"I can't wait to go back": Helmond Sport fan who sees Burnley as his second home on the "beautiful" relationship
Joey van der Aa was just 17 when he first came to Burnley. A Helmond Sport fan who made his way to East Lancashire as as result of the close ties between his club and the Clarets, Joey immediately fell in love with the town. "It really is a second home," he says.
For over two decades, Burnley has become increasingly well-known to hundreds of Dutch nationals from the south of the Netherlands thanks to a single Burnley-born expat who - when he emigrated to Helmond in the early 1980s - sparked an unlikely but powerful bond between the two football clubs' fan-bases.
A Claret by birth, Darran Wooller was just 20 when he moved to Holland, bringing with him his passion for football and soon striking up countless friendships with his fellow Helmond Sport supporters. Joey van der Aa was one of them.
"I have been to Helmond Sport for a long time [and] I got to know Darran about 12 years ago," says Joey (27), who started going to Helmond Sport's Stadion De Braak with his father who still accompanies him on occasion. "He was a real Englishman who was proud of his origins; he has shared that pride with us and we're all happy that he has."
"Helmond is a true cult club that can be compared on a small scale with Burnley FC," Joey adds. "You are proud of where you come from, so you also wear the colours with pride. In Burnley, it is the same as people who come to the club here: you support your local team because you are always proud of what your origins are and you show and vocalise that."
Starting what has gone on to morph into something of a pilgrimage across the English Channel, Darran first introduced his Dutch friends to the wonders of Turf Moor in the mid-1990s. And, since he passed away in 2014 following a brief battle with cancer, the tradition of mutual support between 'Brothers in Arms' has only become more and more popular, demonstrating the respect for a man loved by many.
"It is up to us to continue what he has brought together, think of it as one big family," Joey explains. "Helmond has been going to Burnley for 22 years, I came to Burnley for the first time 10/11 years ago - fully sold to the place since then. When I got there, there was an immediate click between us and Burnley; I came over almost every month for one year to see everyone again. I even considered living there a few times.
"It is really a second home where I always feel very welcome," he says. "That always makes you incredibly proud and happy. This friendship is very important to me and others: it gives unity and cosiness and you all make beautiful memories that you can tell to your children, nephews, grandchildren.
"I can't wait to go there again."