The A-Z of forgotten football heroes: V - Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink

At some point in the 1600s, two families of similar social standing were joined through marriage in the East Dutch area of Enschede.

The families were the Hesselinks and the Vennegoors. Both agricultural families, an impasse was reached as to which surname the happy couple should take - both carried the same social weight, and neither wanted their lines to end.

So it came to pass that the Vennegoor of Hesselinks appeared on the map. 'Of' in Dutch translates to 'Or', with the families' indecision sealed in matrimony for centuries to come.

This marriage, researched by the Guardian back in 2009, also set in motion the wheels of history that eventually brought into being a cult hero targetman who spent three fruitful years at Celtic and a less enjoyable year in Hull

Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink. Remember him?



A decade of Eredivisie goals

He was prolific for a decade in his native Netherlands before most British fans had heard of him - in the current market, a £3.4 million fee would be a snip for a player who had hit double figures in seven of his previous eight seasons prior to his Celtic move.

Starting out at FC Twente before moving on to PSV, goals and silverware were regularities as he left Eindhoven as a triple title winner. Hitting more than 20 for three seasons on the trot at Twente was enough to earn him international call-ups, though he only ever found the net for his country in friendly games.

By the time he upped sticks to Glasgow, he had over 150 goals in Dutch football, and it was with a sense of intrigue and excitement that Bhoys fans welcomed their new man. 



A Dutch saviour in Glasgow

He made his debut against Hibernian just two days after signing on and made an immediate impact, pouncing on a rebound off the post to slot into an empty net after coming off the bench.

In his next appearance two weeks later, a low drive from the edge of the box dribbled through the goalkeeper to give Celtic a narrow win against Aberdeen and four days later he scored again, slamming past Edwin van der Sar and Manchester United in the Champions League. Celtic Park had a new hero.

Injuries restricted him to just 30 appearances in all competitions in his first season, but 18 goals was a fine return and he followed it up with 20 the following year as Celtic won back-to-back SPL titles and a Scottish Cup.

A diving header against the 2008 Barcelona vintage was a particular career highlight, but was likely topped by a last-gasp header to claim a satisfying stoppage-time Old Firm derby win against Rangers.

The 2008/09 season was to prove less happy for Vennegoor of Hesselink, and his last in Scotland. He was sent off just three minutes into a substitute appearance from Rangers and never got going in front of goal, with four of his disappointing tally of six goals for the season coming in a three-week spell in April.



Hull, Vienna, Eindhoven

His form hampered by a hamstring problem, he was released at the end of his contract and moved to Hull, but it was a move which never clicked for player or club.

33 appearances and just three goals later, he was released again and with offers to choose from, opted to move to Austria with Rapid Vienna

Repeated muscle injuries continued to hamper his career, and he eventually returned to PSV to train and attempt to prove his fitness. He signed a contract for the 2011/12 season but after just two goals in 18 appearances, decided to call time on a career which had petered out in anticlimactic fashion.

Though he was primarily a squad player for the national side, 19 appearances for the Netherlands is evidence enough that Vennegoor of Hesselink was a talented player, and shouldn't be dismissed as a flat-track Scottish football bully.

As powerful in the finish as he was in the air, he used his 6'3" frame well, and had half as many assists as goals during his time at Celtic, underlining his importance as a member of the team.

His career may have been pockmarked by injuries, but over a decade of bullying defences and scoring first-division goals in the Netherlands and Scotland should certainly not be sniffed at.


This article is part of a regular feature series, 'The A-Z of forgotten football heroes'. Check out the last piece on a player whose name certainly begins with the letter 'U', here.