« André Riou was, by far, the best manager I ever worked with. He read the game ever so well, and respected the typical Liège mentality. The coach was able to direct our energy in the most optimal way. Tactically speaking we all knew what to do, and any misunderstanding was excluded. We had a wonderful time and had an unforgettable moment winning the F.A. Cup in 1954. »
– Denis Houf
The first « big » manager of Standard Liège, the Bill Shankly on the river Meuse
By winning the first Belgian F.A. Cup, as well as a little later the first title of Belgian champions – 60 years after its foundation in 1898 – Frenchman André RIOU turned Standard into one of the top teams in Belgium. His successor, Geza Kalocsay, would build on it and continue the evolution to make them a European top team.
It has been already 15 years since André Riou died at the age of 87. He did so a few weeks after the death of another legendary Standard coach Michel Pavic. “The man in the beret” was enjoying his well-deserved retirement in Toulouse at the time. He was born in Moulins, between Nevers and Clermont-Ferrand. His father wanted him to become a station master, and consequently he got his education at the railway workers’ school before making a conscious choice for a football career.
As a player, it brought him to Berrichonne Châteauroux (D3) and Racing Club de Paris, amongst others. Semi-pro, Riou was employed as a technical drawer at the factories of Dassault. His career was halted by the outbreak of the Second World War. After the armistice signed with the Germans in 1940, the country is divided in two. André Riou is in the “free” southern part of Toulouse, where the air force was based. During the war he would organize sports training courses for the military.
After the liberation, he joined the local “Téfécé“, or Toulouse Football Club. First as a player, and then to become their manager. He then moves on to join Stade Français and Amiens respectively, as well as coaching the youth setup of the French Football Association (FFF). Through his work at the Football Association, he learns that Standard Liège is looking for a French coach. Riou takes the plunge and calls then Standard Chairman Paul Henrard, a director he would later refer to as the greatest leader he would ever collaborate with.
Riou arrives at Sclessin in 1953 with a mission to install a professional structure at the club and to lay the foundation for future growth. Needless to say that this wasn’t an easy feat just after war, but the increased quality of the Rouches was noticeably, even though the results do not immediately reflect it. The Rouches dominate the majority of their opponents, but it is too rarely translated into the score line. Nevertheless, he manages to win the first trophy in Standard’s history by beating Racing Mechelen 3:1 in the summer of 1954 in the final of the Belgian F.A. Cup.
Under his stewardship, the Rouches adopt a new game formation with five strikers. And not just anybody. Riou could count on five internationals, and all of them coming from Liège: André «Popeye» Piters, Denis Houf, Jean Mathonet, Joseph Givard and Jean Jadot. A quintet that even got to play together for the national team against Real Sociedad.
But André Riou was also a great visionary. He saw the potential in terms of players where others did not. He transformed defensive midfielder Jean Mathonet into an extremely dangerous attacker. The striker from Herve felt in his element and would become Belgian top scorer with 26 goals during the 1955-1956 season. At that time Standard is on a high. Also because the team was starting to become a fortress defensively. From 55 goals conceded in 1954 to 21 in 1958 !! That was the main reason why everything fell into place in 1958. After a memorable match at the Rooi in Berchem, the Rouches won their very first championship title in the last game of the season! Ex-aequo with Antwerp, they were crowned champions because of a smaller number of… defeats. At the request of Standard, the rule would be adjusted to the team that would have the most victories.
With a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment, the successful coach decides, at the regret of the management, to quit the club after five years and to try his luck elsewhere. He would remain active in Belgium and manage Daring CB (1959-61), AEC Mons (62-65) and Union Saint-Gilloise (65-66). With every visit to Sclessin, he receives a standing ovation from the home crowd who were forever grateful to him.
Just as Bill Shankly would be at Liverpool a decade later, André Riou left his mark on an entire club by pushing through a vision that the club would enjoy for years to come. A vision that would not only lead to national successes, but also initiate international breakthroughs. Especially his successor Geza Kalocsay would immediately reap the benefits. Victories against Hearts, Lisbon and especially Stade Reims create the foundation of what we still call today the Hell of Sclessin.
(c) Claude Henrot – November 2020
Date of birth: 8th August 1918, in Moulins (France)
Deceased: 3rd October 2005, in Villefranche-de-Lauragais (France)
Affiliated at Standard: 1 July 1953 – 30 June 1958
Trophies with Standard: 1x Champion (1958), 1x Belgian F.A. Cup (1954)
1944 – 1945
1946 – 1948
1948 – 1949
1950 – 1951
1951 – 1952
1952 – 1953
1953 – 1958
1958 – 1961
1962 – 1965
1965 – 1966
Toulouse F.C. (FRA)
A.S. Béziers (FRA)
Stade Français / Red Star (FRA)
Amiens F.C. (FRA)
Red Star Olympique (FRA)
A.S. Béziers (FRA)
Royal Standard Club Liégeois
Daring Club de Bruxelles (2)
R.A.E.C. Mons (44)
Royale Union Saint-Gilloise (10)
Belgian F.A. Cup
Belgian League Cup
150 (65W – 41D – 44L)
16 (14W – 0D – 2L)