Frans Thijssen says he and other Ipswich Town legends wouldn’t fit in the current team’s style of play

Fran Thijssen in UEFA Cup action for Ipswich Town in 1981

Fran Thijssen in UEFA Cup action for Ipswich Town in 1981

Ipswich Town legend Frans Thijssen returned to Portman Road last weekend and left thinking he wouldn’t fit into the current team.

Frans Thijssen, pictured watching Ipswich Town in pre-season action, in Holland, in 2012

Frans Thijssen, pictured watching Ipswich Town in pre-season action, in Holland, in 2012

The Dutch midfield maestro, along with his countryman Arnold Muhren, helped revolutionise the way the Blues played football when the duo were signed by Bobby Robson in 1979. Part of the Netherlands era of ‘Total Football’, they were the fulcrum of an exciting Town team packed with playmakers and flair players that went on to win the UEFA Cup in 1981.

A number of those players, including Thijssen, attended the annual Players’ Reunion Dinner at Portman Road last Friday and then stayed to watch the home game against Rotherham the following day.

And the 64-year-old admits the functional, physical and direct football he witnessed in the dull 1-0 defeat to Rotherham was a world away from the football philosophy of his day.

“The football was a little bit disappointing – I had been told at the dinner not to expect too much in terms of style of play, but I did hope for a bit more,” said Thijssen.


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“It’s difficult for me to criticise because I don’t get to many games. It’s certainly a different style of football compared to the old days. When I was at the club we had a lot of ball players, our game was a lot more possession based. There was more build-up play, the midfielders would pass to the strikers.

“Nowadays it is more or less the long ball game. Every time the keeper or defender kicks it long and then everyone is fighting for the ball. The ball always seems in the air.

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“Liam Feeney was the one player I really liked in the game. He played more on the sides and tried to make things happen. I thought Tommy Oar would do well at the club, but I can see now why he didn’t get in the team.”

Thijssen continued: “I wouldn’t fit in this team. Arnold, Eric Gates and Alan Brazil wouldn’t either because we were small players that needed the ball at our feet and in space.

“You can’t compare this team to the past though because we were one of the top teams in England and had a lot of national team players. Times have changed”

He added: “I don’t want to criticise Mick McCarthy. He’s achieved a great deal as a manager and it’s not my place to question his methods. He was just a different type of player to me. This is his chosen style of play and I guess if you play that way then you need those type of players in the team.

“In Holland sometimes people complain about slow play and there being too many passes. In England, in the Championship in particular, no-one seems to pass the ball and it’s all very fast and direct and physical. The best way is probably somewhere in the middle.”

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