Pim's perfect mentor

DUTCH defender Pim Balkestein has found the perfect mentor in Blues legend Fabian Wilnis.

Derek Davis

By Derek Davis

DUTCH defender Pim Balkestein has found the perfect mentor in Blues legend Fabian Wilnis.

The young defender is being helped by Wilnis who left the club in the summer but has been handed a testimonial year by Ipswich Town.

Wilnis has been supporting and encouraging the former Heerenveen centre half who is hoping to be back in the starting side today if Gareth McAuley fails a late fitness test on a hamstring injury.

Balkestein, who was on the bench at Doncaster after recovering from injury, has made just three starts since signing for the Blues for nearly £200,000 in the summer.

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He has been helped to settle in by the veteran Wilnis who played more than 300 games for Ipswich, helping them to promotion, and getting to Europe after finishing fifth in the Premier League.

Balkestein said: “I talk a lot with Fabian. He knows what is going on around the club and he gives me confidence.

“He keeps encouraging me, telling me I'm doing well and to keep doing the right things.

“Fabian has loads of experience and he has seen my methods and what I do.

“He tells me to be patient and that my chance will come and just to be ready.

“It is difficult being patient at times but Fabian is a top man to help me and a really nice person too.”

Although Wilnis has been supportive of Balkestein his young protégé has not yet returned the favour by watching him play this season.

He admitted: “I have not been to see him play at Grays yet but I will. It is a way to go and usually he is playing when we have games.”

Balkestein has had an extra spring in his step this week at the prospect of playing if McAuley fails to make it and with Moritz Volz suspended.

He said: “I'm excited about being involved. We have a lot of great players so we will have to see if I'm playing. If I am then I have to be 100 per cent ready and I will be.

“It is hard when you come back from injury but I worked to get fit, played in the reserves and was in the 16 at Doncaster.”

Even the wet weather suits the 6'3''defender who added: “I love all that rain, the more the better, so we can slide in on tackles.

“Ipswich style is a little like the Dutch way with little combinations and going through the midfield so I enjoy it.

“I have watched Derby last season but we know it will be a tough match for us but then so are all the games in the Championship.

“It is a good level and we know if we can pick up more points consistently we will be towards the top.”

And Fab will be with him all the way.