Saints have completed the permanent signing of Jos Hooiveld for an undisclosed fee. The Dutchman pens a three and a half year contract with the club he initially joined on loan in August. Hooiveld has enjoyed a successful first three months at St Marys and is popular with both his teammates and fans alike. The move comes as no surprise, with all parties extremely keen on the deal. Hooiveld's agent tweeted on Tuesday that he was travelling down for late night talks with Nicola Cortese. The deal has now been confirmed, and the former Celtic man will be hoping to continue with the excellent form he's been showing in recent weeks.
Hooiveld joined Saints with a decent pedigree, having won league titles in three different countries. Opinion was still split among fans on his arrival however. Most of the critics questioned the signing based purely on comments from Celtic fans, who dismissed Hooiveld's worth. They mistakenly concluded that someone who couldn't cut it in the SPL wouldn't be able to cope in the Championship either. Hooiveld has now won over all his doubters however, and is a firm favourite with the St Marys crowd. He made his debut against Nottingham Forest on 10th September, where he made a reasonably decent start, but struggled slightly as the match wore on. He later admitted that his legs felt tired due to a lack of playing time, but it didn't take too long for things to improve. On 21st September he put in a man of the match performance against Preston in the League Cup. Hooiveld scored and also handled the opposition's attack threat with ease. The Dutchman is equally comfortable dealing with long balls as he is with quick attackers running at him. He's still liable to make the odd mistake. At Cardiff on 28th September he needlessly gave the ball away in the build up to a goal. He also left Lukas Jutkiewicz completed unmarked on November 5th, allowing Coventry a way back into the game. The positives to Hooiveld's game more than outweigh the negatives however. He's had far more good games than bad, and is arguably performing even better than Portuguese star Jose Fonte. The defensive pair have now established a great understanding at the back and complement each other very well. As well as adding a calming influence to the defence, Hooiveld is also a threat going forward at set pieces. In addition to the goal against Preston, he also netted winners against West Ham and Peterborough. He makes the defensive side of the game look so easy. His decision making is also top notch. A great example of this came last Saturday at Bristol City when Stephen Pearson flashed a shot across the face of goal. I've seen so many players smash the ball into their own net in situations like that, but not on this occasion. Hooiveld brilliantly let the ball run and averted any subsequent danger.
It's not just Hooiveld's playing style that has impressed fans, it's also his character. Using his Twitter account, he is quick to acknowledge his mistakes and is his own harshest critic. This shows that he has great desire to improve as a player and isn't satisfied with anything less than greatness. Hooiveld is the only player who walks round to clap all four sides of the ground after home games. Coming into the club he had tough boots to fill, stepping in for Dan Seaborne and Radhi Jaidi, who were both long term injury casualties. Seaborne had come on leaps and bounds before he was assaulted outside Junk on September 2nd, and was one of the sides best performers in the early weeks of the campaign. Jaidi was a key figure at the club last season, playing an important role in promotion. Hooiveld has done so well however, that he is almost certain to keep his place in the team even when those two return to fitness. For a player that divided opinion early on, he sure has come a long way in a short space of time. Browsing through fans comments on Twitter and other websites I haven't found a single person who isn't anything other than delighted at the news. That's a huge credit to the man. He's also extremely popular with his teammates, as evidenced by his interaction with the likes of Richard Chaplow and Steve De Ridder on Twitter. Here's to at least three and a half years more of intelligent defensive displays. Welcome to Southampton Jos!