Friday’s Forgotten Footballer: Van Hooijdonk

By Thomas Crean

Van Hooijdonk
Full Name: Petrus Ferdinandus Johannes “Pierre” van Hooijdonk
Born: 29 November 1969
Position: Striker
Nationality: Dutch (46 caps)
Clubs: NAC Breda, Celtic, Nottingham Forest, Vitesse Arnhem, Feyenoord, Benfica and Fenerbache
Remembered for: Free kicks

Pierre van Hooijdonk started his professional career at NAC Breda. He helped them gain promotion to the top tier in Holland in 1993, scoring 81 goals in four seasons. He received his first international call up in 1994, his final season before moving on to Celtic.

Van Hooijdonk won his first trophy with Celtic, scoring the winner in the Scottish Cup final. He scored 57 goals in 68 appearances, but spent most of his time on the bench following a row with the club chairman.

He departed Celtic for Nottingham Forest in a deal worth £4.5m, after a wage dispute. He famously said that the contract he was being offered might be “good enough for the homeless” to live on “but not for an international striker.”

At Nottingham Forest, Pierre is most remembered for his strike, where he refused to play because he felt the club had not invested in the squad adequately as he was promised by the club’s new owners.  After a turned down transfer request, he refused to play and kept fit by training with NAC. He received must criticism from fans and team mates for this action. Eventually, he had no choice but to return to Forest and he scored six goals from 18 starts for the rest of the campaign.

Pierre moved on to Vitesse Arnhem in 1999, scoring 25 goals and taking them into the UEFA Cup. He then switched to Benfica, where he scored 19 goals but faced similar problems to those he suffered at Forest, and was relegated to their second team. He moved to Feyenoord in 2001.

The Dutchman won the UEFA Cup with this club in 2002, and was praised for his performances in the competition, including two goals in the final. Some Feyenoord fans recorded a song about van Hooijdonk called “Put your hands up for Pi-air” which charted in the Dutch charts and referred to his free-kicks and goals.

Van Hooijdonk earned the nickname of “Saint-Pierre” at his next club Fenerbache, where he scored 32 goals in 52 games. The club won the title in 2003/04, his first league title, and also the next season too.

He returned to Holland with spells at NAC Breda (17games, 5 goals) and moved to Feyenoord in the transfer window (8 goals, 37 appearances). He retired at the end of the 2006/07 season, playing 550 professional games with 335 goals in the highest tier of European leagues.

It is believed that Van Hooijdonk was a victim of a fraud worth “many millions of euro”, according to Dutch police, after he invested in a textile company which did not exist.

What is he now? Van Hooijdonk is currently a pundit for the Dutch pay-tv channel Eredivisie Live.

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