It was quite a 2022/23 for Ian Maatsen, winning team and individual honours on loan with Burnley in the Championship. The young left-back reflects on a glorious campaign and looks ahead to the next step in his career...
When Ian Maatsen left to begin his loan spell at Burnley at the start of the season, he did so with high expectations of what he could achieve at Turf Moor. Even he could not have known just how much success he would enjoy there, though.
He was a central figure for the Clarets throughout, from scoring the winning goal on his debut against Huddersfield Town to a steadfast defensive display as they sealed first promotion and then the title in a pair of tough away matches against promotion contenders, helping Vincent Kompany's side take the Championship by storm to return to the Premier League at the first attempt.
Maatsen made 42 appearances in all competitions and registered 10 goal involvements in the league - four goals and six assists - from left-back. However, that tells just part of the story, as he won his first senior trophy when Burnley claimed the title in a fiery atmosphere away at fierce local rivals Blackburn Rovers, as well as widespread recognition for his own impressive performances, which culminated in a spot in the Championship Team of the Season.
Having now recovered from the exertions of a long but successful campaign, not to mention the jubilant title celebrations which followed it in Burnley, there was certainly plenty for the 21-year-old Dutchman to look back on...
Firstly Ian, congratulations on such a successful season at Burnley. How do you view your campaign as a whole now you have had time to reflect on it?
‘Yeah, I think this season was a really special season, but also a beautiful season. Having Vincent Kompany as manager of an English team was really exciting. When I first went there it was straight away a family feeling. We worked hard with each other, we knew each other more and more, on and off the pitch, so it was a really beautiful season with loads of experience and enjoyment for me. I couldn’t really have hoped for more and I hope whatever next season is going to hold for me it can be the same.’
It looked like there was a lot of pressure on the team to finish the job as you closed in on promotion and then the title towards the end of the season. How did you handle that?
‘I would not say it was difficult, but it was more like people asking “are we going to do it today?”. That’s when the gaffer told us it’s all nice to win trophies, but even on the day we could be champions at Blackburn or get promoted at Middlesbrough away, we still had to treat the game like the first game we played with each other against Huddersfield at the beginning of the season – nothing’s changed from that game until now, so make sure we did everything the same as we had done all season.
‘For a small period we did change something in the game, it’s normal, but we learned from it and we just treated the next games like we always play, from the beginning to the end. So that really helped us and we said to each other in the dressing room “boys we just go for it, nobody’s going to take it from us” and it went well. We got the rewards for it and we are champions, so it really feels good.
‘It was my first trophy on senior level. I won many times when I was younger, but this one was really special because you dream of it as a young boy, to be a champion. The stadium was full, people were screaming our names, we were going on the bus with the trophy, seeing all the Burnley fans in the city screaming and clapping for us. I will never forget that moment, so it was really nice.’
It was a perfect finale, too, claiming the title with an away win over Blackburn Rovers in the Lancashire derby…
‘Obviously it’s a derby, but at the beginning of the season I didn’t know they were rivals! But you could see it that day, even the day before, the way we prepared and the way the people prepared around the two cities. It was amazing that we could win the derby, first of all, and then to be the champions, it’s even better. So it was a beautiful experience.
Talking of pressure, it must have been huge going into that game, in a local derby with a trophy on the line. Was it hard to keep focused?
‘For me personally, I just started the game really relaxed, to be fair. Of course it’s a derby, it’s a good atmosphere, but I told myself I just need to perform well, do the things I’ve always been doing and see where it goes. So I was really relaxed, but I was really motivated to put a good performance in.
‘Also I wanted to surround my team-mates with the same feeling, because we had to play with confidence, know what we were capable of and give each other belief. I just tried to give that over to the boys and it went really good.’
You were named in the Championship Team of the Year for performances like those. Does that feel like an important moment, as you’re being recognised purely for your ability, rather than being good for your age, like with the Young Player of the Month award you won earlier in the season?
‘Yes, that’s something I wanted to win when I came to Burnley. When I told the coach at the start he told me I’d need to show my qualities every day, even in the worst moments against much better teams than us, in the top games, and that was really an achievement for me. When I heard the news I was really proud of myself. I can show people that I’m capable of doing the same habits I have from the beginning of the season until the end and playing consistently.
‘My medals and awards have a nice place in my house, with my football boots and everything. I always look at it every morning when I wake up and say “wow”. When my friends come around and my family they just look at it and say “you’ve come so far, but this is the beginning of a good career”.’
What do you feel is the most important thing you’ve taken away from your time at Burnley?
‘I would say just growing as a player and a person, to work hard and be consistent, but also to learn from other coaches and other people around, like my team-mates, and people around the club. So I think in general I’ve learned a lot of things inside football but also outside, to just be a human being, have a dream and work hard for it every day. In the bad moments, when it goes a little bit not your way, to still do the same thing and to not be panicking about anything. Just try to be the best version of yourself every day.’
After such a successful season, have you found it easier or harder to hit reset and switch your focus to what’s next?
‘I think both ways. I had the time to enjoy the win and get my rest, but also I can’t sit still at home so I’m always busy training or just doing stuff. So I’ve just been preparing myself for the next step, to be prepared for anything that comes my way.
‘Also this year we’ve got the Under-21 Euros with the national team, so I’m preparing myself for that too. It’s nice to play football for your country and I will come back to Cobham even more prepared, so it’s good.’