Andrew Rafferty with A Celtic State of Mind – The Benelux Bhoys

Over the years, Celtic have seen players from many nations pass through Parkhead’s gates to play for the Green and White. The excellent CelticWiki site states 51 nations have been represented at Celtic during the club’s 130-odd years’ existence, with England and Ireland (unsurprisingly) having provided the most non-Scots players. I wanted to take a look at some of these nations and find out a bit more about players who plied their trade with us, what impact they had on the club and where they are now.

Belgium and The Netherlands are two countries who have provided a dozen or so players to our team over the last 25 years or so. Unfortunately, no-one from Luxembourg has played for us, but I hear their standard of football is making progress, so who knows in the future?

Both these nations have historic club sides who dominate their domestic competitions and have European pedigree as well. Feyenoord(!), Ajax and PSV (Netherlands) have all won the big cup.

Anderlecht (Belgium) have also performed well in Europe, winning the European Cup Winners’ Cup & UEFA Cup over the years. Both leagues have suffered in the same way Scottish football has, as the big money continues to coalesce around the big five competitions. The national sides’ track records in World Cups and European Championships are also not to be sniffed at, with both teams regularly reaching finals and semi-finals (The Dutch won Euro 88).

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Based on the above, it’s clear that Belgium & The Netherlands have had their share of quality players over the years, and below we take a quick look at some of those who have donned the hoops.

Pierre van Hooijdonk (NL) 1995-97

The tall Dutch striker with a long name was the original Benelux Bhoy. He signed for us in a period when trophies were hard to come by for the club. He provided Tommy Burns’ team with a lot of goals, the most important being his winner for us in the 1995 Scottish Cup final, the first trophy for 6 years. He left the club in ’97 following a wage dispute, being dubbed one of the ‘three amigos’ of the McCann era.

Celtic honours: Scottish Cup (1995)

Wim Jansen (NL) 1997-98

‘Wim the Tim’ graced the club with his presence for one season. His lasting legacy was steering the team through a historic season where we stopped our Glasgow rivals from doing the ten. He also signed a certain Henrik Larsson. What a guy.

He left the club, citing his inability to work with Jock Brown (who also didn’t hang around much longer).

Celtic honours: Scottish League (1997/98), League Cup (1997)

Joos Valgaeren (BE) 2000-05

Joos joined Celtic during the early days of the Martin O’Neill era. He quickly formed a partnership with Bobo Balde and Johan Mjallby in a back three. He won the treble in 2001 and played a key role in the run to Seville in 2003.

Valgaeren moved on in 2005, after a knee injury, but has been back to Celtic Park for various events and still supports the club.

Celtic honours: Scottish League (2000/01, 2001/02, 2003/04), Scottish Cup (2001), League Cup (2001)

Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink (NL) 2006-09

Another tall Dutch striker with an even longer name, Jan signed on under Gordon Strachan and scored some crucial goals for us during his three seasons at the club. He performed well on the European stage as we progressed to the Champions League knock-out round for the first time. He also came up trumps against Dundee United to help us win the league the year the season was extended. He left the club after his contract expired with plenty of winners medals in his back pocket.

Celtic honours: Scottish League (2006/07, 2007/08), Scottish Cup (2007), League Cup (2009)

Virgil van Dijk (NL) 2013-15

Virgil signed from FC Groningen (my 2nd team – I lived in the city for 7 years) under Neil Lennon. It was apparent quite quickly how skilful he was as he proceeded to boss Scottish football, despite his age (22 in 2013). Van Dijk has since gone on to become a vital cog in the Liverpool machine, but still talks of his time at Celtic with fondness and gratitude.

Celtic honours: Scottish League (2013/14, 2014/15), League Cup (2015)

Dedryck Boyata (BE) 2015-19

This Belgian defender arrived at the club with high expectations after replacing another Benelux Bhoy (Jason Denayer). His time at the club was successful, playing in the invincibles team and delivering three trebles. He will also be remembered for his petulant behaviour after the 2018 World Cup, trying to force a big-money move- which tarnished his reputation for many fans.

Celtic honours: Scottish League (2015/16, 2016/17, 2017/18, 2018/19), Scottish Cup (2017, 2018), League Cup (2017, 2018)

Other Benelux Bhoys-

Logan Bailly BE
Derk Boerrigter NE
Boli Bolingoli BE
Jason Denayer BE
Jeremie Frimpong NL 
Jos Hooiveld  NL
Glen Loovens NL
Bobby Petta NL
Evander Sno NL
Dorus de Vries NL

Andrew Rafferty

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