JAN Vennegoor of Hesselink is in possession of “seven or eight” AC Milan shirts, the bounty of a series of battles with the famous Rossoneri in Europe.
Among the names that will scream out from the walls of his new house are Kaka, Dida, Seedorf and Gattuso. It is a longer, and less familiar, name that he hopes will be at the forefront of the club’s visit to Celtic Park tonight.
Derk Boerrigter hails from the same town as Vennegoor of Hesselink, who played in this collision of red-and-black stripes and green-and-white hoops during his time in Glasgow but had to sit in the stands the night in 2007 when Gordon Strachan’s side achieved a breathless 2-1 victory. His 27-year-old compatriot knows what it is to feel incapacitated in Celtic Park but his first goal for the club on Saturday proved the undoing of Aberdeen, and Vennegoor of Hesselink is crossing his fingers that the winger’s breakthrough will prove to be a fork in the road.
The big striker did not have to wait as long as his injury-prone compatriot to score for Celtic – he did so on his debut, in a 2-1 win over Hibs in August 2006 – but, speaking on a visit to Glasgow on behalf of Magners yesterday, he asked the Fates to do Boerrigter a favour and make his story a luckier one now, starting tonight.
“I heard he came on and did well, and had some good actions. I think sometimes that little bit of confidence from a goal can kickstart your career,” said Vennegoor of Hesselink of Boerrigter. “I had the same when I scored the first goal against Hibs when I came on. Sometimes you need a little bit of that to feel the confidence of your team-mates and feel the confidence of the crowd. Hopefully it kicks on right now, and if he starts and puts in a good game against Milan, or if, because he was injured, I hope he can have a good shift after 60 or 70 minutes.
“That would be great, but it’s sometimes not just about the player himself. Playing against Milan he will be up against (Ignazio) Abate. With all respect that’s different to a third-division side in the second round of the cup. Not in a bad way for the team, but you know what I mean – an internationally proven right-back. But sometimes it can give you that lift, and I hope for him that it does.
“He scored the goal and hopefully for him it kicks on now,” added the 35-year-old, who ended his playing days as a bench-warmer at PSV Eindhoven 16 months ago. His was a career defined more by graft than craft, something he illustrated himself with a story about the time he first came into contact with Boerrigter.
“We both come from Oldenzaal and I spoke to Derk’s parents when I was coming through the ranks at Twente as a 19 or 20-year-old,” he said.
“He was about 12 or 13 and his parents wanted the best for him. They asked for some advice and I remember giving Derk the Coerver tapes.
“It was training exercises, with dribbling drills. He watched those tapes and I think he learned a little bit more than me from them! I was a young boy then, too, but it was good for the parents to have a chat.
“Myself and Derk both played for Quick 20 before going on to Twente. It’s the biggest amateur club in Holland. Derk made the decision to go to Ajax quite early. He was a bit more adventurous, while I took things more step by step. If he can stay free of injury and if he can take on players and get a few games in him he can be a threat and an asset for the team. I don’t know if he will play or not, but he can be a real threat. I hope he does a good job – same with Virgil van Dijk.”
Vennegoor of Hesselink has been impressed by Van Dijk’s opportunism since he left the Netherlands for Celtic, and sees only good in the fact he plays with a conspicuously puffed-out chest. He said: “He has made a good impact in the team till now. Strong guy, confident – a little bit Dutch. Against Ajax he stood out – along with (Fraser) Forster he played a really good game. He’s a little confident, typical Dutch, but he’s strong in the air and he does his thing and Scottish and British football suits him. He already is a really big asset to Celtic and it’s also important for him because he was at Groningen, and it’s not the same as Celtic.”
• Jan was speaking on behalf of Magners, main sponsor of Celtic, at the Wellpark Brewery, where Celtic and AC Milan fans can enjoy a free mini tour of the facilities between 14.30 and 18.30 before Tuesday’s match.