Thank God Vandersmissen is Belgian.
– Eric Gerets
Little did he realise that he’d spend almost his entire career at Sclessin when then 15-year old Guy Vandersmissen arrived at Standard that day. It would span a career seeing him play 471 games and score no less that 91 goals for les Rouches, and writing another chapter with KFC Germinal Ekeren, RWDM and obviously in parallel with the national team.
Nevertheless, his career could have been completely different! “One day I was asked if I could test at Standard. I wasn’t at a club at that time, and my life was centered around playing with my friends on the local field in my village of Vechmaal. That’s where a local business man, who also sponsored Standard, noticed me. We agreed that he’d pick up my dad and I later afternoon in a particular street (Romeinse Steenweg, red.). We didn’t realise at that time that there were in fact two streets with the exact same name, and obviously we missed eachother as in those days we didn’t have mobile phones yet (laughs)! A couple of weeks later we rearranged a meeting and got to Sclessin this time.”
But still things didn’t go smoothly. “In fact, when we arrived at Sclessin we noticed that there wasn’t any training session planned that day.” But as he’ll show throughout his career, Guy doesn’t sit back to let things go by. “We went to the cafetaria opposite to the main entrance, and noticed Standard’s legendary Head Coach René Hauss.” A couple of minutes later both René and Guy were on the pitch doing one on one’s, and by the end of the session Guy signed his first member card for Standard. And the rest is history as they say.
He’d start his career with the provincial team of Standard. Several times a week his parents, farmers, drove him to Liège. “Starting for the provincial selection, rather than the UEFA selection, was a normal step in the process as I didn’t have any experience playing at the right level. After having acclimatised and playing some good football for several months I was expected to be able to train and play with the UEFA selection, where you’d find the better players at the club. They were trained by Jef Vliers, ex-Standardplayer and first professional coach for the youth at Standard then. But it didn’t go as planned as Jef didn’t think I had the talent to join his squad. Disappointed by Jef Vliers, tired by the combination with College at Tongeren and the impact on my parents, I decided to stop my career there and then. That surprised many people at Standard and I was asked many times to come back to the club, which I eventually did when Jef agreed to give me a chance to play with his team. I still remember it well. We had an away game at Charleroi. I played striker during my entire youth and suddenly Jef asked me to play as a right full back. But I was so motivated to show him my skills that I already scored my first goal before half time. And after the break he’d put me as midfielder, a role I’d play for the rest of my active career.”
Nonethless, combining his studies (in Hasselt in the meanwhile) and training multiple times a week still caused a heavy agenda for the young midfielder. “I managed to get into the reserve team, but ended up more and more on the bench as several players from the A-team played their games with us. Don’t forget that in those days the club could only field a maximum of three foreigners, and that resulted in for example Keckes and Rora to play with us.” Pretty much at the same time ex-Rouche Léon Dolmans ended his career at Beringen and contacted his former club to see if there were youngsters available to join him for his first coaching experience at Stade Waremme. “I jumped at the chance of playing regular competitive games, close to home, and it also allow me to finish my studies in Hasselt more easily.”
After that fruitful season at Stade Waremme, Guy returns to Sclessin, to never look back. He makes his debut in the Summer Cup against Danish side BK1903 Copenhagen in the Summer of 1978 when he replaces captain Alfred Riedl and joins his team mates Preud’homme, Gerets and Sigurvinsson. “Asgeir was an amazing midfielder. With Arie Haan, Eric (Gerets), Simon (Tahamata) and Ralf Edström probably one of the best players I played with during my career.” A couple of weeks later Vandersmissen starts on the bench in the Belgian league against Lokeren at Sclessin. “That was an amazing sensation to be on the bench for the first time in front of my home crowd. A little but later I made my full debut against Kortrijk.”
