Date:Monday September 18 2006
Andre Ooijer can`t seem to catch a break at the moment. The under-fire Dutch international centre-back responded to his manager`s comments this week with another improved display but one that will be remembered for a comical own goal.
Having had a debut that was only marginally better than Jonathon Woodgate`s notorious Real Madrid display, Ooijer has slowly improved but still shows signs of adjustment. His pace, or lack thereof, seems to be the biggest concern as witnessed against Chelsea when Didier Drogba brushed him aside on his way to scoring Chelsea`s second goal that afternoon. His positional sense has come into question as well, often dropping too deep allowing midfield players through.
Critics are moving quickly to condemn the experienced Dutch international but Hughes feels this is unfair on a player who doesn`t know the language and isn`t used to playing at a level with such pace and strength. Hughes told Skysports,
"People have formed a negative opinion of him, but that`s not fair on him at all. It`s far too early in his Blackburn career to judge him, so for people to speak about him in the way they have been doing is wrong."
Hughes is also aware that people are quick to condemn someone because of individual mistakes such as conceding a penalty or scoring an own goal,
"They have also jumped on the fact that he conceded a penalty in our first match against Chelsea. People are expecting him to come here and fit in straight away, but we have only played three games."
However, the Rovers manager feels he has a number of positive attributes to bring to the dressing room but his influence is certainly restricted because of a language barrier. Watching a Rovers defence against Manchester City on Sunday, it is clear there is a definite lack of communication and understanding between the back four.
However, Ooijer is a strong and determined individual who has had to overcome a number of disappointments in his career. As a youngster he was signed by his home-town club Ajax Amsterdam but never quite made it into the first team.
As Blackburn Rovers celebrated a Premier League winning season, Ooijer celebrated a permanent transfer from Ajax to Roda J. C. after a successful loan period at F. C. Volendam. He was later snapped up by P. S. V. Eindhoven where he enjoyed nine years laden with success and trophies.
Having overcome that early obstacle he would be further blighted by National team rejection, on more than one occasion. He travelled to the World Cup in 1998 but failed to play a single minute.
He was eventually rewarded with his debut in 1999 by Frank Rijkaard in a match against Brazil. He continued to impress for the national side but was surprisingly dumped from the squad for the Euro 2000 finals.
Another period of international exile followed under Louis van Gaal`s tenure as head coach but he returned when Dick Advocaat took charge. He was instrumental in helping Holland qualify for Euro 2004, even scoring against Scotland but was once again over-looked for the final squad for the tournament.
He finally featured for Holland in a major final last summer in the 2006 World Cup. Hughes feels this determined mentality is already beginning to show,
"He`s a strong character and he was desperately disappointed that we let the game slip at Salzburg because he`s used to winning week in, week out."
We will wait to see how Ooijer performs in our next league fixture against Middlesbrough where he will come face to face with a man who knows everything about struggling at a foreign team and having nightmare debuts.
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Date:Monday September 18 2006
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