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1984-1989: Henk Houwaart à la Happel

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At the start of his career at Club Brugge, Henk Houwaert (nick-named Henkie) could call upon the talents of a couple of new arrivals: Franky Van der Elst (from RWDM), the two Senegalese players Tew Mamadou and Antoine Coly, Gino Maes (who came back from Cercle) and Leo Van der Elst (coming from Antwerp). In the season 1984-1985, Club ended as runners-up in the Belgian league; on a European level, Club had some very strong English opposition in the teams of Nottingham and Tottenham Hotspur.

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Belgian Cup and a memorable double test game with Anderlecht

In 1985-1986, Club managed to keep its group of players together. Monument Jan Ceulemans stayed with the blue and black side, and there was the transfer of Jean-Pierre Papin, a noble unknown from the North French team Valenciennes.
In a ‘home’ game between the two tenants at the Olympia Stadium, Club won the Belgian Cup against Cercle. The league had finished undecidedly and there was to be a double test game, with Club and Anderlecht as the two contenders for the Belgian league title. The teams drew 1-1 at Anderlecht’s Vandenstock Stadium, and the score again stayed level at Olympia. Final score: 2-2, thus bringing the title to Anderlecht, winning on away goals. Disappointing as it may have been, the double test game remains in fans’ memories after an unforgettable game at Olympia that reached capacity crowd.

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League title and European miracles

For the season 1986-1987, Dennis Van Wijk (Norwich City), Rony Rosenthal (Maccabi Haïfa), Peter Creve (SK Beveren) and Kenneth Brylle (Olympic Marseille) were the new additions to the Club side.  Things went horribly wrong in the Uefa Cup, as Club was eliminated in the first round by Rapid Wien. In the Belgian league, Club finished in 3rd place.

1984-1989: Henk Houwaart à la Happel
1984-1989: Henk Houwaart à la Happel
1984-1989: Henk Houwaart à la Happel
1984-1989: Henk Houwaart à la Happel
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The 1987-1988 season got kicked off with Serge Kimoni (Seraing) and Jan Goyvaerts (Racing Jette Brussels), who joined ranks with Club. 

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Even though Club became Belgian champions again, the highlights that spring to mind the most are the European miracles! Club had two faces: in away games, they always lost (at times even by big numbers), but at home Club was seemingly invincible and they always managed to even the score and go through. Zenith Leningrad, Red Star Belgrade and most of all Borussia Dortmund were eliminated.  Having also defeated Panathinaikos Athens, Español Barcelona was the last hurdle to take before reaching Club’s third European Final, but unfortunately this hurdle proved to be too high.

Henk Houwaart’s last season at Olympia might have been the so-called season too many. The squad was strengthened by new arrivals Dimitri M'Buyu (coming from Standard) and Alain Betagno (in from Seraing), as well as two Australian players, Bozinovski and Frank Farina, who proved a true addition to the team.  AS Monaco was too strong for Club in the second round of the European Cup, with an emphatic 6-1 home win. In the penultimate game of the season, Club managed to secure its place on the European scene against RWD Molenbeek.

1984-1989: Henk Houwaart à la Happel
1984-1989: Henk Houwaart à la Happel
1984-1989: Henk Houwaart à la Happel
1984-1989: Henk Houwaart à la Happel
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Henk Houwaart

His professional playing career started at the age of 17. He played under Ernst Happel at ADO Den Haag for five years, only to join FC Twente for one year under coach Spitz Kohn.  Joining Rensenbrink, he moved to Club Brugge where he stayed until 1975 for six fantastic years.  His first achievement as a coach was at KV Kortrijk where his team got promoted to the Belgian first division. 

After another four years at Kortrijk, he signed at Cercle Brugge in 1983, where he had some fine results with his team. This did not go unnoticed by the Club management, where he was eventually offered a contract, taking on the job as Club’s head coach in 1984. He stayed there for five consecutive seasons, which at that time was quite a long period for a coach at Club Brugge. Having learned a lot from Ernst Happel, his tutor/coach in his active years as a player, he led Club Brugge to a lot of success: runners up in 1985 and 1986 (after a double test game with Anderlecht), third in 1987, fourth in 1989, Belgian Cup winners in 1986 and champions in 1988. Throw in a number of magnificent European Cup nights against the likes of Zenith Leningrad, Red Star Belgrade, Borussia Dortmund, Panathinaikos Athens and Español Barcelona and the least you can say is that Houwaart’s List of Honours can be called very Happel-esque.