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

Nightboat to Lyra (K.Lyra TSV)

A number of football related reasons meant that a car load of well travelled English groundhoppers descended on Dover ferry port from all points north and west in the middle of the night. After a decent breakfast in the well preserved border town of Veurne it was time to eat up the road miles to the town of Lier in province of Antwerpen.

Pulling up to the Lyra Stadion in Mechelnsesteenweg, welcoming the visitor is a homely ticket kiosk which sits somewhat awkwardly next to a petrol station. Once the gates had creaked open well ahead of the 4pm kick-off, we eagerly entered for some pre-match photos. All of us had done our research prior to the weekend and were aware that a super ground lay beyond the gates, but it was to far exceed our expectations. The Lyra Stadion is one of those great, historic grounds seemingly hewn rather than built and gloriously faded with a patina that can only come from antiquity, grandeur and history.

The stadium had opened in 1912, some three years after the club’s formation and replaced their original ground in Antwerpsesteenweg. The stunning main stand which runs down the entire length of one side was erected in 1912 and subsequently extended which means this edifice is in fact the oldest football stand in all of Belgium. Only a wooden stand at a hockey ground in Uccle prevents this vintage edifice from being the oldest in use sporting structure in the land. Aside from the sumptuous and cavernous grandstand the rakish terracing behind the goal catches the eye, replete with classically styled concrete crush barriers. In times gone by the club competed in the upper echelons of Belgian football and five figure crowds were not unusual at the Lyra Stadion. Today they find themselves in the more sedate surroundings of the Promotion League Group C. Indeed the club find themselves at something of a crossroads with plans to move away from this historic old ground in the offing. The side opposite the grandstand originally had shallow terracing but this has now been flattened and the land awaits the construction of a police building. The end of this new season will see Lyra TSV vacate their spiritual home and groundshare for at least two years while a replacement stadium is built elsewhere in Lier.

Of course, the Belgians are renowned for their recording of sporting history and as a result have a unique numbering system for the lineage of its football clubs. The matricule system is fantastic for historians and the honour of a “low” matricule is something to be fiercely proud of. The oldest Belgian club, Royal Antwerp, have matricule number 1 and every club formed subsequently is recorded in descending number. The original Lyra club had been established in 1891 with the football section being inaugurated in 1909, giving them a matricule of 52. However a 1972 merger with Lierse Sportkring meant the surrendering of their cherished low number and a reassignment to matricule number 7,776. Today’s guests, SK Rapid Leest, are two levels below Lyra and compete in the sixth tier. They have matricule number 3,737.

Everybody at the Lyra club are extremely welcoming and bend over backwards to accommodate their unexpected English guests. The combatants enter the field of play to a rousing blast of the club anthem “Lyralied”, an essential purchase on a tasty slab of retro 7″ vinyl from behind the bar. On the field the home side exert their two division advantage and without too much bother coast into a two goal lead. If the visitors had a little more self belief in the final third then Lyra could have had more of a contest on their hands. Instead an injury time penalty is all the visitors have to show for their toils. In front of 192 people Lyra progress to a second round tie away to Sint-Lennarts.

As the countdown begins for this stunning old ground, aside from a hearty recommendation from four experienced groundhoppers, it is probably best to let the pictures beguile you into visiting.

Belgian Cofidis Cup First Round (28/07/2013)

K.Lyra TSV (1)2 (Waumann 27, Jacobs 65) SK Rapid Leest (0)1 (Rucquoy pen 90)

Attendance: 192 (at the Lyra Stadion)

Lyra:

1. Joghem Tanghe; 2. Arno Van Hove; 4. Tom Blamnaerts; 6. Elio Balbi; 10. Given Jacobs; 11. Levi Waumann; 12. Gaeten Lambreghts; 15. Wouter Vos, 17. Glenn Jansenns; 19. Kurt Ory (c); 21. Tim Verrerck.

Subs:

33. Thomas Vos (not used); 3. Jordy Van Collie (for 15, 86 mins); 8. Olivier Trouillard (for 17, 77 mins); 9. Zigi Arras (for 21, 64 mins).

Leest:

33. Niel De Dooy; 2. Joeri Van Bossuyt; 3. Bart Van Campenhout; 4. Ken Beyens; 5. Sammy Abdellaa; 7. Pietr Verbruggen (c); 12. Zakaria Daali; 13. Glenn Rucquoy; 15. Phillipe Vanmullen; 16. Simon Verbruggen; 17. Koery Broothaers.

Subs:

8. Tom Vandenbranden (for 4, 84 mins); 9. Hakim Boussehaba (for 3, 83 mins); 11. Yonas Haesearts (16, 66 mins); 87. Glenn Linsen (not used).

Yellow Cards:

Van Bossuyt, Vanmullen and Broothaers (all Leest).

Gallery

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