scorer and what helped Anderlecht was having Kenneth Brylle Larsen pitch in with 5 goals himself in that seasons tournament.
After that cluster of Golden Boots, he eased off as top scorer, and 2 seasons after that European success, he won his first of 2 league titles. Of course with trend, he wasn’t top scorer the first title winning season, but bucked the trend the following season, winning his 5th Taureau D’or scoring 27 goals that season and winning his second and last league title.
After being unbelievable in Belgium, he moved to Lille in France and joined up with compatriot Phillipe Desmet. After finding his feet in his first season, Erwin wasn‘t amongst the Ligue 1 top goalscorers. His strike partner however did chip in with 13 goals that season. Thereafter, Vandenbergh seemed to slightly adapt, helping Lille progress in the league each season, starting at 14th when he joined, then raising to 12th the next season before achieving the clubs highest finish whilst he was there, finishing 8th. Along with the higher finishes, it’s no surprise he added more goals, scoring 11 league goals in the 1987/88 season, and then 14 in the 1988/89.
After a poor season all round for the club and personally, the 1989/90 season was to be Vandenbergh’s last season in France. The goal scoring throughout his time was dominated by Jean-Pierre Papin, before returning back to Belgium with Gent. Along with his return he picked up where he left off, winning his 6th and final Taureau D’or, and helped his new club finish 3rd. After that season, he never hit the heights again and ended his career back in Brussels at Molenbeek.
In club football, the Belgian was just fantastic. His goals dried up nearer the end of his career, but that was inevitable. What we should celebrate is a natural goalscoring talent who dominated in terms of goals, but unfortunately for him, lacked in honours at team level. Sixth on the all time list of top goalscorers with an impressive 252 goals in his career in the Pro League, some way off the all time record holder Albert De Cleyn, but to win the award 6 times is outstanding, and it could’ve been more if he didn’t move abroad?