Tough tackling Dutchman Luc Nijholt was a hugely popular figure amongst the Fir Park faithful in a spell at Motherwell that saw him lift the Scottish Cup in 1991.
Signed by Tommy McLean in the summer of 1990, Nijholt had been recruited from Old Boys Basel for a reported £100,000. Prior to his season in Switzerland he had previously played all his football in his native Holland largely with Harlem, but latterly at AZ Alkmaar and Utrecht.
Luc made his ‘Well debut in a 4-3 League Cup win over Morton on 21 August 1990 and made his league bow in the memorable 2-0 victory over Celtic four days later. He was initially deployed in central defence alongside Craig Paterson and Chris McCart but over time he would prove himself capable all across the back line.
The defender suffered a broken leg just four months into his ‘Well career but returned to full fitness as Motherwell’s Cup run began to gather momentum. After missing out on the opening two ties, Nijholt featured in every round from the Quarter Final against Morton onwards and capped his first season in Lanarkshire in style, by helping Motherwell to their first Scottish Cup win since 1952.
Luc’s second season in claret and amber saw him reveal a previously unseen facet of his game. Taking advantage of his much admired calmness under pressure, he inherited penalty taking duties and netted three spot kicks in the opening month of the season, including a late winner in the first ever Premier League derby between Motherwell and Airdrie. Over the course of the season he slotted home no fewer than six penalties.
Having been a member of the Cup winning side and involved in the first ever Motherwell side to play a match in Europe, Nijholt’s third season at Fir Park had no such highlights, yet it would still be a rewarding campaign. With Tommy McLean’s side in danger of being detached at the foot of the table, a second half of the season turnaround saw Motherwell escape the drop on the penultimate weekend of the season after a tense encounter that saw Dougie Arnott bag a late winner against Falkirk to send both the Bairns and Airdrie down.
A measure of the impact Nijholt had made in Scottish football was evidenced when Luc was offered the opportunity to play in the English top flight with Swindon Town in the summer of 1993. Having given the club three years of terrific service Motherwell didn’t stand in the Dutchman’s way and saw the £175,000 fee for a player edging towards veteran status as fair compensation.
After two seasons with the Robins, Luc returned to the Netherlands to join Volendam where he concluded his playing career. Moving into coaching he was at one time assistant to Louis Van Gaal at AZ Alkmaar and given his noted fondness for the Steelmen, he has been linked with the manager’s job at Motherwell more than once.