Following a lack of a strong capable centre forward, manager Gordon Strachan bought Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink for £3.4 million from PSV Eindhoven in August 2006.
The Dutchman made an immediate impact in the Hoops by netting a second-half equaliser as the Celts came from a goal behind to defeat Hibernian 2-1. The winner in a 1-0 victory at Aberdeen followed but after such a great start it would prove a frustrating season for the forward who was plagued by a series of injuries.
There’s little doubt that the Dutchman lacks pace but most observers believe that given decent service in and around the penalty area he will deliver. His link up play and workrate is also commonly under-rated. Unfortunately for Jan though he is regularly compared to the likes of Larsson and Sutton and in truth few Celtic forwards could match up to the standards set by that pair.
But Jan will always be capable of getting goals and that was certainly the case in the latter half of the season when Jan became one of the Bhoys’ most crucial performers with a superb double against Motherwell, a last gasp winner against Rangers in a do-or-die match and, of course, the goal at Tannadice which helped to seal Celtic’s title triumph.
Finishing the season on 20 goals - part of a excellent 50 goal partnership with Scott McDonald – Jan had all but silenced all of his most stubborn critics.
The Dutch international – who went to Euro 2008 with an impressive Holland squad – seemed to enjoy life at Parkhead as his rendition of the ‘Fields of Athenry’ at the Tannadice title party of 2008 and media comments illustrated. If Jan could stay free from injury and continue his end of season form then he could have had a lot to offer the Bhoys over the forthcoming seasons.
However, 2008-09 was a very poor season for Celtic. We lost the league when we shouldn't have and he was off form (injuries etc and poor management). He became an easy target for some due to his lack of pace and the goals just dried up. To some he was a lamppost on the pitch, offside too offside and another contributor to the woeful season that it was.
Must add one piece of brilliance from JVoH in a 3-2 victory over Aberdeen his deft footwork (you read that right!) created and made himself a goal when all looked lost at the death of the game! It was brilliant and any footballer would have been proud of what he had did that day.
At the end of the 2009 season, his contract was up and wasn't renewed. Would have been good to have given him a better send off but he hadn't performed of late, and change was best for all.
Over this time at Celtic, he'd scored some important and great goals, notably the already mentioned winner against Dundee Utd in May 08, goals against Manchester United and Barcelona in the Champions League and he had helped set up many for his team mates also.
In September 2009 he joined Hull City as a free agent with a 2 year contract after turning down offers from FC Twente, PSV Eindhoven and St. Etienne.
Following a spell with Rapid Vienna and a return to PSV, Jan announced his retirement from football on May 15th 2012.
A very likeable big guy who genuinely seemed to appreciate Celtic and the Celtic fans, and left us with some classic moments and pictures.
- It cost £15 to get his name on the back of your shirt! His name - the longest in European football - derives from the 17th Century, when two farming families in the Enschede area of Holland intermarried. Both the Vennegoor and Hesselink names carried equal social weight, and so rather than choose between them they chose to use both. 'Of' in Dutch actually translates to 'or' in English, which would mean that a strict translation of his name would read Jan Vennegoor or Hesselink.
