Pim aims to copy his boyhood hero

PIM Balkestein has been asked to use his boyhood hero Frank de Boer as his role model in order to dominate for Ipswich Town.

Derek Davis

By Derek Davis

PIM Balkestein has been asked to use his boyhood hero Frank de Boer as his role model in order to dominate for Ipswich Town.

The young Dutch defender has shown huge potential playing at centre half for Ipswich, but tough taskmaster Blues boss Jim Magilton has urged Balkestein to impose himself more.

Balkestein used to watch De Boer along with Martijn Reuser and Finidi George, playing for European Cup and UEFA Cup winners Ajax in Amsterdam, and knows what Magilton is asking for.

While many considered Balkestein man of the match at Southampton, Magilton felt the 21-year-old could have done even better, something the youngster accepts.

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Balkestein said: “The manager has told me I need to get hold of the ball more and play it to the front more.

“I know exactly what he means, but it is sometimes difficult for me to have such a big influence on the game because I'm so young.

“But I know I have to learn to do that if I want to stay in the team.”

To do that Balkestein has been drawing on the exploits of his boyhood heroes, not least de Boer who was once Holland's most capped player with 112 appearances.

Balkestein said: “We have some great Dutch defenders, Jaap Stam is someone I look up to. But there is also Frank De Boer and that is who the gaffer wants me to copy.

“I watched de Boer when he was at Ajax and used to go to the stadium with my dad.

“He had great influence on the ball and could dominate the ball. He played the ball to the front quickly, look at the goal Dennis Bergkamp scored against Argentina for example.”

De Boer played left back for a while at Ajax before switching to centre half where he made his name across Europe with spells at Barcelona, Rangers and Galatasaray.

The defender, signed from Heerenveen for a little under £200,000, has also fitted in for Town at left back but looks so much more comfortable in central defence.

He said: “I want to play as much as possible so I don't mind if it is left-back.”

Getting used to the English style has taken a little time but now he has found his legs Balkestein is enjoying his new found fitness.

He said: “It is very much more physical and there was a lot of running when I first got here.

“The lads used to laugh at me because my running was not good and I found it so tough, but now I'm used to it and I feel it is very good.

“In Holland it is all about using the ball and being technical, but it is good we are so fit here as it shows at the end of games.”

Balkestein is also getting used to the traditions and feel of the club and hopes he can enjoy the success fellow countrymen have had playing in England.

He said: “I knew Martijn (Reuser), and my father Luuk told me about Arnold Muhren and Frans Thijssen who he played with in the Dutch squad.”

He is also still marvelling at the support shown and is relishing a trip to Hillsborough one of the best known stadia in the country.

He said: “All the stadiums are incredible with so many people in what is really a second division. The stadium at Ipswich is amazing and it is unbelievable to see so many Ipswich supporters at away games like at Southampton.

“It makes it a great honour to play for such great supporters.”

Balkestein will be hoping to hold off competition for his place today at Sheffield Wednesday with Gareth McAuley hoping to be fit and Alex Bruce and Iván Campo both in the squad.