Style, swagger and the perfect sprinkling of arrogance... Reuser’s arrival 20 years ago was the spark Town needed
PUBLISHED: 13:00 24 March 2020 | UPDATED: 13:53 24 March 2020
Martijn Reuser signed for Ipswich Town 20 years ago today. Andy Warren looks at his impact in Suffolk.
Style, swagger and a perfect sprinkling of arrogance. That was Martijn Reuser.
It’s 20 years to the day since the Flying Dutchman arrived at Portman Road, with his impact instant and long-lasting.
His arrival on loan from Ajax, where he had previously been part of a Champions League winning side, came on transfer deadline day as George Burley made one final addition to a promotion-chasing squad as they looked to get over the line after three heart-breaking near-misses.
Burley’s side had a bit of everything. It had the best goalkeeper outside the top flight (move over Nicky Weaver) in Richard Wright, it had the experience and solidity of Tony Mowbray, John McGreal and Mark Venus, the all-round midfield game of Matt Holland, the guile of James Scowcroft, the drive of Jim Magilton and the eye for goal of both David Johnson and Marcus Stewart.
But what it maybe didn’t have was a man who grabbed the limelight, the man who played as if he was better than any other on the pitch. That’s where Reuser came in.
He was the man for the big moment.
He marked his Ipswich debut with a Portman Road winner against Fulham just a day after arriving in Suffolk from Ajax and, before that season was out, he had provided two of the most iconic moments of the last two decades.
The first came at Portman Road as his fifth in the play-off semi-final victory over Bolton sent Town to Wembley and fans spilling onto the turf to celebrate.
There, in truth, there was no better man to put the exclamation mark on Town’s Wembley win as he smashed home the fourth. Arms out-stretched, blowing kisses to the crowd, truly milking the most magical of moments.
His former team-mates speak fondly of him. They speak of a man who knew his talent and was keen to use it, while also recalling just how much time he spent in the shower or working on his hair. Of all the words used to describe Reuser, confident is the one most-used.
He had earned the label as being Ipswich’s ‘super-sub’ but it wasn’t one he was particularly fond of. He’s never hidden his desire to have started more games or spent longer on the pitch but, the over-riding feeling when he team-mates recall the Dutchman is that Burley used him perfectly. His quality was undoubted, but when it was unleashed against tiring legs in the latter stages of games, his impact was unquestionable.
The play-offs are a perfect example of that and will forever have Reuser etched in Ipswich Town folklore, but his impact certainly doesn’t end there.
After signing permanently in the summer of 2000, the Dutchman more than played his part as Ipswich stormed to a fifth-placed Premier League finish which has not been repeated by a newly-promoted side since.
His impact in 2000/01 came late. In March alone he scored a stunning double in a home win over Bradford and the winner at West Ham, before goals in three-successive games in April and May culminated with a header which ultimately relegated Joe Royle’s Manchester City at Portman Road.
But from there, like so many, his Ipswich career turned. Relegation followed and, following Royle’s appointment, he began to drift out of the side before leaving to return to Dutch football in 2004.
“Joe Royle came in and changed the light on my Ipswich career because I was never really in favour,” he’s since reflected. “He’s a lovely man, by the way, a great guy, and I think on a personal note we were okay with each other. He was a first class gentleman but he had an assistant (Willie Donachie) who was not really in favour of me and didn’t rate me.
“Sometimes I wanted to try and kickstart my career at Ipswich, I was happy to do that, but there wasn’t always the opportunity. I always did my best. I still had one year to run on my contract when I left but I wanted to play so I took a huge cut in my wages to move. I was 30 years old at that moment and I still played to 35 in Holland and I’m glad I did that with three more clubs in Holland.”
He remains in his homeland, living just a few metres from the sea in Den Haag and working for the Dutch FA (KNVB) as head coach of the Under 16s, where he’s trying to reignite his country’s standing on the world stage. He’s a well-regarded coach and it’s clear he has a big future in his second career.
Wherever he goes and whatever he does, he’ll always be remembered as an Ipswich Town icon. And he’ll always remember his special time in Suffolk, too.
“I will also remember Ipswich very fondly,” he said. “I had good times there and my children were born there. There were some not so good times but everyone has those whatever they do.
“It’s not always about the things you win but also those things you overcome so in that sense a lot happened in Ipswich, but I had such a great time and learnt so much there.”