The Landed Gentry (Lierse SK)

Lierse Sportkring have played at the Herman Vanderpoortenstadion since 1925. The stadium is named after a former town mayor and politician but thankfully most people refer to it as Het Lisp as it is located on Lispersesteenweg, the road to the Lier suburb of Lisp. Prior to the current name the stadium was known as Lisperstadion.

The move to Het Lisp was a precursor to Lierse joining the top division of Belgian football for the first time in 1927/28. The club had been formed in 1906 and were playing on land owned by the local Graf (Earl) Marnix de Sainte-Aldegonde. This upset local farmers and the police banned the club from playing any more matches on the field! The clubs’ founder Gustaaf Van Den Roye was summonsed to explain himself to the landowner. Van Den Roye won him over with his plans for a football club to represent the whole town of Lier and the Earl promised to find them suitable land for football. The Earl was good to his word and became the clubs’ Honorary Chairman.

The club consolidated in the top flight and have to date won four Belgian championships, a fifth was captured in 1940/41 but was during an unofficial War season and is therefore not recognised. Lierse had the services of the legendary  Bernard Voorhoof between 1927 and 1948, he scored an unbelievable 365 times for them in 529 matches and remains Belgium’s all time top scorer with 30 international goals, a feat subsequently equalled by the great Paul Van Himst.

Lierse have also contesting nearly 50 matches in European competitions, their most memorable night came in September 1971 when having lost a home leg 2-0 to Leeds United the Yellow and Blacks arrived at Elland Road for the second leg. On an unforgettable night Lierse incredibly won 4-0 and the holders of the Inter Cities Fairs Cup were eliminated.

Perhaps an even bigger shock came in 1996/97 when up against the wealth and might of the likes of Anderlecht and Club Brugge, “the biggest small club in the world”, Lierse, won a fourth Belgian title, losing only three times all season under the management of veteran former international Eric Gerets. To round off a great decade for the club Lierse won a second Belgian Cup in 1999 defeating Standard Liège 3-1 in the final.

With most good things, however, comes a fall and the club were relegated at the end of the 2014/15 campaign and are now in the new Division 1B of Belgian football. This is only their twelfth season outside the top flight since 1927 so new Egyptian owner, Maged Samy (who also owns KV Turnhout) will be looking for a rapid return to the top tier.

On today’s performance few would back against them, tight at the back and with dynamic options upfront Lierse made short work of dispatching visitors Cercle Brugge. Admittedly the hosts’ task was made all the easier when Cercle’s French centre back Pierre Bourdin conceded a penalty and was sent off. The impressive Aurélien Joachim netted the spot kick with some ease for his second goal of the game.

The stadium is a good one. Upon arrival you are confronted with a big modern reinforced concrete stand which is actually behind one of the goals. The two sides have a modern seated stand one side and an older structure with a large paddock style terrace on the deck below seating. It is one corner of the seating that Lierse’s boisterous ultras gather for some serious flag waving and drumming. Behind the far goal is a temporary looking seated stand for away fans. The stadium looks far bigger than its modest 16,000 capacity and on today’s evidence produces a great atmosphere.

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Proximus League – 14/08/2016

Lierse SK 2 (Joachim 28, pen 54)

Cercle Brugge 0

Att: 4,589 (at Herman Vanderpoortenstadion)

Admission €12 (standing) Programme Free

Gallery

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Lierse prog

Lierse ticket

The Little Tank (KVC Westerlo)

Football in the small Antwerpen town of Westerlo dates back to 1917 although initial attempts to build a proper town club floundered. The first club of note was SK De Bist Westerlo who were gone within five years of their formation. The next club on the map was Westerlo Football Club, formed in 1924 and given the matricule 379. Sadly their lifespan was only marginally longer than their predecessor, by March 1930 they too had disbanded.

The modern day club can trace its roots back to 1933. Two years previously the village had seen a team called Bist Sport Westerloo formed. In 1933 Westerloo Sport were founded and the two clubs enjoyed many local derbies in the provincial league. By 1942 Westerloo Sport had become Voetball Club Westerlo and Bist Sport, now known as Sportkring Westerlo had sadly folded, leaving VC Westerlo as the pre-eminent club in the town.

Westerlo eventually climbed to the top division of the Antwerpen provincial league and enjoyed derby matches against nearby KFC Heulje. After winning the Promotion B group in 1968/69 Westerlo joined the national league for the first time, although their first tilt at Division 3 was to last only two seasons. The club returned to the third tier for the 1985/86 season and after eight seasons left it through the right end, winning the league and gaining promotion to Division 2. In 1996/97 the club won promotion via the last round play-offs, to take their place in the First Division for the first time in their history. Remarkably they spent fifteen seasons in the top flight and won the Belgian Cup in 2001, beating Lommel in the final. The Cup win saw Westerlo qualify for the UEFA Cup but the yellows were handed a really tough tie and were eliminated by Hertha Berlin. In 2010/11 the club again reached the final of the Belgian Cup and although defeated this time by Standard, Westerlo again qualified for the Europa League. The Kempeneers defeated TPS Turku of Finland before bowing out at the third preliminary round stage to Swiss side Young Boys.

It seemed that the sortie into Europe proved a distraction to Westerlo they struggled all season and were relegated at the end of the 2011/12 season. They almost achieved an immediate return to the top flight but missed out in the final round play-offs. Promotion was only a season away though when Westerlo won the Second Division, four points clear of AS Eupen.

The club have played at Het Kuipje since their formation in 1933 although the ground was completely rebuilt in 2008 and 2009 adjacent to the old field which is now a training pitch. The club became only the third Belgian club, after Genk and Standard, to install undersoil heating to help deal with harsh winter weather. Het Kuipje translates as the “little tank” which folklore has it that it is a nod to the legendary Feyenoord stadium De Kuip, the tank. The current venue is very compact with cover on all four sides and a capacity a shade over 8,000.

The club finished eleventh last season in the sixteen team Pro League and will be looking to improve in this campaign. Tonight’s game is against Oud-Heverlee Leuven, themselves enjoying a quick return to the top flight. The first half is pretty poor fare with Leuven taking the lead mid way through when Macedonian striker Jovan Kostovski’s shot cannoned down off the bar and over the line. How do I know? I was dead in line with it, unlike the linesman who was frantically trying to catch up with play before guessing that the ball had indeed crossed the line. It was a lucky correct guess. The half ended when Westerlo’s full back Mitch Apau rifled in an unstoppable shot.

The quality of the second half improved immeasurably, Serb defender Nikola Petković gave the hosts the lead before their striker from Benin, Frédéric Gounongbe, cleverly bundled the ball in despite the cross being played behind him. Kostovski pulled one back for Leuven but the hosts held on to the three points which they just about deserved. The attendance given was 6,500 which looked a little over the top, but a decent crowd witnessed a good start to the season for Westerlo.

Westerlo

Jupiler Pro League – 08/08/2015

KVC Westerlo 3 (Apau 45, Petrovic 50, Gounongbe 68)

Oud-Heverlee Leuven 2 (Kostovski 22,78)

Att: 6,500 (at Het Kuipje)

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Westerlo ticket