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Zo dat vaarwel dan...

Jan Vennegoor of

So farewell then Jan Venegoor of Hesselink, surely the longest surname to ever grace the hoops and a player who brought moments of great joy and prolonged periods of intense frustration with equal measure.

This was the guy who could barely buy a goal in his final season, but also the man who sealed the league last year, scored some impressive goals in Europe (although we never even drew let alone won any of those games) and of course the man who scored the sweetest goal for many years against the hun.

When we bought him in summer of 2006 it seemed impossibly good, he was a major figure in the Dutch league, a much coveted striker who had helped PSV to the semi-finals of the Champions League and here he was signing for Celtic. It was a sure thing. Doesn’t really tie up with what we’ve seen over the past three years does it?

WGS saw that we had a problem up front. Hartson had scored goals but was at the tail end of his career, Zurawski had been ok but in fits and starts, and Beattie was always injured. Miller had been bought, but he was never going to be prolific enough and Riordan still had it all to prove. And none of them were particularly threatening in the air. What he needed was a tall centre forward with an eye for goal and decent bit of experience behind him.

When his name had first appeared on the radar the Scottish press were quick to rubbish any notion of this deal going through; too much money for Celtic, SPL not competitive enough for someone of this player’s standing. Hell, has this bloke not heard of Rangers? Murray Park? Paul Le Guen, fine wine, roast lamb and oak panelling? Why isn’t he signing on at Ibrox??

Incredulous would the best word to describe the coverage given to his arrival (remember at the time he was keeping Dirk Kuijt out of the Dutch national team).

His debut was at home to Hibs. Celtic were losing 1-0 at half time thanks to a goal from Scott Brown. Midway through the second half Lee Naylor (also making his debut that day) had helped make a chance for Zurawski to equalise but a second goal didn’t appear to be on the cards. Enter stage left JVOH, on in place of Miller.

Only minutes later Aiden McGeady made a run from the centre circle and let fly from 25 yards. The ball fizzed along the ground and smacked off the post, rebounding into the path of our new striker who didn’t wait to be asked twice and swept the ball in for the winning goal. Good start.

The next week we were involved in a stuffy game at Pittodrie. With 15 minute to go the big Dutchman got the ball at the edge of the box and thumped it through a defender’s legs, across the keeper and into the goal. It felt like the first shot of the game, almost as if everyone else had forgotten to try that. Excellent work again.

The following midweek we went to Old Trafford on Champions League business. This time he took advantage of a Rio Ferdinand slip to give us a 1-0 lead and generally played to his expected level, even though we went down 3-2.

So far he was proving to be an excellent purchase. But he picked up a knock at Old Trafford and almost from that point onwards, three games into his career in the Hoops, the pattern was set. He was almost on oil rig shifts, six weeks on and six weeks off.

He played in the 2-0 win over Rangers at Celtic Park, but never looked a threat. He was still carrying a thigh knock and probably shouldn’t have played.

For the remainder of the season he scored some good goals - the equaliser at Tynecastle for an important 2-1 win, a hat-trick at home to St Mirren, got sent off for scoring at Inverness and scored the day we won the league at Rugby Park.

The season finished with him holding winners medals for both the league and the cup, but his performance in the cup final had been had been poor. He missed a number of clear chances, especially in the first half, and the feeling was that despite a goal record of more than 1 for every two games (18 from 30 games) this was a guy still to really prove himself in the hoops.

The start of the following season did nothing to lift that feeling as we kicked off with a miserable 0-0 against Killie. The tone of the season hinged on the Champions League qualifier match against Spartak Moscow. In the second leg, with the tie poised at 2-2 over the two legs, we were awarded a penalty. Glory beckoned for Jan, but he aimed his kick too high and rattled his shot off the bar. The game went to penalties and he atoned for that miss, taking almost the exact same penalty, except nine inches lower.

Season 07-08 was again punctuated with injuries and while he did pop up with some decent goals and certainly helped McDonald with some fine assists he was one of the main reasons we had such a howling December in 2007. One goal in something like 9 games simply wasn’t good enough.

He had made a better start to 2008 with a fantastic goal against Barca, but that was a rare high point at that stage of the season.

Following on from our home defeat at Motherwell that seemed to be season finished but credit where it’s due, Jan Venegoor of Hesselink was one of those who stood up to be counted when it mattered that season. In the next game at Fir Park he bagged two goals and in his next game sealed his place in the history of the club as his last minute diving header not only gave him his first (and only) goal against Rangers and gave us our first win over them since his 2-0 debut in 2006 but also planted the seed of doubt in the hun mind (it’s also one of those TV moments you can watch again and again and again and again and again…).

His goal at Tannadice to win the league and his celebrations after the final whistle seemed to finish off any arguments about his value to the team, until season 08-09 kicked off and it was more of the same from the previous December.

His movement, or lack of it, was shocking. If we’d wanted a centre forward rooted to the spot we would have kept big John (and he would probably have scored more). The goals dried up, the knock downs for McDonald evaporated, he couldn’t even hold the ball up. To top it all he was becoming even more injury prone. Come March he had scored a grand total of two goals (both in the same game).

We lost the league because we couldn’t score goals – two 1-0 victories in the last two games give us the league and whilst it’s true that you win and lose as a team it’s also true to say that you look to your forwards for goals and the big man just didn’t produce in his last season (6 goals from 34 games says it all really).

He leaves us having scored a total of 44 goals in 110 games and with two league winners badges and one winners badge from the domestic cups.

He is currently a free against but we wish him all the best for the future.




jan vennegoor of hesselink