AS St-Étienne

Allez les Verts – but the Greens lacking direction

A fan’s guide – the club from early doors to today

Record title-winners AS St-Étienne dominated French football for ten years, culminating with the European Cup Final defeat of 1976. Europa League group-stage competitors in 2019-20, St-Étienne have only recently come back into contention at home and abroad.

All that time, ‘Allez les Verts’ remained a familiar chant around French stadiums, an echo of the days of green-topped Dominique Rocheteau and Michel Platini. The Stade Geoffroy-Guichard rarely dipped below cauldron level – hence its nickname, le Chaudron Vert.

Stade Geoffroy-Guichard/Stephen Perrin

The football team of local supermarket chain, Casino, St-Étienne were formed in 1919. Playing in Casino’s trademark green, St-Étienne had just moved up to the top flight when war broke out. A key player in 1938-39, Jean Snella became a coach after the war, leading the first XI in the 1950s and 1960s.

A side featuring future PSG manager George Peyroche and, most notably, half-back Robert Herbin, won the league in 1957. Prolific Algerian striker Rachid Mekloufi then interrupting his career to represent the globetrotting FLN side that promoted Algerian independence, returning to St-Étienne in 1962.

Robert Herbin was then in his prime, a modern-day midfielder under a returning Snella as coach. St-Étienne won the league in 1964. After Snella’s departure, renowned Albert Batteux, who took France to the 1958 World Cup semi-finals and Stade de Reims to five titles, took over.

Stade Geoffroy-Guichard/Stephen Perrin

Pulling the strings was club president Roger Rocher, who had worked down the mines of St-Étienne. His 20-year stint in charge would reach extremes never previously seen in the French game. St-Étienne also featured the prolific Hervé Revelli, locally born striker Georges Bereta and 1966 World Cup defender Bernard Bosquier in their ranks. The double win of 1966-67 led to a run of four straight titles, Revelli top club scorer every time.

It was Revelli, and incoming star forward Salif Keita, who would score the three unanswered goals that sensationally sunk Franz Beckenbauer’s Bayern Munich, 2-0 up from the home leg, in the 1969-70 European Cup. That memorable night apart, Les Verts made little headway in Europe until Rocher astutely placed Herbin as coach. Bringing Dominique Rocheteau, Gérard Janvion and Dominique Bathenay through the ranks, Herbin led Les Verts back to three straight titles from 1974 to 1976 – the same years that Bayern Munich dominated the European Cup.

Having memorably overturned Hajduk Split 5-1 after extra-time, Revelli still banging in the goals, Les Verts had fallen to a tougher Bayern in the semi-finals of 1974-75. A year later, St-Étienne faced Valeriy Lobanovskiy’s great Dynamo Kyiv, 2-0 down from the Ukraine. After another Revelli strike, Rocheteau famously hit the quarter-final winner in extra-time. The Chaudron Vert supporters’ bar had opened that very same night.

St-Étienne shop/Stephen Perrin

Towards the end of the 1976 final, a palpably injured Rocheteau came on to scare a Bayern side precariously holding onto a 1-0 lead. St-Étienne had already been denied by the unusual thickness of the Hampden Park crossbar, a controversial detail forever lodged in the collective memory of all St-Étienne fans.

A year later, Les Verts pushed eventual winners Liverpool close – but not quite close enough. A final league title came in 1981, after the high-profile signing of Michel Platini, just before the slush-fund scandal that put an ageing Rocher in jail and led to the immediate and long-term demise of the club.

It was 30 years before locally born midfielder Loïc Perrin came to the fore, helping Les Verts to the League Cup win of 2013 and European football five years running.

Stade Geoffroy-Guichard/Stephen Perrin

Reaching the knock-out stages at the third attempt, a high-scoring defeat to Basel was particularly bitter, an away goal by Moustapha Sall on 89 minutes sending Les Verts through to the quarter-finals for all of 60 seconds before the Swiss claimed a shock winner in stoppage time.

A year later, in 2016-17, a Ibrahimović hat-trick pretty much sealed the tie at Old Trafford, Manchester United silencing a boisterous Geoffroy-Guichard with an early away goal. Although only a faint echo of the classic European nights of yesteryear, the occasion at least gave the Pogba brothers a chance to cross paths on a football pitch, megastar Paul for United, centre-back Florentin for Les Verts.

Another more poignant reminder of the glory days came in April 2020, when Robert Herbin was found dead a few days after being let out of hospital with serious heart problems. A legendary midfielder who could read the game like a book, Herbin directed St-Étienne through the club’s golden decade, his passive demeanour on the bench earning him the nickname, ‘le Sphinx’.