| Club || From || To || Fee || League || Scottish Cup || League cup || Other|
| Rapid Vienna || 01/08/2010 || || Free || || || || || || || || |
| Hull || 02/09/2009 || 01/08/2010 || Free || || || || || || || || |
| Celtic || 25/08/2006 || 02/09/2009 || Signed || 63 (15) || 34 || 11 (0) || 7 || 4 (1) || 1 || 11 (3) || 2|
| PSV || 01/07/2001 || 25/08/2006 || Signed || || || || || || || || |
| FC Twente || 01/07/2000 || 31/05/2001 || || |
| || Apps || Goals || Apps || Goals || Apps || Goals || Apps || Goals|
| Club || Season || League || Scottish Cup || League Cup || Europe || Total|
| App || Goals || App || Goals || App || Goals || App || Goals || App || Goals|
| Celtic || 2006-07 || 21 || 13 || 4 || 4 || 1 || 0 || 4 || 1 || 30 || 18|
| 2007-08 || 32 || 15 || 4 || 3 || 2 || 1 || 8 || 1 || 46 || 20|
| 2008-09 || 25 || 6 || 3 || 0 || 2 || 0 || 2 || 0 || 32 || 6|
| Total || 78 || 34 || 11 || 7 || 5 || 1 || 14 || 2 || 108 || 44|
Honours with CelticScottish Premier League Scottish Cup Scottish League Cup
"Celtic is far more than a football club. The traditions, the history, the warmth - you have to experience it every day to really understand this." JVoH on Celtic, June 08
"When I first arrived at Celtic, I thought I understood the tradition of the club, but I didn't. The Scottish boys helped me. I had to learn and I was soon addicted to Celtic. I started to understand the culture and in time it became like an infection. It's still with me. Regardless of your nationality, Celtic never leaves you." Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink
"Our stadium is a phenomenal place, and is difficult to put across just how much it means to play for this club, and what this club means to so many, and how well known it is in any part of the planet until you experience playing at the stadium. Celtic is a way of life and very important for the Scots and the Irish, wherever they have emigrated to, and wherever you go, they applaud you and support you.’’ Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink
“I truly believe I played for one of the biggest clubs in the world. Not too many people can say that and I’m proud to be one of the chosen few. I have treasured memories of my time at Celtic. When the day comes to reflect on my career, I will only have warm feelings about the club."Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink
“It sounds a little bit romantic — and it is — but I always cherish Celtic in my heart."Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink (Apr 2012)
"After you've signed at Celtic the first thing you're told is where it's best not to go to refuel your car!"Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink
JVoH on Celtic
HE is about to star for Holland in the European Championships but Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink has revealed there is only one thing football fans want to talk to him about – Celtic’s SPL title win.
The Hoops striker, a key member of Marco van Basten’s Euro 2008 squad, is currently at the Dutch training camp in Switzerland and came on as a substitute in his country’s 2-0 win over Wales on Saturday.
Yet, the subject of Celtic’s three-in-a-row triumph is never far from his thoughts. Wherever he goes and whatever he does, someone always brings it up. And the Dutchman couldn’t be happier.
"This title was unique because of the manner in which we achieved it, by fighting back in the final weeks," he said. "We knew that if we lost or drew, then it would have been all over.
"Nobody gave a cent for our chances as Rangers were miles ahead. The goal against Rangers in April in the last minute was really special and even now people are still talking to me about it.
"They come up to me in the street, in the shops and at the club. For the fans, that goal was priceless.
"Celtic is far more than a football club. The traditions, the history, the warmth - you have to experience it every day to really understand this."
Drawn against Italy, France and Romania in a ridiculously tough group, Holland will still have aspirations of reaching the latter stages of Euro 2008, which starts on Saturday.
To do that, they will doubtless have to call on the services of Vennegoor of Hesselink. Normally used as a substitute by van Basten, the Celtic man provides a more robust approach than first-pick strikers Ruud van Nistelrooy and Arjen Robben.
He added: "My role is well defined and it isn't so difficult to carry it out. The hard part is that you have so little time and you're dependent on the balls you get.
"It demands another sort of concentration, so different from the one required if you play 90 minutes, but it’s just fantastic being part of the squad."
An avowed ‘romantic’, Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink talks for the first time about leaving Celtic
(Scotland on Sunday
David Friel Published on 7 Mar 2010 Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink is the type of person Gordon Strachan likes to describe as a “radiator”.
The gregarious Dutchman radiates positivity and possesses an infectious personality that never fails to rub off on those who have even the briefest encounter with him.
Why then, should the narrative of Vennegoor of Hesselink’s three-year Celtic career start with the nadir? He won a clean sweep of domestic trophies and twice helped the club chart new territory by qualifying for the last 16 of the Champions League. Why then, should the immediate focus be on the moment it all came crashing down? When team-mates who made history together walked out of Celtic Park for the last time, said their goodbyes and never looked back.
The answer is simple. For Vennegoor of Hesselink, this is a long overdue therapy session. For the last 10 months, he has kept it all bottled up inside. No interviews about life at Celtic. No deep reflections on the closing, cruel moments of “the best years” of his career. Until now.
May 24 was the date of Celtic’s 0-0 draw with Hearts in the final fixture of the 2008/09 season. It was also the day a football team died and an era ended abruptly when Celtic produced an abject performance to confirm what had been coming since a 0-0 draw with Hibernian seven days earlier.
It was the day Strachan’s side relinquished their title after three years of dominance. Rangers were crowned SPL champions. The Celtic manager would be gone within 24 hours and practically an entire team would follow him out of the club in the subsequent months.
