Thursday, 19 April 2018

Jim Bett & The Atlas

Sporting Lokeren  3  Eupen  0

Belgian First Division – Europa League Play Off Group B

It was as we drove out of Middelburg that I posed the question.

“Who was that Scotsman who played for Lokeren in the late Seventies?”

I was met with silence, clearly.

You see, when I first got into football properly at the start of the 1980-81 season I somehow got my hands on one of those old Rothmans Yearbook’s, and in it, towards the back were all of the line ups from the previous season of the home nations when it came to International games.

It was while looking through the Scotland side and noticing that they played for the likes of Liverpool, Rangers, Aberdeen, Ipswich, Forest, Third Lanark etc, that I stumbled across a team called Lokeren.

“Dad….who are Lokeren?” was the cry from my crib.

After a brief pause, and what I can only assume was a desperate search for the trusty atlas, that only ever appeared when Mum was doing a crossword, he replied back.


I’ve always remembered that conversation and I’ve always remembered Lokeren, but for some inexplicable reason as we drove from Holland to Belgium, I couldn’t for the life of me think of the players name.

Ben was soon on Google, and the answer was found, the player was Jim Bett.

Jim started life at Airdrie, and then had spells at Rangers, Aberdeen, Hearts and Dundee United, but interspersed were spells in Europe, which included two periods with the aforementioned Lokeren, and some time in Iceland playing for Valur and KR Reykjavik.

Almost At Capacity
Lokeren sits almost on the edges of Gent, on the Eastern side, and we arrived at the impressive Daknamstadion around forty five minutes prior to kick off against a Eupen side that is managed by Claude Makelele.

Tickets were easy to come by at just ten Euro’s for the terracing areas down one side of the pitch, and with a crowd of around 3,300 in the ground, space was easy to find in all areas, especially in the away end where the turn-out of 18 meant each supporter had two police officers each for company!

It is a lovely ground though. The main stand was impressive albeit only running for three quarters of the length of the pitch, the rest made up of a shallow area of temporary uncovered seating. Behind the South goal was a tall seated stand while on the side we stood on to the East side, we were actually in a terraced paddock that sat in front of a seating area that ran the full length of the pitch.

The stand behind the North goal is a mirror image of the stand on the East side, albeit smaller in size, and with segregation for the away support.

That One Was Sold Out Weeks In Advance
Lokeren, while not one of the big names in Belgian football like the Anderlecht, Club Bruges, Standard Liege and Gent for example, are certainly club that’s had its moments, with Europe not an unusual destination from time to time.

Over the years Hull City, Newcastle United, Manchester City and Dundee United have all been paired with them, in fact Hull were beaten by them as they qualified for the Group stage of the Europa League in 2014-15, although that was where it ended!

On the night they were too good for Eupen. The first goal came in the 13th minute via Steve De Ridder, but the highlight was undoubtedly in the 65th minute when Jose Francisco Cavellos Jnr (I know!) spotted the visiting goalkeeper off his line and lobbed him from well inside his own half of the field. It was sublime and a guaranteed YouTube sensation, albeit from what I can see Belgian football highlights are banned in the UK for some reason?

High Security At That End For Eighteen Away Fans
The game was sealed in the 71st minute courtesy of an own goal, and as a result Lokeren moved to the top of the group, so Burnley had better watch out next season!

As you would expect by now, we were quickly back in Gent after the game and soon in the pub we had discovered the previous evening. Several varieties of Bolivian Bat Piss were consumed by my Sheffield friends, I stuck to the loudmouth soup of a German variety.

I was beginning to see some similarities between Belgium and Scotland, particularly when it came to consumption and getting out of one’s chicken. It starts to make sense now why Jim chose to come to Lokeren….

A Photo Of Ben Taking A Photo

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