Carlos Tevez’s extraordinary refusal to play last Tuesday in Munich brought to mind another player’s revolt in the late nineties. Nottingham Forest’s Pierre van Hooijdonk fell out with the club’s owners and promptly hung up his boots, flew back to Holland and went on strike. His high-profile protest lasted for four months and ultimately derailed his club’s season. As the debate rages about how to deal with the fall-out from the Tevez debacle it could well prove to be a pertinent lesson from our recent past.
The Cutter asked fans from the LTLF Forest Forum http://www.forestforum.co.uk/index.php for their memories of that incendiary time and what are their feelings towards the player today.
Mr Mojo Risin’ – Firstly the background… we had a good team and an excellent strike partnership when we got promoted – Pierre van Hooijdonk and Kevin Campbell netted 60 odd goals between them. Things then happened to piss PVH off.
1. Campbell was sold and effectively not replaced (all due respect for Dougie Freedman but he wasn’t in the same class). This heralded the start of a break up of the promotion winning team and replacement with lesser players. PVH accused the board of a lack of ambition.
2. PVH had allegedly “brokered” a deal for his Dutch mate Wim Jonk to join Forest. Forest didn’t sign him probably due to wage demands.
3. PVH claimed to have a gentleman’s agreement with the management that if we were promoted we would release him should a suitable offer come along. We didn’t.
All these things combined and caused PVH to decide on strike action to force Forest to release him. Was he right? In my opinion no. He did nothing but hurt the club and himself. Could the situation have been handled better? Definitely yes. It’s a sad fact of life that contracts mean nothing to players; when one has decided to leave you might as well let them for the lack of effort they put in. You can pay them, you can fine them, but you can’t make them play well.
Chets Left Peg – Make no bones about it, PvH was superb in our promotion season, so good in fact that, despite playing in the second tier, he was called up by Holland and went to the 1998 World Cup. For me, that’s where it all started to go wrong; much like footballers today he would have been away with team-mates who played for Europe’s top clubs and who would’ve painted a picture of grass being much greener away from little Nottingham Forest. Once the seed was sown I don’t think there was ever going to be any way back.
Van Hooijdonk was a prat. He showed a complete lack of professionalism and respect for the club and its fans.
Rowntree – I went on holiday to Russia for a couple of weeks after we were promoted. When I got home a couple of weeks later two of our best players had been sold and the best had gone on strike. After all of the years at Forest that have followed I’d have expected that sort of stupidity but at the time it was a real shocker.
Chriscl – Had he kept playing, he’d have not only earned the moral high ground in the argument, but he probably would have gained so much supporter backing he could have forced the club’s hand and changed their policy. As it is, he just ruined any goodwill he might have had and made himself look a bit silly, to be honest.
Incapable Hulk – Van Hooijdonk was a prat. He showed a complete lack of professionalism and respect for the club and its fans. It still makes me mad.
Red Outlaw – Kevin Campbell was sold behind Dave Bassett’s back while he was away on holiday. Campbell and Van Hooijdonk’s partnership was a lethal match made in heaven and a joy to watch which is why Bassett would never have sanctioned such a deal. It’s incredibly rare to find two strikers who understand each other as well as they did and, as notoriously cocksure as Van Hooijdonk was, he would have been well aware that he’d be a lesser player without Campbell.
Chets Left Peg – This was the catalyst for PvH to turn round and say he felt the club had no ambition and he would not be returning for pre-season. The trouble was the situation reached an impasse; we wanted about £5m for him – we’d paid £4m just over a year previously – and weren’t about to offload our star striker at a loss. But nobody was willing to pay. We weren’t in the situation that Man City are now where they were able to sign a replacement for Tevez, in Sergio Aguero, without selling him first. We needed to get the cash for PvH before we could go out and sign someone to replace him. For all the talk of ‘letting him rot’, we were between a rock and a hard place.
Red Outlaw – Scholar, Wray and the rest of the rabble running the club at the time behaved appallingly, leading to Van Hooijdonk taking the principled (in my view) stand that he did. He’d been promised that the club would strengthen the squad with players of the standard required to compete in the top flight but when it became obvious that this wasn’t going to happen, he felt that he’d been told bare-face lies. Knowing full well that we’d be staring relegation in the face, he went on strike to try and spur the board members into realising the errors of their ways because he wanted Nottingham Forest to be successful. His action, triggered by his fierce desire to succeed, won my admiration. It would have been so easy for him to keep quiet and continue to collect his sizeable salary like so many others but Van Hooijdonk was willing to put his professional reputation on the line in order to achieve greater things.
When he scored after his return his team-mates refused to celebrate with him.
Chets Left Peg – With PvH without a buyer and the Reds sliding further and further down the table as the lack of quality began to show, eventually he returned, without apology in early November. He was well short of match fitness but with us having little other options we had to chuck him into the side.
Walv – When he came back into the team apparently no-one wanted him there, therefore he had to get changed in separate changing rooms.
Beasty – He totally alienated himself from everyone at the club and his best mates for a time were two security guards that would escort him every where.
Dutchfoxeshater – I was actually working at Forest as a translator when van Hooijdonk came back for his first game. He is a very, very clever guy who is very sensitive. He actually seemed to give a shit about the club and was very astute with tactics and wanted to do well. I had a chat with him from time to time and he was a really nice guy, who was given the cold shoulder by most of the other players.
Caveman Ninja – When he scored after his return his team-mates refused to celebrate with him, showing exactly what they thought about the situation.
FBS – Tell you what though, on his first game back after his strike he scored a fucking beauty of a free-kick.
Chets Left Peg – Ultimately we were relegated, never seemingly to return. PvH cost Dave Bassett his job, he was sacked in January amid a run of 20 games without a league win. We were forced to asset strip; Steve Stone left for Aston Villa, Scott Gemmill to Everton for next to nothing. In came David Platt, he of the tomato head and jabbing finger in Munich, he spent all our cash on dross and here we are today, all because a sulky but awfully talented Dutchman wouldn’t do his job.
We sold PvH to Vitesse Arnhem for £3.5m, a loss on what we paid Celtic. In the end we were glad to get rid of him.
I loved PvH, he was my favourite player at the time, he could score a goal out of nothing, win you a game on his own. But after all that went on, I wouldn’t even shake his fucking hand.
He got diddled out of a few million quid in some property scam a few years ago and I thought, “Well what comes around goes around, unlucky.”
Barbus – While it’s difficult to blame PVH for the club still not being promoted after all this time, who knows what would have happened if he’d done his job – maybe we wouldn’t have gone down, the last dozen years or so could have panned out completely differently.
MapperleyRed – The ‘loyalty’ bonus he wanted after leaving took the biscuit.
Chriscl – Pierre was a fantastic footballer, but his personal arrogance and greed was his downfall.
Peter Unwin George Wall – He was right, after all this time, he was right. I want Joel Lynch to go on strike to teach this board a thing or two