Inside the home dressing-room at full time, Vennegoor of Hesselink felt numb. While the official decision on a potential one-year contract extension had yet to be made by the club, the Dutch striker, plagued by injury in his final season, suspected his time was up. His Celtic career was over and his dream of one last trophy had evaporated. Almost one year on, the Hull City player still finds it difficult to articulate those events.
“It was a strange way to finish my own Celtic story and a hard situation to deal with personally,” Vennegoor of Hesselink told the Sunday Herald in a rare interview. “We had lost the league and suddenly nobody knew for certain what was going to happen next. It wasn’t the ending I wanted.
“My future was unclear and it was the same for a lot of the players. I looked around our dressing-room and I couldn’t believe what had happened. We were all desperate to end on a high and it was difficult to come to terms with the fact we were not champions. It took me a long time to get over it.
“Losing is part of football. I understand that. It can make you a stronger person, but you always dream of a happy ending. Maybe that’s just the romantic inside me, I don’t know. We never got our happy ending. It was the opposite.
“Gordon left the following day and the rest of us followed. I left a week later, Paul Hartley left and Shunsuke Nakamura left. Since then, another six or seven players from that team have departed. We achieved so much together and it was a shame we couldn’t finish as winners. I’ve never talked publicly about that day before. What happened will always be a regret, but the time has come to move on.”
Did the failure to win a fourth successive SPL title tarnish the Strachan era in the eyes of the club’s support? Without question it did. Celtic held a seven-point lead at Christmas 2008 and contrived to lose it. Victory over Rangers in the Co-operative Insurance Cup final briefly assuaged the wounds of a humbling Scottish Cup defeat to St Mirren, but surrendering the title was unforgivable in the eyes of many.
Time is a healer, though. It also brings a heightened sense of perspective and clarity. If anything, Celtic’s travails under Tony Mowbray this season have crystallised just how successful Strachan’s tenure actually was. The moral of this story is obvious. Sometimes you don’t really appreciate what you’ve got until it’s gone.
“I take a lot of pride from what we achieved during my time at Celtic,” said Vennegoor of Hesselink, who scored 44 goals in 108 appearances and won four major honours. “I enjoyed the best years of my career and lived in a wonderful city. I won every Scottish trophy, played in famous games and helped the club create history in Europe. It was a shame the way it all ended, but I look back and think, ‘We achieved so much’.
“I truly believe I played for one of the biggest clubs in the world. Not too many people can say that and I’m proud to be one of the chosen few. I have treasured memories of my time at Celtic. When the day comes to reflect on my career, I will only have warm feelings about the club.”
Vennegoor of Hesselink’s Celtic career cannot just be measured in statistics. His personality also left an indelible mark on the club. Given that he never courted press attention, he was an unknown quantity in the wider Scottish football community, but within the Celtic inner sanctum, he was a driving force and arguably the most popular, respected member of Strachan’s squad.
One of the accusations levelled against Mowbray’s Celtic side is a lack of leadership on the pitch. Vennegoor of Hesselink has those qualities but had gone before the new manager arrived. Indeed, he never even opened dialogue with Mowbray. “Myself and the club came together and the decision was made to go,” he said.
His thoughts on the new regime and Mowbray’s preference for revolution over evolution are pragmatic. “The turnover of players has happened quicker than most people expected but every new manager has his own methods,” he said. “You have to understand that and respect it.”
Yet, if Vennegoor of Hesselink could offer one piece of advice to Mowbray, who is likely to field an entire team of non-Scots against Falkirk today, it would be to retain an indigenous element in his long-term vision. “The Scottish boys like Mick [Stephen McManus] and Gary [Caldwell] helped me immensely when I joined Celtic,” he said. “They transferred the passion to me. You need home-grown players in every team.
“When I first arrived at Celtic, I thought I understood the tradition of the club, but I didn’t. The Scottish boys helped me. I had to learn and I was soon addicted to Celtic. I started to understand the culture and in time it became like an infection. It’s still with me. Regardless of your nationality, Celtic never leaves you.”
Ironically, Vennegoor of Hesselink will be one of the many foreigners lining up for Hull City in today’s English Premier League match with Everton. He refers to his move down south as “another station in my adventure” and is confident Phil Brown’s side can avoid relegation.
