Former Nottingham Forest midfielder Andy Johnson completely understood why Pierre Van Hooijdonk infamously went on strike.

The 44-year-old has been exclusively speaking to Seat Pitch about his time playing in the famous Garibaldi.

Dutch striker Van Hooijdonk was a record signing for the Reds back in 1997 when he switched from Celtic for £4.5 million, according to The Independent.

Mandatory Credit: Ian Walton/ALLSPORT

The talisman blasted his team-mates, including Johnson, to promotion during 97/98 scoring 34 goals for the Reds.

Forest’s hierarchy decided to strip the club of its prized assets the following summer. Kevin Campbell who had struck up a formidable partnership with Van Hooijdonk was offloaded to Trabzonspor.

That didn’t sit right with the enigmatic hotshot and he refused to return for pre-season training. He would subsequently miss the first 11 games of Forest’s first season back in the top flight.

Mandatory Credit: Phil Cole /Allsport

Johnson, who was a younger member of the Forest dressing-room at the time, fully understood the striker’s thought process.

He said: “The club sold our best players. Campbell went, Colin Cooper left,  Scot Gemmill and Steve Stone were sold during the season and we were all thinking ‘hold on a minute this is a time to build on the squad, not go selling our best players’.

“Pierre went on strike and never came back for pre-season. We all agreed with him in terms of the direction the club was going.

Mandatory Credit: Stu Forster /Allsport

“We didn’t agree with him leaving us in the lurch and having to start our season without a star striker but we all felt the same as him in terms of the club selling the best players.

“Looking back I don’t agree with him physically striking but we all know why he did. He wanted to make a stand against the club and in that sense he was spot on.”

The 1998/99 Premier League campaign was a complete disaster from a Forest point of view, relegated with nothing more than a whimper.

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The lowest-ebb was an 8-1 thrashing by treble-winning elect Manchester United at the City Ground. The Forest striker had returned from his absence by then, but couldn’t help the Reds against the Red Devils.

Johnson recites the occasion with embarrassing scars still raw.

Of the defeat he said: “We lost 8-1! 8-1! We didn’t just get beat we got thrashed, it was completely humiliating.

 

“As players we held it against the club, who had put us in such a situation by stripping us of our best players.”

Van Hooijdonk’s return to the Forest team saw him score six goals in 22 games.

It was all too little, too late, however and the damage was done. After a brief affair with the top-flight it was back to the second tier for the Reds.