Stadium Guide

The field of dreams – and the stands around it

Modernised for Euro 2016, the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard has been St-Étienne’s home for most of the club’s history. It is known as Le Chaudron, the Cauldron, based on its reputation earned and maintained since the 1970s.

Named after the club’s founder who bought the land it was built on, the stadium was opened in 1931, when Les Verts were still a essentially a works team. Holding less than 2,000 spectators, with a running track and changing and administrative facilities in the one stand, the Geoffroy-Guichard suited St-Étienne’s then modest needs.

A second stand was added soon afterwards but Le Chaudron didn’t resemble the English-style football ground of Rocheteau lore until Les Verts’ first title win of 1957. With the running track removed and standing areas opened, capacity rose to 25,000-plus, floodlights erected a decade later when the City of Saint-Étienne bought the stadium from the Guichard dynasty.

Stade Geoffroy-Guichard/Stephen Perrin

After expansion to nearly 40,000 in the golden years of the late 1960s, the next real overhaul came with the hosting of Euro 84. With three new stands, capacity reached nearly 50,000, and crowds for league games remained high despite the club’s demise.

St-Étienne’s fortunes were hardly better by the time France 98 came around but, as head of the organising committee, ex-Verts star Michel Platini insisted on the stadium’s inclusion. The north and south terraces were knocked down and all-seater stands raised their place. The pitch was also relaid, the perfect canvas for Michael Owen to score his wonder goal for England against Argentina here.

Since then, after talk of a move, the Geoffroy-Guichard was chosen for another major tournament, Euro 2016. Building works took place between 2011 and 2014, reducing capacity to the current 42,000.

The traditional home end is the Kop Nord, with the Paret Supérieur tier above, mirrored by the Kop Sud with the Snella tier above. Away fans are placed in an area between the Kop Nord and the sideline Pierre Faurand stand. Press, VIP and the best seats are found opposite, the Tribune Officielle.

getting there

Going to the stadium – tips and timings

The Geoffroy-Guichard has its own tram stop on the T1 and T2 lines, seven north of the Hôtel de Ville – it’s then an 8min walk along rue Claude Odde/boulevard Roger Rocher.

getting in

Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much

With average gates under 30,000, availability only affects the visits of Lyon, Marseille and PSG, and the big European nights.

Tickets are sold at the stadium (Mon-Fri 9am-6pm, 6hrs before kick-off) and online from the club websiteTicketmaster and Fnac.

Prices start at €20-€25 in either Kop, with a decent seat on the sidelines going for around €40-€50.

what to buy

Shirts, kits, merchandise and gifts

The Boutique des Verts (Mon-Sat 10am-7pm, match days) by the stadium café is 800 square metres of wall-to-wall green, including little sets of French boules and Denis Chaumier’s lovely book Glasgow 1976.

club Museum

Explore the club inside and out

The only museum dedicated to a single club in France, le Musée des Verts (Tue-Sun 2pm-6pm, match days up until 30min before kick-off, €7, under 18s €5) is accessed between the Pierre-Faurand and the Jean-Snella stands in the south-west corner of the stadium.

Telling the St-Étienne story from Pierre Guichard to the first title, then domestic domination to that fateful night in 1976 – Hampden’s square goalposts have been shipped all the way from Glasgow – the museum places special focus on the 1970s. There’s even a special area dedicated to goalkeeper Ivan Ćurković, centrepieced by the car the club gifted him for his performances in ’76.

Where to Drink

Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors

Though stuck in a bleak industrial area north of town, the Geoffroy-Guichard witnesses lively pre-match drinking.

The hotspot is the Chaudron Vert (23 rue des Trois Glorieuses), the supporters’ bar/restaurant that opened shortly before the memorable night in 1976 when Rocheteau’s Verts beat Dynamo Kyiv across the road. Set by two hypermarkets over the main road north of the stadium, it also features a grill and outdoor bar for warmer nights at the Geoffroy-Guichard. Green-framed photos showing fans, players and club history cover the walls of this neat establishment, whose chairs are also coloured regulation green. These days, it’s also adjoined by an ASSE-themed hotel.

Closer to the stadium, the Café des Abattoirs (137 rue Bergson) sports a framed flag and a TV. By the club shop, the Casino supermarket runs a self-service restaurant, À La Bonne Heure, if you have hungry young mouths to feed pre-match.