The Ex-Files: Martijn Reuser
Wednesday, 5th Dec 2012 11:10
In the second part of our new regular series, The Ex-Files, in which Blair Ferguson chats with Town stars of the past about their time at Portman Road and what they’re up to now, we catch up with Wembley hero Martijn Reuser.
Over the years Ipswich have had their fair share of Dutchmen gracing the midfield and one such player is Martijn Reuser and the one-time Dutch international clearly still has a place close to his heart for the club.
Despite having more than his fair share of injuries, talking to Martijn you find that he doesn't dwell upon such things and looks back on his time at Town with fondness and good humour.
Reuser began his career at Dutch giants Ajax and having graduated from their academy he worked his way into the first team but injuries – including a serious knee problem - made it difficult for him to establish himself, as he explains.
"It didn't help to become a regular that’s for sure. But at that time I wasn't good enough. I was playing with world class players and looking back at that period I still had a lot to learn.
"I have to say, after that injury it took me a while to get fit again but when I was fit I became a regular player."
What followed was a successful loan spell at Vitesse that led to Reuser winning his first and only cap with the national team, in a 0-0 home draw with Ghana in October 1998, something of which he is rightfully proud.
Despite this, he still struggled to get into the Ajax team with Louis Van Gaal leaving and Morten Olsen bringing in several new players.
"I was proving myself at Vitesse and was playing well. Then I went back to Ajax from the loan spell and felt a part of the Ajax team again.
“It was a big disappointment for me because I thought with the year’s loan under my belt at Vitesse and playing for the national team I was capable of performing at Ajax. But overall I’m very happy with at least one cap.
"Just about 600 other players in Holland can say they have played for Holland, so it’s not so bad, I think. Also because of out this negative last period at Ajax something positive came and that was Ipswich.”
It was a former Ipswich midfielder and fellow Dutchman that played a part in Reuser's initial loan move. Then-Town scout Romeo Zondervan was sent to an Ajax reserve game to watch the promising Dutchman.
"It was in March 1999, I was playing in the reserves of Ajax and Romeo Zondervan was the scout from Ipswich who was watching me.
“He was telling me the situation at Ipswich, that they were trying to get promoted to the Premier League and they were looking for a player like me who could help them achieve that goal. Then George Burley called me and that convinced me to come."
Reuser made his debut as a sub against Fulham where he kick-started his Town career by scoring the winning goal, something he thinks helped get the fans on his side.
"From day one I felt appreciated by the fans and my team-mates and it helps when you make a good start and score the winner."
A career highlight for Reuser was the play-off semi-final against Bolton, a match he look backs on fondly, and with good reason.
"It was one of the best nights, looking back at my career. It was an amazing atmosphere that night at Portman Road and I felt we couldn't lose that game, thankfully the ref felt the same!
"I remember the Bolton players weren't happy with the ref but that takes away from the way we played and the effort we put in as a team that evening. And when I scored the winner everyone in the stadium went crazy and we went on the road to Wembley."
Despite playing such an instrumental part in that game Reuser started the final somewhere he didn't expect, on the bench. Although understandably frustrated by this, an explanation of his thought process shows just how good the team spirit was at that time, as well as how he was as a professional.
"After that Bolton game at home I was convinced we were able to win the final as well. There was a great team spirit and determination within the dressing room to go all the way.
“I was convinced I was in the starting line-up for the final [with James Scowcroft having suffered a hamstring injury] so when I wasn't I was gutted and angry.
“But after five minutes or so I said to myself, 'This team needs me and I will do anything within my reach to be important'. Thankfully, I was important and scored the winner. A fantastic day for everyone who supported Ipswich."
For Reuser, the success that came in the first season in the Premier League came from everyone wanting to prove themselves as individuals and the team spirit from the season before. The question then beckons, what happened to that spirit in the second season? He explains.
"After that successful year Ipswich wanted to carry on to be more successful. It was a little bit too quick in my opinion and some players had to make way for new players. That unsettled us too much and the team spirit went missing.
“It was a shame because from my point of few it was unnecessary to change those players. But sometimes decisions go well but this time it went wrong. Coming fifth the first year to getting relegated the next year was a big blow for everyone.”
Having suffered another knee injury, Martijn struggled to get into the team which was by now under the stewardship of Joe Royle. Whilst he clearly understands that injuries go "hand in hand with professional football", it's easy to sense the Dutchman feels he had more to give at Ipswich.
"When Joe came I was just recovering from a knee operation. When I was trying to be fit I have to admit it took me too long to come back at my old level.
“When I was at my old level again Joe had already put me on the transfer list, so that didn't help. Also Ipswich were having difficulties with finance, so taking that in consideration it wasn't strange to put me on the list.”
Despite being left out of the team by Royle, Martijn is keen to point out he still respected him: "I really liked Joe Royle, he was friendly, respectful and intelligent. The only thing he didn't do was play me too often when I was fit again!"
Whilst at Ipswich Martijn became good friends with fellow Dutchman Fabian Wilnis. Quizzed for any stories involving the two, he laughed: "Yes, there are a lot but not for anyone’s ears!"
Despite going on to play for Willem II, RKC Waalwijk and NAC Breda back in Holland, Martijn admits he would have liked to have spent more time in England.
“Four to five years abroad is good time," he said. "I would rather have stayed a little bit longer in England but we didn't. Socially it became better but the atmosphere in the stadium and respect for football players is a lot less here in Holland.”
Currently Martijn can be found on pay TV channel Eredivisie Live. Listening to how he talks about his new career path it sounds as if it may have been a logical next step.
"I wasn't scared to do an interview during my career and I am not afraid to give my opinion now, so maybe that’s why I am there."
However, a return to a more active role in football doesn't look to be too far away with coaching badges being completed and a jovial look at what could be: "At the moment I am also doing my badges. So, in May I hope to finish that and start a career as a manager. Who knows, I may become a manager of ITFC one day!"
The final question asked is regarding the Rolls Reuser T-shirts worn by his friends and family, as well as himself (see Wembley goalscorers photo above), at the play-off final and if the inspiration came from a column written by our own Phil Ham.
"I don't know anymore but I can tell you a secret, I still wear that T-shirt in bed as pyjamas!"
Blair previously spoke to John McGreal in the first Ex-File
Photo: Action Images
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