The road to success is never an easy one. It’s a path that many travel, but few reach the end. Many give up along the way when road bumps or blockages stop their path. Others persevere with the belief that one day they will make it. Jos Hooiveld is one such player. Early setbacks and false dawns could have stopped the 6ft 4in Dutch centre half in his tracks, but instead he pushed through. He found success at Finnish side Inter Turku, then in Sweden at AIK winning team and personal accolades. A move to Glasgow Celtic followed and although that didn’t go quite to plan, it would turn out to be a small bump along the way, as his next move to Southampton would eventually turn him into a cult figure. A highly likeable guy off the field, but a solid no nonsense defender on it. We caught up with Jos recently as he starts his latest challenge in Los Angeles with Orange County.
BackOfTheNet: Jos, thanks for sitting down with us.
BackOfTheNet: You were born in a very small village in Holland called Zeijen which is close to Groningen. From there you played for a few youth teams in the neighbouring towns of Assen and Emmen before settling in Heerenveen. What was it like growing up in Holland, and was your family supportive of your dreams to become a footballer?
Jos Hooiveld: They were very supportive. My family is football mad and so is the whole of Holland actually. There was no problem haha!
BOTN: They must have been proud when you represented Holland at under 19 level. How did that feel pulling on the famous Oranje jersey?
JH: Yes, I was really proud of that, unfortunately it was only with the under 19s. But representing your country is something else.
BOTN: After a few seasons at Heerenveen you made the move to the Austrian Bundesliga with Kapfenberger. That move didn’t quite go to plan. What happened there?
JH: I went there at the wrong time. There was a change of coach and if I’m honest we didn’t have a great connection going there.
BOTN: You eventually escaped to Finland with a move to Inter Turku, which gave you your first taste of success: lifting the Finnish League Cup and Veikkausliiga title as well as securing personal success with back to back Defender of the Year awards. Did you feel that, finally, your efforts were paying off?
JH: Yes, I always refer back to that period on which my career started. Things fell into place there and I set my base for confidence.
BOTN: Before long, AIK came calling and you helped them to their first title in eleven years, then the cup, giving them their first ever domestic double. That led to a money spinning move to Scotland with Celtic. Talk us through those few years. In your opinion, why did the move to Celtic not pan out as hoped?
JH: When I came to Celtic the season in Sweden was already finished for two months. I came and needed a proper pre-season which I didn’t get. After 3 games in 6 days I got injured and it lasted a good three months before I came back fit. In the beginning of that following season I played my first games without rhythm and without confidence. In a club like Celtic that means move on… haha.
BOTN: Eventually you moved to England with Southampton following a successful loan move, and played under Nigel Adkins, as they secured promotion back to the Premier League. You were part of the squad when Adkins was sacked and replaced on the same day by Mauricio Pochettino. How did the team react on that day? How did you feel about how the club handled that situation?
JH: It’s always a sad day when you as a team can’t keep a good manager and good person in his seat. But his replacement took us to the next level at that moment, so considering that, we didn’t complain about it and moved on. As anyone does in football.
BOTN: You seemed to have really enjoyed your time at Southampton. What was it about that club that helped you flourish as a player?
JH: We had a squad that was very close and helped each other develop instead of criticizing each other. The coach and the chairman were also very helpful which benefited the team as a whole.
BOTN: Subsequent moves back to AIK then home to Holland with FC Twente followed. Did you feel that you were returning home to Holland having proven something and made a name for yourself?
JH: Well football isn’t really much about names and proven things in my opinion. It’s more taking everything out of it as long as you can. Because life after football is way longer than life inside of football, that name won’t bring you anything then. Football never owes you anything after.
BOTN: So, what’s next for you? We see you have moved to the US with Orange County. What made you move to LA?
JH: A new adventure and to experience the sports culture here.
BOTN: Finally, some quick hits if we can. Toughest opponent?
JH: (Romelu) Lukaku.
BOTN: Best stadium you played in?
JH: Emirates stadium.
BOTN: Closest friend in football?
JH: I have a few and won’t want to sell anyone short.
BOTN: Thanks again, Jos. and all the best for the rest of the season.