"Wolves was special: I saw my first win in 10 Burnley games!": Helmond fan gives Dutch take on unique relationship

(From left) Bob de Bruin's second cousin Martijn, Darran, Bob himself, and Bob's brother-in-law Hein in Hull
(From left) Bob de Bruin's second cousin Martijn, Darran, Bob himself, and Bob's brother-in-law Hein in Hull
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Following Darran Wooller's death in 2014, his friend Bob de Bruin was given the opportunity by Darran's family to speak at the funeral. Having met him almost 20 years prior, Bob immediately liked Darran, and still speaks of the "honour" of carrying his friend's coffin and speaking in the church. "That moment still gives me goosebumps," he says.

After Darran first emigrated, swapping East Lancashire for Southern Holland, he lived in a small village near Utrecht, according to Bob (49). Eventually moving to Helmond for work, Bob came across the Burnley-born expat in 1995 in a local bar called Hot News. "[There's a] big chance the both of us were drunk," says Bob. "I liked him."

(From left) Bob de Bruin, Ralf van Deursen, and Bob's wife Katja de Bruin.

(From left) Bob de Bruin, Ralf van Deursen, and Bob's wife Katja de Bruin.

A lifelong Helmond Sport fan who has been attending matches since 1976, Bob found in Darran a kindred spirit: someone who cared for his local team just as Bob did, someone who worked hard just as Bob did, and someone who enjoyed a good time just as Bob did.

"I liked him for his honesty, his pride for Burnley, his hobbies - drinking beer and football - and his hard working to earn his money," says Bob, succinctly. "I’ll never forget the day he died in May 2014. His mum called me [and] I went to his house straightaway and the two of us were sitting next to Darran, drinking whisky.

"I had the honour to carry his coffin and his family had given me the opportunity for a speech about Darran at the crematorium [in Holland] and two weeks later, I performed that same speech in the church [in Burnley]," he adds.

Having traded England's north for the Netherlands' south, Darran also became a regular at Helmond Sport's Stadion de Braak, sitting next to Bob - both of them season ticket holders - for the past four years of his life. "Burnley and Helmond have a lot of similarities," explains Bob. "The population, we are both proud of our team and our town, hardworking people, no-nonsense mentality, and an important background in the textile industry.

"Helmond Sport is a small club but a cult club in Holland," says Bob of his team, who have only ever spent two years - 1982/83 and 1983/84 - in the Dutch top flight, the Eredivisie. As well as Helmond, Bob now has the Clarets to cheer on as well, and was one of the 150 Dutch fans who travelled over for Burnley's recent home match against Wolverhampton Wanderers.

"The match against Wolves was very special for me; 150 lads from Helmond in Burnley!" says Bob, whose first ever Burnley game was against Brentford away in September 1997, a match he attended with Darran and another friend called John.

"It was my 10th Burnley game and I witnessed the first win in 10 games!"