Football: Forest sign pounds 4.5m Van Hooijdonk

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The Independent Online
Nottingham Forest yesterday spent a club record pounds 4.5m on a Dutchman who has spent the last six months embroiled in a bitter pay dispute with Celtic.

Pierre van Hooijdonk, who rejected the Scottish club's offer of pounds 7,000 a week with the line "it might be enough for the homeless, but not for an international striker", intends to endear himself with the working- class supporters at the City Ground by scoring the goals that will keep Forest in the Premiership. More than that, the 6ft 4in striker's solidarity is such that even if the worst happens he will not leave.

The 27-year-old Van Hooijdonk, who makes his debut at Blackburn Rovers tonight, has signed a five-year contract devoid of a quick-release clauses.

"I've certainly not insisted on any clause in my contract allowing me to leave if Forest are relegated," he said "I will do everything in my power in the coming weeks to help the other players see that we survive. But, if the worst happens, I will be here next season."

Celtic received pounds 3m up front, with fourth-from-bottom Forest paying a further pounds 500,000 if they stay up and another pounds 1m if Van Hooijdonk scores 20 times in each of the next two seasons.

The signing is the first move into the transfer market since since the takeover of Forest gave the management team of Stuart Pearce and Dave Basset a pounds 16m kitty for new players.

For Pearce, the deal, which broke the club's previous transfer record of pounds 2.5m for Bryan Roy in 1994, is all about class

"He's an international class player and you always want class players on your side," Pearce said. "I don't see that there's an extra responsibility on him because of our predicament, but I am sure he can help us in our bid to get out of the spot of bother we are in.

"Hopefully he's got a point to prove to Celtic too and that can be to our advantage."

Van Hooijdonk left Scotland with one final swipe at Fergus McCann, the Celtic chairman. "I had two years there and although there were some good times, there were also some bad times," he said. "All my problems came off the field with the chairman. We made agreements during contract talks but he never came back to me and that was disappointing.

"I have been very impressed with Phil Soar and Irving Scholar. They have shown me there is another way of dealing with contracts - the right way."

Colin Hendry, whom Van Hooijdonk faces tonight, has told Blackburn that he is prepared to wait for an operation on his groin strain until they are sure of Premiership survival.

The centre-back could have a new team-mate next season with the manager- elect, Roy Hodgson, having instructed Rovers to sign Attilio Lombardo for pounds 2.5m from Juventus. The 30-year-old midfielder heads a shopping list Hodgson has sent Rovers pending his arrival in the summer.

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