The pre-eminent force in French football in the 1960s and 70s, Saint-Étienne’s star has waned a little since they reached the 1976 European Cup final. However, as they take on Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League round of 32, UEFA.com discovers what makes them special.
Nicknames: Les Verts (The Greens), ASSE
UEFA club competition honours
Domestic honours (most recent triumph in brackets)
• League title: 10 (1981)
• French Cup: 6 (1977)
• French League Cup: 1 (2013)
• A provincial club that like to play the game the right way, St-Étienne have been likened to United’s regional rivals Liverpool by current boss Christophe Galtier, who spent time at Anfield as part of his coaching qualifications. “We’re similar,” he told UEFA.com. “We don’t have the same budget but the spirit and the values are like Liverpool’s.”
• St-Étienne have their own Ryan Giggs in captain Loïc Perrin, an unrepentant one-club man. Closing in on 300 senior league appearances for the club he joined in 1997, the 31-year-old centre-back has repeatedly rebuffed moves away, saying: “Wearing another shirt would be weird.”
• ASSE started out as the works team of a supermarket. Their green shirts mirrored the colour of the blinds in the office of the Casino chain’s founder Geoffroy Guichard – after whom the club’s stadium is named. However, AS Casino were compelled to change their name in 1920, becoming Amical SC and then AS Stéphanoise before settling on their current title in 1933.
• Goalkeeper Jérémie Janot loves Les Verts so much that he took his daughter camping on the Stade Geoffroy Guichard pitch. Born in Valenciennes, the UEFA EURO 2016 city ambassador was none the less St-Étienne to the bone, representing the club from 1996–2012. He confirmed his commitment in June 2006 by pitching a tent in his penalty area for his and his daughter’s first camping trip.
• Like United, St-Étienne are involved in one of the biggest rivalries in their domestic game. Near-neighbours Lyon won seven Ligue 1 championships in recent years, but St-Étienne remain 10-7 up in that battle, and while facing United is a big deal for Les Verts, it would be dwarfed by the prospect of meeting Lyon later in the competition. Lyon fans, incidentally, never wear green.
• One of their all-time favourites was a real freedom fighter. Rachid Mekhloufi, St-Étienne’s second-highest scorer behind Hervé Revelli, famously left the team in 1956 to help – through playing football – Algeria’s battle for independence from France, returning to St-Étienne six years later once it was achieved.
• Their supporters are anything but glory-hunters. While the 2013 French League Cup represents their only major success in the best part of 40 years, St-Étienne remain among the best-supported sides in France – with Geoffroy Guichard home crowds consistently ranked among Ligue 1’s top five since 2008/09.
• ASSE got a heroes’ welcome despite losing the 1976 European Cup final 1-0 to Bayern. The whole nation got behind Robert Herbin’s men, who paraded up the Champs-Élysées in Paris after the defeat in Glasgow, French fans agreeing that they would have won had the posts been round rather than square. In the match, Dominique Bathenay and Jacques Santini both hit the frame of the goal – which would be a star exhibit at the club’s Musée des Verts for three years.
• Striker Dominique Rocheteau symbolises something of Les Verts’ spirit. A European Cup finalist in 1976 and a UEFA European Championship winner in 1984, ‘L’Ange Vert’ (The Green Angel) was famously never booked in his career. At 61, he now serves on St-Étienne’s board of directors.
• Groovy people love them. In 2000, Mickey 3D had a big hit with Johnny Rep – a tribute to the 1980s Dutch ace who remains St-Étienne’s top scorer in UEFA competitions with 12 goals. The late radical writer Jorge Semprún was a proud ASSE fan, as is iconoclastic chef Pierre Gagnaire. And England’s premier purveyors of knowing 1970s cool, the band Saint Etienne, took their name from the club.