Football: Van Hooijdonk set to make Forest return

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The Independent Online
PIERRE VAN HOOIJDONK returns to Nottingham Forest on Friday following confirmation yesterday the Dutchman is ending his three-month strike against his club.

After meeting the Forest director Irving Scholar last week, Van Hooijdonk contacted the club over the weekend to indicate his willingness to return. He did not apologise but an admission of "mistakes" was considered conciliatory enough by Forest, next to bottom of the table and favourites for relegation, to end the stand-off.

However, the ending of one dispute may start another. Last night it emerged the reconciliation has been organised over the head of the Forest manager, Dave Bassett. Only 10 days ago, after hints of a return, Bassett denounced Van Hooijdonk as "history", suggesting the best location for his olive branch was "up his arse" and Bassett reiterated yesterday he did not want him back.

Bassett said: "It is a corporate decision, a plc decision. You cannot write off pounds 4 or pounds 5m and nobody was going to give us that kind of money for him while he was doing nothing. I'd rather not have him back. This would not have happened 20 years ago, but when you have a plc running things you have obligations to shareholders."

Bassett denied any rift between himself and the plc board, but relationships are bound to be strained. Bassett's position was undermined last week when, only days after the manager's lambasting of Van Hooijdonk, the plc chairman, Nigel Wray, effectively invited the player back. Wray said: "We have to resurrect his career - both from his point of view and, most importantly, the club's. He just has to say something conciliatory."

Van Hooijdonk, who refused to rejoin Forest after the World Cup because he believed they had not sufficiently strengthened the side that won promotion last season, will train at the City Ground on Friday. He will not play at Middlesbrough on Sunday, but is expected to turn out for the reserves next week and may be recalled against Wimbledon on 7 November.

Players have said they will set aside personal feelings for the good of the club, but Bassett warned van Hooijdonk to expect a frosty reception from team and supporters. He said: "There is bound to be apprehensiveness and it could all work against us if it does not go right. He will be expected to score goals and everyone will hate him if he does not."

Bassett had hoped fellow Premiership clubs would help Forest freeze out Van Hooijdonk by lending the club the pounds 4m they expect to recoup by selling him but the idea never looked likely to be accepted. He said: "In the end the other clubs decided to look after themselves."

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