“We have enough quality to stay in the league,” he said. “I love the saying, ‘Every game is a cup final’ and it’s true for Hull just now. Like Celtic, the pressure is on us to win every match, but for different reasons. I’m a positive guy, a romantic like I said, and I believe we can do it.”
Few would begrudge Vennegoor of Hesselink his happy ending this time around.
The Sun 29 Nov 2011
UTCH striker Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink knew he was in the wrong country when he turned to the sports pages of his local paper and found himself reading about SKIING.
The former Celtic star has opened his heart on how much he missed the Hoops and Scotland during a miserable spell in Austrian football.
Vennegoor of Hesselink quit Hull City for Rapid Vienna last year, but the move was a disaster on the park as injuries restricted him to just ten appearances last season.
But it was off the park the hitman — now back at PSV Eindhoven — really missed Scotland.
From scoring Champions League goals against the likes of Barcelona and Manchester United, Vennegoor of Hesselink found himself in league games against the likes of little-known Kapfenberger SV in front of crowds of barely 4,000.
He told SunSport: "There aren't many better places to play football than Celtic Park, but it's only now I realise that.
"Maybe when you're there every day you don't completely appreciate what you have.
"In Scotland people are very serious about football. Everybody has an opinion or knows something about football. They talk about it all the time. It's a way of life.
"For instance, in Scotland you pick up newspapers and the back page is all football. Turn the page and it's football. And it's like that for page after page after page. Every club gets a lot of coverage.
"I was used to that being the way of life for four-and-a-half years. I'd got used to two countries, Scotland and England, that were full of football.
"In Austria they write about football, but nowhere near as much. And near to skiing season, football went into the background.
"After what I'd come from, I found that difficult to adapt to. I missed the intensity of Scotland, the way they live for football.
"Maybe I'm a romantic concerning football in Britain, but it's the way I think it should be. Football in Austria was secondary and that wasn't what I'd been used to at all. The Austrian outlook to football was totally different to what I knew. For that reason, I didn't enjoy it there.
"I admit, I couldn't adapt to that. It was a big change and I missed the British culture.
"In Scotland and England, football is the number one thing in the lives of some people. Everything revolves around it and I really like that mentality.
"It was the thing I missed the most. It was why I left. I wanted to get back to enjoying football and training every day.
"I wasn't depressed, absolutely not. I'm always a positive guy, but I missed the fact I wasn't enjoying football. It was a very new feeling to me and not one I enjoyed.
"I'd never had it before, but luckily I found it again when I came back to PSV."
Vennegoor of Hesselink admits even day-to-day life in Vienna was completely different for him.
He said: "When I walked around Glasgow I knew I would be asked questions. People would say hello, ask for autographs, ask if we were going to win on Saturday and so on. But in Vienna it was completely different. You could walk round and sometimes no one would say anything to you about football. There just isn't the same passion about it.
"Okay, sometimes it's nice to be able to relax and not have to be asked about football all the time.
"But I missed the 60,000 crowds, the Champions League, being at Celtic Park for big games.
"In Austria I played for a club where the games had a good atmosphere, but it was nothing like Celtic or even PSV, where big games get crowds of 35,000. I had a lot of success in Scotland and after that, Austria was an anti-climax." Vennegoor of Hesselink, 33, admits part of the problem in Austria stemmed from his own successful past. He won two titles with PSV before moving to Parkhead for £3.4million in 2006 and winning two more in his first two seasons at Celtic.
He said: "The way it went in Austria was a shame because I thought I was going there to sign for a club who'd be challenging for the title, but we didn't have a good season.
"Some of that was to do with my own circumstances. It was fine on a personal level, but as a player you want to be competing and trying to win trophies and be successful.
"That's what I had been used to in Scotland, but it wasn't the case last year.
"In Austria the training methods were also different to what I'd been used to in Britain.
"I didn't play a lot of games due to injury, which made it more frustrating. If I'd been playing it would maybe have been a better experience, but the fact I wasn't didn't help my feelings about the transfer.
"It's a shame it didn't work out, but you make decisions in your life. Some of them come off, some of them don't.
"Now it's a new chapter for me. I've played at PSV before, I know how the club is and how it works and I'm looking forward to it.
"I'm enjoying football again. It took a while to sign the contract, but I was happy to get it done.
"Now I feel as though I can get back to football matters again."