SM Caen

Viking warrior on the badge but conquering forgotten

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

Jesper Olsen, Graham Rix and Brian Stein, these were only three of the players who ran out for SM Caen during the crazy days of the early 1990s. In no time, this previously amateur side from Lower Normandy climbed to the top five in Ligue 1 and gained a European place.

It wasn’t to last.

The good times didn’t return at Caen until 20 years later. Promoted in 2014, the Rouge et Bleu enjoyed their best season since the Olsen era, beating Marseille away in the opening fixture and stomping Bordeaux 4-1 in the Gironde.

Stade Michel d'Ornano/Sylvain Vaugeois

Stade Malherbe Caen – not a stadium but the club’s official name – were created from merger of two Caennais clubs, Malherbe and Sportif, in 1913. Malherbe refers to a prestigious school whose former pupils played for the first local teams in the 1890s.

Champions of Lower Normandy during the 1920s, SM Caen briefly turned professional a decade later and spent four seasons in Ligue 2. A top-ranking amateur side after the war, Caen claimed a couple of major scalps in cup runs in the 1950s, including then powerful Racing Club and Stade de Reims.

The club changed gear with the arrival of former Lens forward Pierre Mankowski as player-coach in 1983. Set on transforming Caen from an amateur third-flight outfit to a professional one at the top, Mankowski succeeded – but left right after promotion to Ligue 1 in 1988. Former French international striker Éric Pécout, whose goals had helped get them up, didn’t stick around either, and SM Caen only just survived their first season.

It was Pécout’s former strike partner, Caen-born Fabrice Divert, whose second-half hat-trick reversed a 2-0 scoreline at Bordeaux and saved the day on the last game of the season.

SM Caen shop/Sylvain Vaugeois

Under Daniel Jeandupeux, Caen not only survived but thrived. With plenty of money made available, the Swiss coach brought in former Ajax and Manchester United star Jesper Olsen, joining ex-Arsenal Graham Rix and ex-Luton Brian Stein already in place. Soon came French international strikers Stéphane Paille and Xavier Gravelaine.

Caen finished eighth in 1991 then fifth a year later, gaining the Rouge et Bleu a European slot. Under a full moon at the Stade de Venoix, three goals from Paille and Gravelaine lit up the most memorable night in Caen’s history, a 3-2 win over Real Zaragoza in the first round of the UEFA Cup. A late and somewhat controversial second reply from the Spaniards proved crucial. In Spain, a thumping shot from Andreas Brehme levelled the aggregate before Zaragoza ended Caen’s European dream, 2-0.

Stade Michel d'Ornano/Sylvain Vaugeois

In 1993, Caen moved a few hundred metres to the new Stade Michel d’Ornano but the money had run out. Star names left, Jeandupeux left and Caen ran out of steam.

They didn’t sink completely though, yo-yoing between Ligues 1 and 2. Patrice Garande, coaching assistant to a string of managers at Caen in the 1990s, returned in 2012 to take the club up in 2014.

Surprisingly unhappy with the star striker from the promotion campaign, Mathieu Duhamel, Caen struggled to score but survived in 2014-15. 2015-16 started with a goal from ex-Wigan striker Andy Delort for the surprise 1-0 win at Marseille – and Caen and Delort caused upsets around France all campaign.

Stadium Guide

The field of dreams – and the stands around it

Replacing the nearby Stade de Venoix, Caen’s home since 1913, the Stade Michel d’Ornano opened in June 1993. Named after a local politician who had died shortly before its unveiling, the stadium soon staged a full international, a goal from Eric Cantona helping France beat Russia 3-1.

But with Caen’s demise, crowds rarely filled half the 21,500-capacity ground. The crowd was only 200 when England strode out here to struggle against a Caen XI in a secret friendly a few days before the 1998 World Cup.

Average gates for 2015-16 climbed to 17,000-plus – with local rivals Le Havre and Lens a division away in Ligue 2.

Home fans, the Malherbe Normandy Kop 96, gather in the Tribune Borrelli on the north side of the stadium. Away ones are allocated sectors in the Populaires D and D bis in the Tribune Venoix on the south side nearest the old ground, accessed through gate 2. The club shop and bar are set behind the Tribune Beaulieu nearest boulevard Georges Pompidou while the Tribune Normandie opposite houses the press and VIPs.

getting there

Going to the stadium – tips and timings

Stade d’Ornano has its own stop on the 8 bus line (every 20mins), 12 stops (15mins) from downtown St-Pierre.

If you’ve just missed one, the 2 line takes a more direct route (every 10mins, 10min journey time) from central Théâtre to the Parc des Sports, a slightly longer walk to the stadium past the old Stade de Venoix. The two bus lines cross at Pont de Venoix, one before Parc des Sports – if you’ve just missed a 8 back to town after the game.

getting in

Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much

Tickets are distributed at the billetterie (Tue-Fri 10am-noon, 2pm-7pm), part of the club shop nearest boulevard Georges Pompidou and at the guichets there on match days. 

For derbies and big cup games, match-day tickets may have sold out if advance online sales at have been strong.

Prices start at €9 in the Populaires and €14 in Secondes behind the goals, rising to €20 and €26 for decent seats in the Premières and Tribune J. The best places are Reservée and Honneur, €31/€33. Prices rise by about €5 for big-name opponents such as Paris Saint-Germain and Marseille.

what to buy

Shirts, kits, merchandise and gifts

The large club shop (Tue-Sat 10am-7pm, match days from 10am) on the boulevard Georges Pompidou side of the stadium is stocked with standard gear in blue and red – note the scarves bearing the original round SMC club badge from 1913.

Where to Drink

Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors

For a swiftie before you reach the stadium, Le Galliéni is a standard PMU betting bar, on the corner of rue du Maréchal Galliéni and avenue Henry Chéron near the Parc des Sports on the No.2 bus line. On the other side of the stadium, the Viking pizzeria on rue Claude Chappe is happy to serve beers.

At the ground, the neat, modern Brasserie Bleu & Rouge on boulevard Georges Pompidou does a roaring trade on match nights and also offers plats du jours at under €10 on lunchtimes Tue-Fri.