Clarets across borders: Turf Moor's Dutch tribute to Burnley expat
Paying tribute to an adopted Dutchman from Burnley, dozens of football fans from the Netherlands headed to Turf Moor for the Leicester match earlier this month in honour of an expat Claret who died in 2014.
Darran Wooller, who was born in Burnley in 1960, emigrated to Holland as a 20-year-old, eventually settling in the town of Helmond to the north east of Eindhoven, where he fell in love with the local football team, Helmond Sport, an Eerste Divisie (second division) side who ply their trade at the Stadion de Braak.
A steadfast Burnley FC fan by birthright, the former Burnley Wood and Towneley High student Darran worked for a company called Drost whilst living on the continent, and eventually started a tradition that was set to blossom when he manged to get a few Helmond Sport fans to make the the 500-mile trip from their hometown to Turf Moor in 1995.
Before Darran (53) died in 2014 following a brief battle with cancer, the goalkeeper and the manager from the club all visited the Helmond Sport season ticket-holder while he was in hospital and, with the tradition of each set of fans making regular trips to the other's home games, 45 Dutch fans came over to the UK for Darran's funeral after he had a service in Helmond.
"Whilst in Holland, he had a season ticket for Helmond Sport, and the manager and goalkeeper visited him when he was ill - something that his peers sorted out," explained Victoria Lister, Darran's sister. "The strong relationship [between the two sets of fans] is fantastic."
With the two towns of Burnley and Helmond both being of a similar size with strong historical ties to the textiles industry, the pilgrimage is becoming increasingly popular in honour of Darran, with 34 Clarets fans heading to Holland in early April this year before 20 Helmond Sport fans came across for Burnley's 2-1 win over Leicester.
"We're friends with many good people of Helmond and gaining new friends with every visit," said Victoria. "My parents, Joan and Derek, and brother Jason - as well as the rest of our family and friends - also [appreciate] the respect that is shown.
"Darran loved Burnley FC, and family and friends of all ages have been attending home and away games for many years," added Victoria, who said that while Darran never had children of his own, he adored his nieces and nephews and was godfather to her son, Bradley. "I always try and go to Helmond Sport match at least once a year."
Evidence of the impact he had on the footballing community in the Netherlands, Helmond Sport hold an annual indoor Darran Wooller Cup involving local teams, while the fans who make the trip across the channel do so sporting football shirts, half-and-half scarves, and personalised beer cans baring Darran's name to keep his memory alive. Moorhouses Brewery have also produced a Darran Wooller label for a beer tap which featured on the taps at the Boot Inn.
"Darran would absolutely be in his element to know the two countries are brothers in arms," said Victoria.