« He was indeed a perfect captain for Standard and helped lay the foundation for the sporting successes that would follow from the 1950s.»
– Claude Henrot, historicus van het Belgische voetbal
Fernand Massay – Rouche for life
Without the outbreak of WWII, Fernand Massay would have been the player who played the most number of games for Standard in the entire history of the Rouches. The hard-hitting midfielder played nearly as many games in his career as the entire current squad that reeled off the last game this season. It is therefore only logical that Massay gets an important place in the Hall of Fame of Standard.
Football fans have a strong liking for players who, like themselves, remain loyal to “their” club throughout their careers. However, the fans are not easily spoiled because loyalty is a particularly rare occurrence in football where the economic aspect often takes precedence over sports. Especially in the current economic climate, it is difficult to find a player who has or was allowed to play for more than two seasons for the same club.
In Standard’s rich history however, there are several players who never played for any club other than the Rouches. We celebrated one of those players here in the Hall of Fame a while ago, namely goal scoring machine Jean Capelle. We return to the same period to find another great who played his entire career at Sclessin.
Born at the end of the First World War in Angleur, a ten-year-old kid signs his first affiliation at Sclessin in 1930. At that time, Belgium is groaning under harsh weather conditions and the concept of smog is mentioned in Liège for the first time. However, it would not stop the kid from quickly becoming a figure head of Standard, in a period where the club counted on eleven players practically all born in Liège.
Everyone in the Liège region quickly agreed that the young boy “…would make it…“. His talent and personality was such that he was the motor of every youth team he played in. It was therefore only a matter of time before he would be called up to the first team. That invitation would eventually arrive on August 5, 1937. At the breakfast table was a letter from the club with the message “Vous jouerez à Paris, contre le Red Star, avec l’quipe d’honneur.” A few days later, the 17-year-old student went to Paris to play against the Red Star Olympique. And although the game ended in a 3:0 defeat, all the experienced players congratulated him after the game. It would be the starting shot to a career in the first team and skip the intermediate step via the “junior” team.
Fernand makes the switch however without any problem. Moreover, in his third (practice) game with under Emile Riff, the 17-year-old midfielder scores, on penalty, his first goal for the Rouches against Montegnée in a team with, among others, captain Roger Petit and Jean Capelle. That cold-bloodedness gives him the permanent status of penalty taker, and would help lead to his 34 official goals.
A few weeks later he celebrates his official debut in the opening match of the 1937-1938 season against anderlecht. With three goals from Jean Capelle, Standard sends the Brussels guests home empty-handed (3:1) and the debuting Massay can look back on a great game, and many more to come. That same season he would play about 12 games. The board of directors at Standard wanted to break him in step by step in order to not make the transition to harsh. From the following season he would play nearly every single game available in his career.
That initial period was however far from evident for Fernand, who enjoyed his entire education as a holding midfielder in front of the defense. In the first team, that role was already reserved for Albert Van Zuylen, another youngster who broke through the year before as a defensive half. Albert’s brother was none other than Gilielmus Marie Van Zuylen, who would later make it to the 89th bishop of Liège. Massay was therefore pushed to the left flank by the Hungarian coach Emile Riff and would continue as a left winger in the first years.
Despite his breakthrough in the first team, he still had to work professionally. He starts his professional career as a technical drawer at L.M.S. in Jupille and remains active there for years.
However, it does not run smoothly for the Rouches in the early years of WWII. Although they regularly find their way to the goal, the defense looks more like Swiss cheese. At that moment the balance within the team is completely gone. It prompts new manager Marcellin Waroux to make some radical changes. After a successful test against Beerschot, he resolutely chooses to reposition Massay as a buffer for the defense. Fernand, at that time already captain, and successor to a certain Roger Petit who took a new position on the board of the club, feels at home in his old position and becomes the missing link. Under the impulse of the hard tackling Massay, the Rouches climb back to the top of the rankings in the following seasons. In the early days he indeed had the reputation of being a hard and tackling player. Not negatively but playing with passion and commitment. « That might have been the case at the beginning of my career, but not anymore. », he smiles when being questioned about it.
When he is asked about the best player he has ever played with, their is no doubt in his mind. « Jean Capelle! What a marvellous player, dribbler and a passer. For me he was the complete player. »
The talent of Fernand Massay is also noticed in Brussels by the management of the Red Devils. National coach Frans Demol gives Fernand his debut with a friendly match against Luxembourg. A 4:1 defeat in May 1945 which would quickly lead to the dismissal of the coach who would be succeeded by Bill Gormlie. The ex-goalie of Blackburn Rovers would rely on Massay for another four games during a time where few games were organized because of the war and the financially precarious situation of the Belgian F.A.. However, competition from the Antwerp based players, such as René Devos, would prevent Massay from really settling as the national team’s holding midfielder.
“In a purely defensive sense, it is best to compare him to Georges Leekens, but at the full 100%. But it would not do Fernand justice to reduce him to his defensive qualities. He was indeed a perfect captain for Standard and helped lay the foundation for the sporting successes that would follow from the 1950s.”
Fernand left us at the age of 90. He played for his club for no less than 16 seasons, and was hardly ever injured. In fact, he played 95% of all the official games during his career. Farewell Fernand.
(c) Marc Coudijzer – May 2020
Birth: December 20th 1919, in Angleur
Overlijden: December 9th 2010, in Bassenge
Affiliated at Standard: 24 November 1930 – 30 June 1954
Trophies with Standard: None
International games / goals: 5 / 0
1930 – 1937
Royal Standard Club Liégeois
1937 – 1953
Royal Standard Club Liégeois
Belgian F.A. Cup
Belgian League Cup
Belgian F.A. Cup
Belgian League Cup