Pim fears Gio more than Lee

PIM Balkestein is confident he can handle the bustling threat of Alan Lee and would rather be up against him than team-mate Gio dos Santos.

Derek Davis

By Derek Davis

PIM Balkestein is confident he can handle the bustling threat of Alan Lee and would rather be up against him than team-mate Gio dos Santos.

Although Lee scored Crystal Palace's only goal from a free kick in the 4-1 Blues win at Selhurst Park last January, Balkestein felt he had the measure of the former team-mate who he stood next to in the pre-season Town squad picture.

Balkestein said: “Alan is a good guy and even though we only played together in pre-season games I know what he is like.

“We know that Alan is a good header of the ball and strong but I prefer to play against players like him than little nippy players like Gio.”

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After being sidelines for the 2-0 defeat at Norwich, Balkestein is facing his first ever derby match as a player but knows from his own experience as a fan what it means to Town supporters.

Balkestein was a huge Heerenveen fans before going on to play for them and their big rivals are Groningen.

He said: “I was in the stand at Carrow Road and saw what it meant to our fans. I know what it is like for a fan as I was a big Heerenveen fan and could feel the nerves before the game and you wanted to win so much.”

The 21-year-old is delighted to have made the move across the North Sea and feels being a regular has vindicated the decision.

Balkestein added: “I came here because I wanted to play first team football and was not getting that chance in Holland.

“I was at the top of the league side in the Holland first division and they had a lot of players so I knew I didn't have a chance so I had to make the step.

“It has paid off for me and I have played 20 games. I have had my dips and my ups but it has been worth it.

“If I had stayed at Heerenveen I would have played big reserve games against the likes of Ajax and PSV where they get big crowds but it is still not the same as first team games here.

“I have learnt a lot because in Holland we didn't work too much on defence more on having the ball and playing forward.”

While the season has been disappointing for Town on the whole Balkestein has enjoyed some highs.

He added: “The highlight so far for me has been with the team in our away games and if we keep a clean sheet that is a bonus for me. So clean sheet against Wolves and Reading are good games for the team and for me.”

One thing he would like to do before the end of this campaign is get a goal, which he has been so close to grabbing already.

Balkestein said: “I have had many good chances so one will come and Sunday would be a good place to start.

“I have been close from set plays so maybe it will come from them or maybe a long range shot.

“It doesn't matter too much as long as the team is scoring so I don't think about it too much.”

While his dad, who scouts around Europe, will miss the big derby Balkestein has support from his mum, sister and five close friends as he looks to put Lee in his pocket and help Town to a derby win.