Football: Elusive Van Hooijdonk remains unrepentant

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The Independent Online
PIERRE VAN HOOIJDONK rolled back into Nottingham yesterday refusing to say sorry for his three-month strike, but the Dutch striker's return to Forest looks set to be a brief encounter rather than a long-term move as he remains on the transfer list.

Van Hooijdonk trained with the club's reserves yesterday - his first appearance in the city since helping Dave Bassett's side lift the First Division title in May. Since the World Cup he has been training with his former club in the Netherlands, NAC Breda.

After a 90-minute session at the Holme Road training venue he returned to the neighbouring City Ground to deliver a confident and relaxed performance at a press conference.

Sitting alongside Phil Soar, the club's chief executive, Van Hooijdonk said: "I had a meeting with the manager and the players this morning. The atmosphere was okay.

"I'm hoping that what we said will stay in the dressing room - I don't think it's important for other people to know.

"We spoke about the things that have happened and we both came to the conclusion that we have to get on with the future, and that is me playing for Forest and trying to be as successful as possible."

But Van Hooijdonk, so forthright in recent weeks, was unusually elusive when asked if he had said the word `sorry' to the players - most of whom did not want him to return.

"Is that relevant?" he asked. When told yes, he added: "Why?"

Further probing prompted the reaction: "I've spoken to the players and I've spoken to the manager. Everything that's been discussed has stayed inside (the club)."

But as for apologising to the club's fans, Van Hooijdonk - who confirmed he shook hands with Bassett after the manager had voiced doubts over whether he would be able to do so - was again unwilling to say that one simple five-letter word.

"I've done something and I had my reasons for that," was his response. "Now I want to get on with my job and that is to do as well as possible.

"I feel sorry for the supporters in a certain way because they've been watching a club which has been missing somebody.

"I feel sorry for them because they were never a part in this matter. From that point of view, I definitely feel sorry."

Despite his pleasant homecoming - he was "really impressed" with the way he had been accepted since arriving in England on Wednesday - he still looks determined to leave the club he said lacked ambition.

"I remain on the transfer list," he said. "I want to be as successful as possible with Forest, and who is saying I will get a move?

"I think we will only be able to see after a couple of months after I've been playing again and hopefully playing well because if you don't play well, you can be on the list for 100 years.

"I think it's quite simple. If you don't play, then as we've seen, your chances of getting a move are much lower."

He tried to lessen the weight of his remarks by insisting: "In football, nobody, but nobody, can guarantee that he has a long-term future at any club.

"I am a Forest player, I will give 100 per cent to the club - or even more - and we will see what the future will bring."

He waited fully 10 seconds after being asked whether he could foresee a situation when he might ask to come off the list before replying: "I won't rule it out but that's because in football, you can't rule anything out."

Van Hooijdonk was rarely ruffled and harked back to Bassett's "arsehole" jibes a fortnight ago - saying "I always judge people on personal meetings.

"I cannot judge, for example, you when other people say you are an arsehole. You have to find out for yourself."

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