I’ve decided to blog random bits of history, whether it be about the Belgian Pro League, the second tier, European competition or The Belgian Cup (Beker van Belgie). The reason I’ve thought up this segment is not only to educate myself about the past, but to anyone who reads this, if anyone actually does, and to see that Belgian football isn’t about 1 or 2 teams, or the odd great player produced quite regularly actually, and that teams in the past competed and that the impossible is sometimes possible.
I thought after the season Standard Liege have had, and I have already written about the team, I thought I’d write again with the sacking of their manager this week. But I’ve gone back so far, I’m certain the majority of the Stade Maurice Dufrasne know not a lot about this side, and…Weren’t old enough to see Les Rouches’ first ever title success.
It is coincidental that next season is the 60 year anniversary of this success, and forgive my naivety (or stupidity) but Standard took the title off runners up Royal Antwerp, but they both had the same points and Standard Liege had a worse goal difference? They also had a worse goals for and won less matches. I can only think of head to head?
But anyway, Standard were crown champions nonetheless and will remain champions of this season forever. They had a side in this season where nobody won individual titles and they didn’t have a top goalscorer in the league, although we know that there isn’t a correlation in Belgium between goalscorers and title winners! However, 55 goals scored this season in a 30 match league isn’t a fantastic return.
The club did have players who seemed to love the club. Maybe it was because they liked Liege, their other jobs were based there, etc, a number of players spent well over ten years of their career at Standard. And with them staying, they won multiple titles as they averaged a league championship every 2-3 seasons over a 14 year span. They also managed to finish runners up twice too in that spell.
Going by length of time, the most loyal from whom I could find was Denis Houf. The midfielder turned striker spent 16 years at the club, most of that before and after their fantastic transition towards regular title winners. Along with him, Henri Thellin spent the same amount of time at the club. The Belgian international, who was actually born in Belgium, was a stalwart for the club. With just these 2 alone there were many players who could’ve had a testimonial, which is testiment to them, as Liege looked to be building something before they built it, with many players joining or coming through in the late 40s early 50s! You also had brothers vying for 1 goalkeeper place, with only one winner, Jean Nicolay, who also won the Golden Shoe in 1963.
The player who seemed most interesting, and that’s not me saying that, it was through research, was the Congolese player Paul Bonga Bonga. The African was the first from his continent to be selected in World Soccer Magazine’s world XI in 1962 (of course the same year Brazil won the World Cup) which is a superb achievement. Only spending 6 years at the club, although a lot longer in Belgium in total, he helped the side win 3 league titles, which is impressive!
The side consisted of mainly Belgians, and the majority all represented their country, unsurprisingly. The whole point of this post though is the fact that the current side will not be identical to this side. Not to sound harsh, I don’t mean they won’t win a title, although that does seem unlikely in the short term, but can you see the players in the current squad staying at the club for over a decade? That doesn’t happen anywhere and maybe that’s why success can be hard to come by nowadays unless you’re loaded with cash. Either way, with this stressful week and Mechelen coming up (and regarding the 57/58 season, Mechelen were relegated bottom!) maybe inspiration can be drawn…