Petrus Ferdinandus Johannes Pierre van Hooijdonk or Aziz Pierre, as he is known to Turkish football fans, is yet another Dutch player who has made a huge impact wherever he has played. Not only was he a prolific striker, especially dangerous at free-kicks, but at a height of 6-foot 4-inches not easy to man mark or compete with in the air writes Andries Oosterveen.
Van Hooijdonk was born in 1969 in Holland in the small town of Welberg, which is located near to Steenbergen. As a youngster, he was a big fan of NAC Breda but began his life as a footballer by playing for the youth team of SC Welberg. Eventually after attending an open day at NAC, he was spotted by the club scouts and signed for them where he would play as a right-sided midfielder. Three years later at the age of 14, he was released and played amateur football as a striker for five years, two of which were in the actual first team.
In 1989, RBC Roosendaal were having financial problems and highly reliant on youth players. It was here that Van Hooidjonk got his first chance initially with appearances off the bench, where he would score goals. As confidence grew in him and RBC´s main striker was suffering with injuries, Van Hooijdonk ended up playing two seasons there between 1989 and 1991, and would go on to play a total of 69 games and scoring 33 times. His boyhood team NAC Breda, eventually took notice and in 1991 he signed up without a second thought for NAC Breda, for an astonishing price of four Dutch Guilders.
At Breda, Van Hooijdonk would play there between 1991 and 1995 for 115 games and score 81 goals. He had extra determination to show them what he could do and had not forgotten being told he was not good enough years before whilst playing in their youth teams. He helped the team gain promotion to the Eredivisie and set a goal scoring record of 11 consecutive games whilst also receiving his first international call up. All this was to be rewarded with a transfer to Scottish footballing giants Glasgow Celtic in 1995.
At Celtic, Van Hooijdonk´s incredible goal scoring would continue. In Britain, he was not well known but by the end of his time at Celtic it would be far from that. He played for Celtic between 1995 and 1997, making 84 appearances and scoring 52 goals. Not a bad way to introduce yourself to Britain. Sadly towards the end of his time there he did not have a good relationship with Celtic owner Fergus McCann and a transfer to the English club Nottingham Forest quickly followed in 1997.
Despite Nottingham Forest battling against relegation his two year spell there between 1997 and 1999 led to him making 71 appearances and scoring 36 goals. Despite this, he was not able to stop the club from being relegated and his decision to go on strike after certain promises were broken to him in regards to investment in the team did not go down well with fellow players, fans, the media and the club’s owners. After finally being allowed to leave he decided to return to Holland.
Between 1999 and 2001, Van Hooijdonk played for one season at Vitesse Arnhem and one season in Portugal at Benfica. Both periods were successful for him and allowed him to shake off the bad reputation he had achieved whilst at Nottingham Forest. At Vitesse, he played a total of 29 games scoring 25 and at Benfica playing 30 games and netting 19 times. As with Forest, internal problems within the administration at Benfica forced him into having to move. So in 2001 Van Hooijdonk signed for Dutch giants Feyenoord and brought with him, his trademark free-kicks and superb goal to game ratio. Between 2001 and 2003, he scored 52 goals in 61 games. One of the most memorable games in which he had a great influence on with his free-kicks was the 2002 UEFA Cup Final which was held in Rotterdam against Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund. He scored two special goals in the final which would go down in Feyenoord folklore. However as still is the story today, Feyenoord´s financial position was not nice reading and they were forced to sell him to Fenerbahce in Turkey.
Until then Van Hooijdonk did not stay at any one club for long but at Fenerbache he was able to win his only two league titles and his figures of 32 goals in 52 games between 2003 and 2005 earned him the nickname of Saint Pierre or Aziz Pierre with the Fenerbahce faithful. He was now slowly coming to the end of his career and in 2005 returned for the final time to Holland where he had two short spells with NAC Breda, scoring 5 goals in 17 games before leaving in 2006 and finishing his career at Feyenoord where he played until 2007, 37 games and scoring 8 goals.
Internationally he made 46 appearances for Holland and scored 14 goals. Wherever he went he made an impact and clearly is one of the best strikers Holland has ever produced. Besides commentary work it is good to see that he is not lost from the game and is strongly involved with coaching youngsters at Feyenoord’s Varkenwood Academy in Rotterdam.
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