If we were to travel back in time 60 years then the name Stade de Reims would undoubtedly be on the lips of most fervent football fans across Europe. During their golden era Stade Reims ran supreme domestically, within a 16 year period between 1949 and 1966 ‘les Stadistes’ accumulated six league 1 titles, two Coupe De France titles and an impressive five Trophee de Champions titles.
Their forays into Europe were also as noble having reached the 1956 European Cup Final pushing Alfredo Di Stefano and his great Real Madrid team all the way despite going two goals up they eventually lost the match 4-3. A feeling of déjà vu shrouded the 1959 European Cup Final with Real Madrid winning the match 2-0 thanks to splendid goal from Di Stefano who famously haunted them at the Parc De Princes three years earlier.
At this time Stade Reims boasted some of the finest talents that arguably ever graced a football field. These players included Raymond Kopa, Jean Vincent, Armand Penverne and the great Just Fontaine The majority of their 1958 league winning side represented France during the national team’s 3rd place finish in the World Cup of that year with Just Fontaine scoring a colossal 13 goals in the tournament a record that still stands to this day.
It’s a cliché but all good things must come to an end. The 1963 season saw Stade Reims Finishing in an incomprehensible 17th place, which resulted in the club falling to the second division. The relegation led to the inevitable departures and retirements of many of the players who were a part of Reims' imperial run in the 1950s and early 60’s. The ensuing decades proved turbulent for the club, with promotions, relegations and even liquidation in 1991 which saw the club reborn as Stade de Reims Champaigne FC. After years spent in the wilderness of French lower league football and with a script that a Hollywood director wouldn’t be able to fathom, the 2011-2012 season finally saw Stade Reims reached the dizzy heights of Ligue 1 after a 33 year stint in relative obscurity. With promotion secured they have so far flourished under the careful watch of current manager Hubert Fournier currently finding themselves in 5th place with convincing wins over current champions Montpellier and a resurgent Monaco in the process playing the type of football that won them so many accolades all those years ago. Can this team emulate the class of the 50’s? Watch this space.
image: © Yves Jalabert