Thijssen inducted into Town Hall of Fame

FRANS Thijssen today hailed his time at Portman Road as the best part of his illustrious footballing career.

Elvin King

FRANS Thijssen today hailed his time at Portman Road as the best part of his illustrious footballing career.

And he revealed that he had grave doubts that he was making the right decision when he joined Town.

The 58-year-old Dutchman returned to Ipswich Town at the weekend to collect the award that goes with his adoption into the Blues official Hall of Fame.

A big favourite with Town fans, midfielder Thijssen played a big part in Bobby Robson's side winning the UEFA Cup in 1981 and twice finishing runners-up in the old First Division.

“My four years at Ipswich Town were without doubt the best,” said the man who gained 14 international caps and won the PFA footballer of the year award.

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“And it has given me a very great feeling to come back.

“We had so many wonderful players during my time with Ipswich and a great manager in Bobby Robson. He changed the style of English football.

“Winning the UEFA Cup in Amsterdam and scoring six goals against Manchester United are memories that are always close to me.

“And the 4-1 victory at St Ettienne was a team performance that I cannot recall the like of anywhere else. From goalkeeper to striker we had a wonderful side.”

Thijssen, who is now back in the Netherlands and hoping to take up a coaching post after working as a coach in the middle east, is keeping his fingers crossed that the Blues win their way back into the Premier League.

“Nowadays it is all about Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea,” he said. “It used to be about Ipswich Town.

“Hopefully this season will see promotion, and a return to the big time for a wonderful club.”

Thijssen's presentation was made in the boardroom by club chairman David Sheepshanks and watched by his former team mates John Wark, Kevin Beattie and Steve McCall.

Thijssen had his two daughters - plus their partners - and four grandchildren at Portman Road with him, and the presentation was organised by ex-player Bryan Hamilton and Robson's former secretary Pat Godbold, who are organisers of player reunions and entries into the coveted Hall of Fame.

“There have been so many changes, and Portman Road is now such a wonderful stadium,” added Thijssen, who went on to play for Nottingham Forest, Vancouver Whitecaps plus three teams in Holland.

He then went into the coaching field and managed Vitesse Arnhem before spending the last six years in Qatar and the Emirates.

Thijssen and fellow Dutch international Arnold Muhren were two of the first foreigners to play in England football and the latter admits that his style was ideal for the English game.

But he needed a bit of persuasion and admits he had doubts that he was making the right decision.

“I was a quiet lad playing in Holland when Bobby Robson asked me to move to Ipswich. I had a tough decision to make, but I have no regrets whatsoever.

“Having Arnold around was a help and I still see him occasionally. He is working with youth players for Ajax.”

Others in the Town Hall of Fame are Mick Mills, Wark, Ted Phillips, Ray Crawford, John Elsworthy, Beattie and the late Jimmy Leadbetter.

Thijssen, Wark, Beattie and McCall reminisced about old times with Wark saying: “If we were under a bit pressure we used to give the ball to Frans - and he would keep it.

“He had marvellous balance and an incredible turn and used to have his team mates going in the wrong direction for some of the time.

“Frans was more of an extrovert than Arnold and he was a great fella to have at the club.”

Fabian Wilnis popped in to the presentation and met up with his fellow countryman. Still undecided about his future after being released by Ipswich at the end of last season, Wilnis said that his final decision 'might surprise a lot of people.' He is currently training with Ridgeons League Needham Market.

Town have been well served by Dutchmen, but none more so than Thijssen, who spent four days staying in Ipswich with his former next door neighbour Chris Cocksedge.