VIDEO & GALLERY: Super Blues line up alongside Town legend Frans Thijssen for fans’ match
THE term ‘legend’ is often overused in football.
But Frans Thijssen fits that bill perfectly. A UEFA Cup winner with Ipswich Town, he was once voted the best player in the country and won 14 caps for the Netherlands.
And there was me. 5ft 6ins, dodgy knees and desperately seeking any kind of fitness, lining up alongside him in the centre of midfield.
It was the stuff dreams are made of and it came about through a simple phone call.
When Ipswich announced they were returning to the Netherlands for a short tour, new supporters group, Spirit of 78, hatched a plan that ended with 23 supporters lining up with the Dutch maestro in a special friendly match.
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The group, who were only launched at the end of last season, decided to arrange a fans’ friendly against Helmond Sport before taking their places on the terraces to watch Ipswich’s first pre-season match.
A great idea, made all the more better when a chance call was made to Thijssen asking him to support the game any way he could.
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Supporter, manager, player? The group would have been happy for the living legend to help any small way he could.
But Thijssen, 60 years young, donned the famous blue shirt once again – as well as patiently talking to fans, sign autographs and pose for photographs from excited supporters.
He said: “It is strange being back in an Ipswich shirt but it is always nice. I got a mail about this game and it sounded good. I wanted to come over and see the supporters.
“All the players in the fan game were very young – they don’t know Frans Thijssen the player.”
In the end, Thijssen lasted just 10 minutes after aggravating a calf injury he sustained in the days leading up to the game. But in his place, a relatively young Ipswich side did their club proud with a 5-1 win over the counterparts.
But in one sense, the scoreline was secondary to an experience of a lifetime for everyone who took to the pitch.
* Click on the link at the top right hand side of this page to see a full gallery of photos from this special match