Confidence boost for Pim

NO disrespect but when Pim Balkestein saw club captain Richard Naylor was being allowed to go out on loan it did wonders for his confidence.

Derek Davis

By Derek Davis

NO disrespect but when Pim Balkestein saw club captain Richard Naylor was being allowed to go out on loan it did wonders for his confidence.

The Dutch defender seized his chance and has grown with every game since.

Balkestein said: “It's great for me and my confidence.

“I came here to play a lot of first team football as I didn't have that at Heerenveen so it was nice to come in at Crystal Palace and I did well so I got another chance at Chelsea which was unbelievable for me."

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After doing so well at Selhurst Park Balkestein was then tested further by going up against the likes of Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba.

He said: “It was amazing it was always a dream of mine from when I was ten years old when I'd play against him on the PlayStation and now I'm playing against him for real. I couldn't imagine it was unbelievable."

“We did well as a back-four. We had two free-kicks that came in which were not our fault so we had a good confidence that we could defend against those strikers so we had to keep that confidence in the Barnsley game. We knew we had to win that one to come close to the top six."

Win they did but Balkestein knows they have to follow that up at home against Plymouth today.

“He said: “This game against Plymouth is also a big game. We have dropped a few easy points so we knew we had to come back and make a good run.

“I saw the dvd of last year, only losing away games. Now we have to win the home games, starting on Saturday against my old clubmate Marcel Seip.

“When I was young he was playing in the first team {at Heerenveen} so I know him a little bit. I'll have a chat to him at five to three and wish him good luck."

The 22-year-old appreciates he is learning on the job as it were and is grateful for the help he is getting from skipper Gareth McAuley alongside him and Richard Wright behind them.

He said: “Gareth is doing very well, he's winning every header. He's also a big leader so that's giving me a lot of confidence. Wrighty is absolutely amazing, he's holding every cross, it's unbelievable."

His progress stem from the work he has done in the past six months on the training pitch and the extra time put in with Steve Foley as he learns to use his head more.

He said: “I do a lot of work with the coaches and a lot of work after training with Steve Foley we do a lot of heading which I'm not used to.

“In Holland we don't do heading at all. In training and after training I do 10 or 20 minutes when I only head the ball.

“At the beginning of the season I had to get used to it and to get my timing right. Now it's a lot better I think. I do a little bit of strength training every day with the fitness coach Simon Thadani to get me some extra kilos."

Hitting the weights ahs helped him cope even more with the English game.

He said: “I'm only young and have to get stronger and stronger. Look at Gareth, he wins every duel and I want to do that also."

While clean sheets are the bread and butter, like all defenders he still wants to pop up at the other end and put one away.

He said: “You know I've also got a little shot in me so maybe a free-kick. I know I can head the ball I just need to get into good areas. That's the difficult bit because of the challenges in the six yard box.

“I need to get free to get a good header. I've been getting close but now it has to come."

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