Saint-Etienne - Nice
October 14, 2020
The oldest of rivals
This Sunday (17:00 CET kick-off), Le Gym will face their oldest rivals: AS Saint-Etienne. Sainté is the team that Nice have faced the most times at professional level, and pretty much everything you can imagine has happened in the course of these meetings. So, before we take a look at the present , let’s delve into the past.
A PATTERN EMERGES
History shows that the rivalry between the two clubs dates back to the inter-war years, when society was in the process of rebuilding. At first the two clubs met in the Second Division, then in the “South Zone, East group”, the “Free Zone” and the “South Zone” as the French Divisions constantly changed names as the country evolved.
The first meeting between Les Verts and Les Rouge et Noir in a “unified” top tier took place on 10 October 1948 at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard in Saint-Etienne. The home side, led by Ignacz Tax, notched a deserved 2-0 win against Anton Marek’s visiting team.
For more than 10 years neither side managed an away win. The Stade du Ray was a fortress for the Aiglons, while Geoffroy-Guichard – known as le Chaudron (‘the Cauldron’) – belonged to les Verts. Even during Nice’s first two titles victories (1951 and 1952), they didn’t manage to win at Saint-Etienne. But things finally changed on 7 May 1959 when Pancho and his team finally came good on opposition turf thanks to a goal from Jean-Pierre Alba and a hat-trick from Jacques Foix (4-3).
That same season, Nice won their 4th and most recent French league title to date, all of which were won in one magical decade – a period when the ASSE only won one title in 1957!
Ever since their first encounter, the two clubs have enjoyed a fierce rivalry, with very few away wins for either side. Nice have won 12 times at Saint-Etienne and Saint-Etienne have won 13 times at Nice. One of the most infamous games between the two sides came after the referee, M. Wurtz, ended up being the 12th man for the Stéphanois on a night when he was constantly in the spotlight, – never a good thing for a man who really should stay in the background. On the night Le Gym were robbed, and it also cost them the title (1-1, on 11 March 1976).
Not much has changed in the modern era. Over the past ten years the Aiglons have won just three times in the Chaudron (2010-11, 2015-16, 2016-17) and have lost only twice at home (2011-12, 2013-14). You need to go back to 2016-17 for Nice’s last victory away at the ASSE, when Valentin Eysseric scored with a fantastic strike.
This Sunday these two old rivals will meet again at a Chaudron that won’t be quite as passionate as usual because of COVID restrictions. But even so, it will still feel like there’s more than just three points at stake when these two rivals meet…