Date:Tuesday November 28 2006
Blackburn Rovers were desperate to sign Dutch International Andre Ooijer in the summer. Having finally succeeded, for a while a lot were left thinking why did we bother!
Having struggled badly to adjust to the Premiership in his early games, his debut against Chelsea ranks among the worst debut's I've EVER seen! He started badly in the opening minute when he gave the ball away, to his credit won it back but then gave it away again and things didn't really get much better from there on! He gave away the "soft" penalty from which Chelsea took the lead and then got things horribly wrong as Didier Drogba wrapped up the game.
In the matches in the weeks that followed he again struggled and you found yourself wondering just why had Mark Hughes been so keen, was the £2.1 million paid to PSV Eindhoven for a 32-year-old a mistake?
Ooijer cited getting used to a foreign country and being without his family as reasons, which are and were fair enough, but without wishing to be too harsh even this argument at times appeared to be dragging on longer than it possibly should have.
The Middlesbrough game seemed to be a turning point for him with him gaining widespread acclaim, Ooijer himself made this claim shortly after:
"It wasn't a problem because I always knew people had not seen the best of me. But the confidence has grown and against Middlesbrough I found my level.
"But even now the fans have still not seen the best of me yet - they've not seen the half of it, which is why I'm confident there is more to come as things improve every day."
I always felt he would come good but have to admit I was a little worried but don't think that many people could argue that we really have seen a dramatic improvement.
His performance against Tottenham recently, in which he captained Rovers for the first time and his follow up appearance against Feyenoord (again as captain) not to mention the fact that over fifty percent voted him the Defender of the Month for November have backed up his claims.
The Premiership is a different bread of animal to that Ooijer had been used to in Holland. The pace of the game is much faster in England and maybe that caught him out somewhat as well the acclimatisation to new surroundings but he has more than proved his point and is now showing the form he showed for Holland during the 2006 World Cup Finals, the kind of form that prompted Hughes to buy him.
Ooijer may not be the quickest of defenders, which has been a main cause for concern for many but this isn't necessarily an essential thing even with the pace at which the game is played at today, especially when you have the ability to read the game along with very good positional sense, both of which are top class in his game. Watching these areas of his game closely in the last few games have highlighted just how good they are so this more than makes up for his odd laps in concentration.
He is also unbelievably confident and comfortable on the ball and has great skill for a defender. Again he has shown in the Spurs and Feyenoord games just how good this is with a series of marauding runs from the back.
His leadership qualities have come to the fore also recently, being handed the captains armband has seen him step up to an even higher level. I for one look forward to seeing Ooijer and the Admiral Ryan Nelsen line up together; they could in theory form a formidable partnership!
I'm not putting him right up there with the very best in Rovers history yet by a long shot but continued displays like the ones over the past month will see him up there when all is said and done…
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Date:Tuesday November 28 2006
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