Whatever happened to Pierre van Hooijdonk?

Former Nottingham Forest striker Pierre Van Hooijdonk‘That Dutch lad that went on strike that once’ – the inescapable way that Pierre van Hooijdonk will be remembered by football fans in England. But is there more to remember and cherish about the Dutch striker after his time in Nottingham? Is it fair to hand a judgmental label to a player with such an impressive goalscoring record?

Van Hooijdonk began his youth career with his favourite side NAC Breda, where he played as a right-winger. However, at the age of just 14, he was told he was not good enough and was released. But, he was snapped up by V.V Steenbergen  – where he switched to a new position of striker. After five successful years with the youth team there, he joined RBC Roosendaal.

Signed initially as a player for the future, van Hooijdonk was thrust into the limelight due to injuries and financial constraints at the club. He ended his first season with six goals to his name and was rewarded with a professional contract. The following year, he established himself in the side and scored an incredible 27 goals in 37 games – an impressive feat in his first full season.

Inevitably, bigger clubs noticed this and he was soon offered the chance to rejoin NAC Breda – a chance he took immediately. During his time there, he scored 81 goals overall and became a favourite amongst the fans. He also helped them gain promotion to the Eredivisie in 1993, as well as breaking into the international side. However, interest from around the continent was rife and he decided to join Scottish giants Celtic in January 1995 for just over £1 million.

The Pierre we remember

Again, he didn’t disappoint. The side were without a trophy in six years, but within a few months of arriving, van Hooijdonk scored the winning goal in the Scottish Cup final. However, his time here turned sour quickly when he fell out with the club’s president. This left him benched for a lot of games – putting his place in the national side at risk. After an impressive 57 goals in little over two years, he left the club after a disagreement over a contract – reportedly stating that the £7,000 a week offered by Celtic ‘may be good enough for the homeless, but not for an international striker’.

He joined Premier League strugglers Nottingham Forest for around £4.5 million in March 1997, but his arrival did not stop the club getting relegated. However, he excelled in Division One and finished as top scorer, on the way to helping Forest to the title and an immediate return to the top league.

After returning from the 1998 World Cup with Holland, he found out that Kevin Campbell and Colin Cooper had been allowed to leave and the team had not been strengthened as promised. Van Hooijdonk immediately asked for a transfer – which was rejected. He stated he felt let down by the club and he could no longer play for his employers, so he decided to go on strike and went to train with former club NAC Breda.

Back in England, he faced heavy criticism from fans and teammates. The club were still refusing to listen to offers for him so, in November 1998, he returned. He managed eight goals that season, including one against rivals Derby – in which infamously none of his teammates celebrated with him. His goalscoring did not help Forest again avoid relegation and the club finished bottom of the league.

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Moving away from Forest

Inevitably, he left the club at the end of the season and joined Vitesse Arnhem for around £3.5 million. He scored 25 goals in one season to help them earn a UEFA Cup spot, as well as earning a recall to the national side. Again, his goalscoring was noticed elsewhere on the continent and he joined Portuguese side Benfica. Although he scored 19 goals in the one season he spent there, he did not see eye-to-eye with the chairman and was banished to the reserves. He returned to Holland to join Feyenoord in 2001.

He again became a favourite and fast became known for his free-kick abilities as well as his goals, and he helped the club reach the final of the UEFA Cup in 2002 – where he scored twice in the final to help beat Borussia Dortmund 3-2.

Despite his success, he felt it was time to move on again after a couple of seasons and joined Turkish side Fenerbahce in 2003. 24 goals in his first season helped the club to the 2003/04 Turkish Super Lig. He continued to find the net the next season, earning the nickname ‘Aziz Pierre’ (Turkish Saint Pierre). After helping the club to the 2004/05 title, he returned to his homeland to rejoin NAC Breda.

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Retirement…not always easy!

However, the stay was a short one and he decided to rejoin Feyenoord in the winter of the 2005/06 season, scoring eight goals that term. This was where he ended his career. After netting a further six goals in the 2006/07 season, he decided to announce his retirement from the game.

After ending his career, in 2008 he became a victim of fraud that saw him lose £2 million, which involved him investing in a ‘non-existent’ Chinese textile company – not the best way to begin retirement! He now works on Dutch TV, covering the Eredivisie in which he scored so many goals.

Well there we have it, the colourful and country-spanning career of Pierre van Hooijdonk. I think it is fair to say, no matter how many goals he scored or how many clubs he played for, he is always going to be remembered for one reason and one reason only by English fans. – ‘that Dutch lad who went on strike from Forest that once’.

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