HE MAY have been with us for only three seasons at the very end of his career and at a time when his body was showing all of the debilitating signs of so many terrible injuries, but Peter Hoekstra left an indelible mark in the memories of all of those Stoke fans who were lucky enough to see him play. For those who simply weren’t old enough to have seen Alan Hudson in his prime, then Peter Hoekstra is often cited as the best player they’ve ever seen in a Stoke shirt.
It’s remarkable that he ever came to be at the Britannia Stadium in the first place. The story goes that Stoke were actually in desperate need of a striker and had one of their regular agents who was well known to John Rudge bring over somebody he was trying to get a club for. Stoke weren’t interested in that player but did mention that they were also searching for a left-sided midfielder. The agent said he had just the player for us and the next thing we knew we had the chance to sign Peter Hoekstra, a former Ajax player and Dutch international!
The question on the minds of many fans was how the hell we had managed to persuade him to come to the third tier of English football. The answer was that, despite a talent that most richly deserved to be on show in the Premier League, he was so injury prone that no one would take a chance on him. Stoke City was the best he could do in English football.
We first saw him play in a pre-season tour of Austria and his talent smacked you in the face from the word go. Those Stokies who saw his debut on the opening day of the 2001/02 season at QPR were equally impressed at his amazing ball skills. It was often the case that his good work went undone because his team-mates were just not on the same page as he was. If he was frustrated by this he was a good enough team-mate not to show it.
Like all wingers, a game could sometimes pass him by, but when he was on song, oh my word, what a player he was. His dribbling skills, ball control and downright cheek were a joy to behold and even Soccer AM commented that they could do a whole ’Showboating’ segment dedicated to him. He was just brilliant.
His susceptibility to injuries was always there for everyone to see though and as Stoke went for promotion, via the play-offs, Hoekstra found himself missing the crucial run-in due to injury. Once he was fit he effortlessly made the transition to the Championship and though you could see that he was not a typical Tony Pulis player he was just too good not to be in the team.The most abiding memories of Hoekstra must be his stunning 30-yard goal at Watford, as we successfully fought tooth and nail to avoid relegation, and then the following season when he scored a brilliant hat-trick against Reading. His first in that game came when he danced around the keeper to score, the second was a ferocious angled drive and the third a cheekily chipped penalty that he himself had won. That treble can be viewed online on You Tube and every Stoke fan should treat themselves by watching it. It is the sight of an artist at work.
In all, Peter Hoekstra made 66 league appearances for The Potters in the three seasons he was in England, scoring 11 goals. Those stats though go no way at all towards telling the true story of his impact in The Potteries. He was the kind of player who has you frantically reaching into your pocket to pay entrance money into a football ground. When he had the ball you were on the edge of your seat.
Even though we only saw him during the last three years of an injury-ravaged career, and then not as often as we would have liked, the memories we have of him are all good. He deserved a shot at the Premier League and how we could do with him right now. Peter Hoekstra, a Stoke City hero.