"Overwhelming": Latest meeting between Burnley FC and Helmond Sport 'brothers in arms' a resounding success
One of the organisers of the latest meeting between Burnley FC and Helmond Sport fans has called the weekend "better than my wildest dreams" after more than 140 Dutch fans crossed the Channel to take in the Clarets' 2-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers in honour of expat Darran Wooler.
In the latest demonstration of the growing brotherhood between the two clubs, a veritable plane's-worth of Helmond Sport fans made the trip to East Lancashire two weekends ago, demonstrating that the love for Darran, who was born in Burnley but who emigrated to Helmond as a 20-year-old and sadly died in 2014 at the age of just 53, lives on.
Paying tribute to the former Burnley Wood and Towneley High student Darran, who started the tradition of mutual support between the clubs 25 years ago, fans from both clubs met for a party in the James Hargreaves Suite organised by Ian Chapman and Justin Pate.
"It went down a treat, it was above and beyond all expectations," said Ian. "We got so many people together to celebrate what we have between our clubs; it surpassed everything I wanted from the event and it went better than my wildest dreams. To see all the happy faces was just so good.
"I can't personally thank them all, but a massive thank-you to the bar staff and the catering staff at Turf Moor, they did a brilliant job," he added. "It was an excellent do. The DJs were great, and we were even treated to a stint from Stefan Tabor, a Dutch DJ as well, and the Accrington Pipe band were fantastic."
With Helmond Sport players having visited him in hospital and dozens of fans having made the trip across to the UK for his funeral, the relationship between the two fan-bases has grown in recent years since Darran's untimely death, with many sporting shirts and scarves baring Darran's name to this day. The pilgrimage to Turf Moor was also many fans' first time in England.
"A lot of the Helmond fans hadn't been to England before and were surprised at the terraced housing in Burnley, but they love the place!" Ian said. "I took one lad up Pendle Hill because he said he wanted to see the countryside, and he absolutely loved the dry-stone walls! He thought we must've used cement and he had to physically go up to the wall and try and shake it!"
Prior to the match, a number of Dutch fans made the traditional trip up to the Royal Butterfly to meet members of Darran's family, and when the Clarets kicked off were treated to one of the performances of the season from Sean Dyche's side.
"The atmosphere at the game itself was fantastic, it was great of the club to put us all in that one stand together," Ian said. "Some of the Dutch lads said that football was good but that it was a bit boring and too nice at times! Which is probably true, the Premier League doesn't have the blood and thunder of the lower leagues which we used to see.
"The whole thing was overwhelming," he continued. "We share a love of the game and our clubs have that aura of belonging to the people. One or two lads said we should get twinned with Helmond! Different lifestyles, but we all see things the same way, and I'm just so proud to have been a part of it."