Royal Standard de Liège are one of the great names in Belgian fooball although they are sometimes known by the Dutch or German spelling of Luik or Lüttich. The club was formed in September 1898 by pupils of the Collège Saint-Servais the club has the matricule number of 16.
Progress was rapid and by 1909 Standard were in the top flight of Belgian football. This was also the year the club settled in the Liège suburb of Sclessin having initially played on a hillside at Cointe. At the turn of the century Standard moved to the velodrome at Boverie which sat along the banks of the River Meuse and had been used at one point by arch rivals FC Liège. In 1904 the club were given notice that the velodrome would become part of the Palace of Fine Arts for the 1905 Universal Exhibition, forcing the club to move again this time to Grivegnée. Again it was a short-lived arrangement when the owner kicked the club out of the field in 1909 the club were forced to look elsewhere yet again. They settled on a meadow on the banks of the Meuse which they initially rented for 300 francs a year. They have remained there ever since.
Standard were relegated from the top flight but by 1921 had returned to the elite and have never since been relegated, the longest unbroken run in the top tier of any Belgian club.
By 1925 the Stade de Sclessin already had a capacity of 25,000 and underwent expansion both in 1940 when a new tribune added 10,000 places and in 1973 when capacity was increased to 43,000. In 1999 the stadium was substantially upgraded for Euro 2000 and became all-seater for the first time with capacity for 27,500. Since then the club has experimented with “safe standing” in Tribune 4. This takes the current capacity to a shade over 30,000. There are plans to increase capacity once again to 50,000 to obtain UEFA’s prestigious five star rating.
Standard are a hugely successful club domestically. The Reds have won ten Belgian championships (the first in 1957/58 and most recent in 2008/09) and six Belgian cups. They also have a strong history in European competitions with their best performance coming in 1981/82 under coach Raymond Goethels. Playing a brand of football that had been dubbed “Raymond Science” the club had beaten Floriana (12-2 on aggregate), Vasas Budapest (4-1), Porto (4-2) and Dinamo Tblisi (2-0) on the way to the final of the Cup Winners Cup. In the final at Camp Nou, Standard took an early lead through Guy Vandersmissen but eventually lost 2-1 to Barcelona.
The Goethels period at Standard had yielded two League titles and two Belgian Supercups. However, his tenure at the club ended in shame and scandal when it was discovered that Standard players had bribed the Waterschei team to throw the last game of the 1981/82 season. The bribe meant Standard won the league two points ahead of Anderlecht. The deceit wasn’t discovered until 1984 when many players were banned and Goethels fled to Portugal to avoid a similar fate.
The Waterschei affair was deeply damaging and it was 25 years until Standard won the league again under former international goalkeeper Michel Preud’homme. They retained the title the following season under the Romanian László Bölöni.
In June 2011 the club was bought by Roland Duchâtelet, a billionaire micro electronics mogul. He has also bought other clubs in recent years including Charlton Athletic, AD Alcorćon and Carl Zeiss Jena. Duchâtelet recently sold his majority shareholding in Standard in order to concentrate on the other Belgian club in his portfolio, Sint-Truiden. Notably since the sale to Duchâtelet, Standard has had seven managers, the latest incumbent being the Serb, Slavoljub Muslin.
Tonight’s match is something of an attritional affair, Standard as you would expect dominate possession but in centre forward Mohamed Yattara they seem to have an inadequate replacement for recent goalscoring heroes like Christian Benteke and Michy Batshuayi. Poor of touch and profligate with chances with an alarming frequency, Yattara has his work cut out if he is to truly win over the Sclessin faithful.
Ah Sclessin. You can give this stadium any name you like but it will always be the Stade de Sclessin, the very heartbeat of this heavily industrial area. The stadium is officially known as the Stade Maurice Dufranse after the Standard chairman who bought the club to Sclessin in 1909.
Doughty defending and helpful woodwork keep Waasland Beveren in the game although they do not look like scoring themselves. The decisive break came just after the hour when a scrappy bundled goal from Ricardo Faty settled the game.
In truth it’s not a gripping spectacle on the field, but the partizan and noisy home support made for a great occasion. The unrelenting support in galvanising the team was fully recognised by the Standard players as legendary skipper Jelle Van Damme led his troops over to the ultras section in Tribune 3 at the final whistle. The players joined in the chanting and showed great respect to the paying supporters.
Jupiler Pro League – 09/08/2015
Standard Liège 1 (Faty 63)
Att: 23,232 (at Stade Maurice Dufranse)