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Sunday 28th July 2013 ko 16.00

Beker van België (Belgian Cup) 1st Round

K LYRA TSV 2 (Wauman 27 Jacobs 65)

SK RAPID LEEST 1 (Rucquoy 90p)

Att 192

Entry €10

Teamsheet FREE

Centenary Yearbook Complimentary

If you look back to most of my foreign jaunts there’s always a common factor; the thing was it took me until half way across the English Channel to realise what it was.

The roots of this trip lie with Fareham Town secretary Paul “Splodge” Proctor, and his liking for a particular brand of Belgian beer. That necessitated a trip over or under the Channel, and ever the hopper he found two games to take in too! He soon roped me in and with Peter Miles ( The Itinerant Football Watcher) and Lee West (Adventures In Football) we had a full car, and as the midnight ferry left Dover for a bargain £67 return, it dawned on me what we’d created. As far as I’m concerned Lee is the best groundhopping photographer out there, and Peter the best writer. Splodge is one of the most popular and knowledgeable people in Non-League, which just left little old me to make up the numbers! Sat here now typing away, I’m not completely sure why I’m doing this, look at the links to your left, it’s all there already!

From Dunkirk it takes no time at all to reach Belgium, and after a little rest, we found a boulangerie in the beautiful town of Veurne for breakfast, before calling in at it’s not so beautiful twin Adinkerke. That town exists it seems, to sell all those passing through the products you shouldn’t buy such as tobacco, porn, chocolates, and yes Splodge’s beer!

From there the Splodgemobile (his term, not mine!) blasted north-west around Antwerp to the town of Lier. The town has around 34,000 inhabitants, and is the base of the coachbuilder Van Hool. The great Belgian footballer Jan Ceulemans was born here.

What we always had on this trip was time, which allowed us the time to sample that most Belgian of cuisines, the Frituur. These Friteries offer several fried and grilled dishes served with frites, such as hamburgers, brochette, meatballs, merguez and fried chicken. The portions tend to be large, to the extent that all 4 of us had food left over!

But let’s be honest here, we were all we just waiting for the gates to be opened! We’d had a mosey around before we went to eat, and the reports we’d heard were being borne out before our eyes!

Lyra have played at the Lyra Stadion since 1912, and the history is there for all to see. The most obvious is the main stand, originally a small wooden affair, but extended both forwards and lengthways, but with the original features still there. There’s also the terrace and tunnel behind the goal with, to the groundhopper’s eye, an almost indecent curve at the corner.

And folks, if this appeals, then take heed, this is the last season of this wonderful edifice. Already the narrow terrace opposite the stand has been demolished, to make way for, would you believe, a new Police Station! Here’s what the terrace used to look like.

The club will groundshare for around 2 years, while a new ground is built, but the stalwarts aren’t happy. One said “Our President…..” and made the throttling gesticulation. And if the Lyra stadion isn’t sufficient to convince you to pay the club a visit, the club officials will well and truly convince you. We were standing open-mouthed on the terrace when an official tapped us on the shoulder, and presented us with copies of the club’s centenary brochure, and when we decamped to the raised bar area, despite the fact that the key to the club shop couldn’t be found, merchandise was found including copies of the club anthem, “Lyralied,” on 7″ single no less. I hope they enjoyed they enjoyed our company as much as we enjoyed theirs.

With no badges available on the day, the club found a young lady that spoke excellent English to organise posting them over to us. She said she’d email us when she’d sent them, which she did, and her surname proved to be interesting! She is Jan Ceulemans’ niece! It’s a small world isn’t it? The great man sometimes comes to watch Lyra but at the moment he’s coaching 3rd division outfit R. Cappellen FC.

Which left the vexed question of the game! After all that has preceded it, it had to be an anti-climax didn’t it? Well, actually it wasn’t, with Lyra in the 4th tier Promotion League Group C, having just that little bit too much for their visitors plying their trade in the 6th tier Antwerpen Provincial League 2nd Division.

The game kept us all royally entertained, and it was with genuine regret that the final whistle went, and it was time to bid this magnificent ground, and its gallant officials goodbye. They are great, and please use these words and pictures as a reason to pay them a visit, the 4 of us owe them that for a quite wonderful afternoon.