Me and My Club
with Tom van Hulsen
Author of Game Changers and Town fan Tom Van Hulsen discusses how he became a Town fan, favourite moment and more.
How did you became a Town fan?
That's down to the fact that Arnold Muhren and Frans Thijssen became the first two Dutch professional footballers who moved to England, in 1978 and 1979 respectively.
I was a fan of FC Twente, their club at the time, and it was quite an achievement to get a contract abroad. From that moment on I - fourteen years old - sat in our living room every Saturday afternoon listening to BBC Radio. Frans and Arnold, and together with them the whole Ipswich Town team, became my heroes. Especially when they almost grabbed the title, and when they won the UEFA Cup in 1981.
First Town game. Year/team/score/ground?
I actually only visited Portman Road for the first time ten years ago. Before that I saw them in a few away games, but Portman Road only existed in my mind up until then. Me and my wife went to Ipswich in 2007 and it was magic for me.
I even took a photo of the IPSWICH sign at the station. To see the floodlights from Portman Road when we came walking out of the station is a moment I never forget. The game was Ipswich Town-Derby County 2-1.
Favourite Town player of all time and why?
I really can't choose between Arnold Muhren and Frans Thijssen. But aside from those two Dutchman, I think it would be John Wark. Because of his goals and his looks. He really looked like the stereotype no-nonsense footballer from England, I loved that.
Worst moment as a Town Fan?
Must have been the 9-0 against Man United. It keeps haunting the club, every time when statistics of the most heavy defeats in the Premier League come by.
Favourite Town goal ever and why?
The one I cheered the most was the Pablo Counago goal against Coventry City in injury time, just after Coventry had equalised.
Best Ipswich Town captain of all time and why?
Mick Mills. Because he's was a great captain. And also, I have to say, because he is such an nice man. I spoke to him a several times for the Game Changers book. He is very modest, but a great player in English football history.
Favourite piece of Town memorabilia is?
That is the Ipswich Town tie Trevor Kirton gave me. You might know him better as 'Wheels'. He was the players coach driver for Ipswich Town in the days of Frans and Arnold. I met him last season at the Ex Players' Dinner, which I attended as a guest of them both, and he gave me his tie. I treasure it. To be at the Ex Players' Dinner was in fact a dream come true for me - I met all my childhood heroes over there from the 1981 team!
Greatest Town game you have watched & why?
I have seen maybe ten to fifteen Town games in a stadium all my life, and the rest on television. At Portman Road the one I will remember is the 2-1 win over Leeds United, last season, by a Brett Pitman goal. It was in injury time and it was an important win at the time, because Town were chasing the play-off places very much.
Who is your favourite Town manager and why?
That is Bobby Robson. It's a pity that I never met the man. I would have asked him many things about Frans and Arnold of course. They speak very highly of Mister Robson, everybody does as a matter of fact. Mel Henderson, my friend who was the press officer of Ipswich Town in the eighties, also told me a lot of good things about him.
I wonder if he would have liked my book. Arnold and Frans came to England because of Bobby Robson. If he wouldn’t have bought them, things would have been different for me too.
Most memorable Town moment as a fan of Ipswich and why?
I have to say that was on February 18, not so long ago. Arnold and Frans were called onto the pitch and were interviewed about the Game Changers book, in front of more than 18000 fans. That was a big honour for me.
Remember: I was that fourteen year old boy once, listening to my heroes on BBC Radio, and now they were talking about my book on the Portman Road pitch. As I say in my Afterword in the book: I'm 52 now, but in my heart I have always remained that fourteen year old boy.
Game Changers is the story of Town legends Arnold Muhren and Frans Thijssen and is the English version of Het Geheim van Ipswich (The Secret of Ipswich), which was published in the Netherlands last year.
Written by Tom, the book features interviews with Town figures from that era, including former captain Mick Mills, ex-press officer Mel Henderson and Pat Godbold, secretary to every Town manager from Scott Duncan to George Burley, while van Hulsen also spoke to every member of the UEFA Cup-winning team.
Game Changers book is still available in the Planet Blue Club Shop, via twtd.co.uk and via the Superstore on itfc.co.uk.