"It's weird not seeing Darran around": Helmond fans pay tribute to 'proud' Burnley expat

Willem van Hout (36) with his five-month-old daughter Jeske, both of them wearing Burnley & Helmond attire.
Willem van Hout (36) with his five-month-old daughter Jeske, both of them wearing Burnley & Helmond attire.
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Willem van Hout is emphatic. "Every fanatic supporter knew - no, knows - about Darran," he says.

A man who's first Helmond Sport match was when he was 11 or so, Willem (36) is inspired by the connection which has materialised between his hometown club and Burnley FC thanks to the late Darran Wooller. Picturing his friend at the supporters' bar during the half-time interval, Willem remembers Darran fondly.

"At the bar he, well... was noisy," said Willem. "A typical Englishman, so I thought, and therefore much to be respected - the old English supporters' cult holds the highest regard up here and he represented that 100%."

The friendship between the Clarets and the Helmonders is palpable. "Burnley and Helmond's football clubs have similarities: a team that is only supported and loved by locals," said Willem. "There are small teams in our league who you never heard of probably: Helmond Sport surely was one of them up until this 'Brothers in Arms' started and 145 Helmonders came to Burnley to cheer for your team and to party like hell.

"On the other hand, I think a lot of Dutch people didn't know about Burnley until Burnley FC entered the Premier League," Willem added. "[Although] Helmond Sport is very, very famous all over the world, [but] football-loving people do not recognise our team when they see them: Johan Cruyff's extraordinary one-two pass-penalty kick was against Helmond Sport!"

Willem loves that the two supporter-bases get on. "That Burnley supporters cross the sea to mingle with Helmond lads and vice versa is awesome," he said. Telling the story of one of Helmond's away trips to Newcastle, Willem added of Darran: "He was proud to show his homeland and reacted fiercely if someone made a joke about his origins. And keep your hands off of Burnley FC, my friend!

"At a stadium tour in St James's Park, a father and son not known to us looked at a picture of one of Newcastle's football heroes," Willem said. "This father made a remark in the sense of: "Oh, look, how nice," and wanted to include Darran in the conversation.

"Darran scared the living hell out of me because he went berserk, saying: "That bloody Malcolm Macdonald, he scored twice against my team in the semi-finals of the FA Cup! He kicked us out, f**k him!" and showed the picture on the wall his middle finger," Willem continued. "Although it was a bit rough what Darran did, I really laughed my ass off!"

Darran would've loved the latest trips between the sides, Willem says. "It's weird not seeing him around at this party going on between our towns that is actually inspired by him," he explained. "But it's the nicest tribute. I really feel connected to your town and team because of the similarities - not only the football clubs, also the towns are kind of the same.

"A couple of years ago this Burnley lad gave me a grand tour into Burnley Wood, and he was proud of where he came from," Willem said. "He said it was rough but very social too. [There's a] similar attitude to be found: one big family which takes care of each other.

"If you're not in the family, you probably won't like Helmond [and] I think Burnley has the same," Willem added. "You love it at birth or you'll never visit it, but Burnley people are welcome in Helmond."