Hull-born striker Rob McDonald spent seven glorious years in Holland, despite never getting a look-in with his hometown club as a youngster. He also took in spells with clubs in Portugal, Denmark, Belgium and Turkey during a career that threw up more than just a few surprises.

  • By David Lee Wheatley
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mcDonald aA loan spell with Cambuur from Hull City in 1979 led to a permanent switch across to the Netherlands with Wageningen. The move presented the Englishman a chance to mix it with the best clubs in Holland and in only his third game, McDonald struck two goals and created the others in a spectacular 4-2 thrashing of Ajax away from home. Unfortunately, Wageningen were relegated that season, but McDonald did enough to secure a move to Willem II.

The season went well personally for McDonald, as he ended the campaign third top-scorer in the Eredivisie behind Wim Kieft and Kees Kist. However, the club itself ran into financial difficulties and were forced to sell several prized-assets, including their star striker.

Great in the air and a deadly poacher in the penalty area, McDonald’s fine form was attracting interest from all over the Dutch league, while making a mockery of his hometown team’s refusal to hand him a fair opportunity to show what he was capable of at the beginning of his professional career.

His next switch brought him a settled three-year stay with FC Groningen and many plaudits. McDonald’s style suited the 4-3-3 formation and ‘Total Football’ tactics widely employed in Holland at that time and he truly blossomed with the northern side.

Scoring an average of a goal every two matches, McDonald helped Groningen to European qualification, with UEFA Cup ties against giants Atletico Madrid and Internazionale enjoyed along the way. In the league, Groningen went on an impressive run of 5th, 7th and 5th-placed finishes during McDonald’s time there.

A huge transfer arrived in 1985 when PSV came calling for the services of the English forward and he jumped at an opportunity to display his skills on the biggest stage.

The Eindhoven heavyweights swept all before them in winning the league title and McDonald’s 15 domestic strikes helped them along enormously. However, he got injured and one Ruud Gullit took his place while he was out of the picture. On top of that, Wim Kieft was rumoured to be about to sign up after a short stint in Italy with Pisa and the writing was on the wall – McDonald had to move on and did so with a loan spell in Portugal with Sporting.

League appearances were at a premium in Lisbon thanks to a two-foreigner rule in operation there, which pushed McDonald to the periphery. He saw some action in the UEFA Cup, but could only manage six games domestically. A loan return to Groningen followed, before Racing Jet in Belgium became Rob’s latest destination on his extensive tour of Europe.

Scandanavia was next on the list, as McDonald joined Danes Ikast. While in Denmark, former club PSV cleaned up in continental competition when winning the European Cup under coaching guru Guus Hiddink in 1988.

An English return after nine years on the road promised much, but failed to deliver. McDonald played a meagre ten times in the league for Newcastle United as a relative unknown in his own country, despite such fantastic exploits abroad.

Besiktas offered another foreign adventure, but they were a club administratively flawed and wages weren’t paid on time. Players would often have to wait three months or more to receive their entitlement, so McDonald had enough and returned to his second home in the Netherlands.

A decent near three-year association with Veendam rounded off a remarkable footballing odyssey which encompassed six different countries and many wonderful memories, perhaps placing McDonald as one of England’s finest footballing exports.