That dream season gets better and better, as he progresses his career in Liège. “Clearly the European Cup Final against Barcelona was the highlights. We just won the Belgian league for the second time in a row, and had an amazing European season so far. At the moment you do not realise the performance you’re putting together as a team. It’s only afterwards when you realise the magnitude of what we did.” That magnitude could have been even better if German referee Walter Eschweiler didn’t have a bad day at the office. “He made a bunch of weird decisions which kept the Spanish team in the match. Decisions we often saw in Belgium as well.” And something which led to paranoia with coach Raymond Goethals with all the consequences we know of.
After The Affaire results were disappointing. “It was a really tough period for us, with a lot of incoming and outgoing transfers. Some players really found it difficult to live up to the expectations. What we really missed in those days was a Sporting Director, someone who knew what he was doing, which players were required, which direction to go into, etc. Under Michel Pavic I became captain of the club, which really was a big honor as a Flemish player. Together with the more experienced players such as Czerniatynski, Hellers and Delangre we tried to lift the club, but we didn’t manage more than a couple of – lost – FA Cup finals.”
At the peak of the club early eighties, Guy Vandersmissen started his career with the national team, joining many of his team mates at Standard. “I missed the European Championship in Italy in 1980, but two years later I was selected for the World Cup in Spain in 1982. I even made my full debut in the opening game against Maradona’s Argentina. I had a good game, and my goal should have been allowed to be honest. Otherwise it would have been thruly an amazing experience.“ He would go on to play a total of 17 games for the Red Devils. “When a new generation came together, Standard wasn’t performing that well, and that probably cost me my place, and potentially even another turning point in my career.”
The arrival of Sir Georg Kessler would change the course of Guy’s history at Standard. “Georg wanted to transfer his former player at Antwerp, Frans Van Rooij, but I couldn’t afford being benched at my age. At the same time contract negotiations weren’t progressing at all with management ignoring my situation, so I decided to be proactive and accept the offer from KFC Germinal Ekeren, where I would be joining my former team mates and friends Jos Daerden and Simon Tahamata. It never really jelled in Ekeren despite us playing the European League against Celtic Glasgow at Veltwijckpark. When the opportunity presented itself to play for RWDM I didn’t hesitate as it allowed me to play again for one of the traditional teams in Belgium.” And Guy enjoyed his football again, and played until he was 40, after which he became their head coach. “But I quickly realised that wasn’t where my future really was.”
That future was as a manager, and Guy quickly created what is today known as Cherry Sports, an agency he manages with his son Kristof, and which helps players such as Simon Mignolet, Benito Raman and amongst many others a selection of Standard youth players. “It is a special environment with some playing by different (or no!) rules, The recent scandals haven’t really helped our profession, but I enjoy guiding my players so much, making them stronger and benefitting my experience. There is an important role to play for us managers, but it requires a healthy environment for all participants, from managers over players to management.”
“Overall I am quite happy with my career, but it could have been even much better, if someone didn’t make a stupid decision. Standard was one of Europe’s most promising teams, and we really had so much quality. Who knows what could have been! I am thrilled with my nomination for the Hall of Fame. I have always had so much respect from and for the fans, as I don’t think I have disappointed them much as their captain during the many years I spent at the club. I really hope Bruno Venanzi is able to quickly get the club back where it belongs, making the right investments and being patient at the right time.”
Birth: December 25th 1957, in Tongeren
Position: Attacking Midfielder
Affiliated at Standard: 13 June 1972 – 30 June 1991
Trophies with Standard: 2x Belgian Championships (1982, 1983), 1x Belgian F.A. Cup (1981), 2x Belgian Supercups (1981, 1982)
International games / goals: 17 / 0
1972 – 1978
Royal Standard Club Liégeois
1977 – 1978
1978 – 1991
1991 – 1992
1992 – 1998
R. Stade Waremmien F.C. (prêt)
Royal Standard de Liège
K.F.C. Germinal Ekeren (3530)
1997 – 1998
Belgian F.A. Cup
Belgian League Cup
Belgian F.A. Cup
Belgian League Cup