Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink: Bound for Greatness?

“If you’re successful, you don’t get fired, it’s that simple.” – Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was hailed as the best striker in the Premier League for a number of years. Playing as a powerful centre-forward for the likes of Chelsea and Charlton; Hasselbaink would bully defences and it led to him scoring 127 goals in his ten years in the Premier League. As Hasselbaink decided to ‘hang up his boots’ on a wondrous career after losing the FA Cup Final with Cardiff City in 2008; he left behind a legacy of prolific goal-scoring but nothing more.

Like many other players after retirement, staying in the game was a priority for Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. Newcastle boss, Steve McLaren once said of him “I always knew he would want to manage.” All the same not too dissimilar from other ex-players, Hasselbaink found it hard to engage with coaching at first and spent a couple of years with both Chelsea U16’s and Nottingham Forest whilst he gained his FIFA coaching licenses.

At last in May 2013 Hasselbaink gained his first managerial breakthrough; he was appointed manager of newly relegated Belgian Second Division side Royal Antwerp. Hasselbaink stayed for one average season where the team finished 7th; however the base of his tactics were laid in Belgium, the team played attacking football throughout his reign something which Hasselbaink is now famed for.

In May 2014 Hasselbaink stated “I was offered a new contract but I have not taken it.” In hindsight Hasselbaink said of the job that he had “worked at Antwerp under very difficult circumstances but it gave me invaluable experience and a greater appetite to manage.” This left the Premier League legend open to any opportunity. Moreover in an interview with BBC Sport in September 2014 he stated that he was “open-minded but the perfect scenario would be a job in England,” and a job in England is exactly what he got.

After a manager-less few weeks, in November 2014 Burton Albion came calling and appointed the 2001 Premier League Golden Boot winner without hesitation. At this point Burton were 3rd in the table and had been under Gary Rowett, who was nabbed by Birmingham City. It was not the fairy-tale return to England Hasselbaink had been hoping for. Nonetheless Hasselbaink soldiered on in Burton; showing his prowess time and time again. Within four days of his appointment he led the team to a 3-1 win against Wycombe Wanderers. Burton ended the month of January on an unbeaten streak and looked set for a promotion fight.

Yet this fight never came; Burton stormed through rivals one after the other; Hasselbaink was praised for his original attacking style that allowed the team to play open and free-flowing football. After many successful months on 18th April 2015 Burton beat Morecambe 2-1 away from home to secure promotion to League One for the first time. In just their sixth year in the football league this was a remarkable feat for Burton Albion

The Pirelli Stadium was filled with loud cheers of ‘Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’ repeated over and over again as the team continued to win. Just two weeks after gaining promotion for the first time in their history, Burton came from 2-1 down with ten men to beat Cambridge United 3-2. This win guaranteed the League Two title for Burton; the forty-three year old Dutchman had led “The Brewers” to success. In an interview with Sky Sports the forever grateful Hasselbaink coined the phrase “I do not think of Burton as a small-club, Burton is my Barcelona.”

As is always the case in football, with success comes rumours. With Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s achievements becoming more widely known, he was linked to every club possible. However Hasselbaink did not let the rumour mill affect his job in Burton upon Trent; he strengthened the squad in the summer of 2015 and came back with a team raring to let their impressive flare loose on League One.

Once again, Hasselbaink did not fail to disappoint, within games it was clear Burton were here to stay. Being tipped for relegation before the season seemed a long way away after winning two and drawing one in their opening three games of the 2016 campaign. Burton have continued to impress and, after 5-1 and 2-1 wins over Colchester and Milwall respectively, sit proudly two points clear at the top of League One. The Milwall game turned out to be Hasselbaink’s last and the Burton Mail reported that the team “did their boss proud” as they haughtily topped the League One table.

Despite the numerous attempts by Burton Albion chairman Ben Robinson to stop Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink from talking to other clubs (including Rotherham United); eventually he succumbed to the pressure and allowed Hasselbaink to speak to Queens Park Rangers. QPR had been managed by interim manager Neil Warnock for four games after firing Chris Ramsey in October 2015. After his last game Warnock said of Hasselbaink that “He can give them another step, like he did at Burton, but it’s a different level this, so it will be a good test for him.” The appointment (which eventually happened on 4th December 2015) came as no surprise with newspapers reporting the news for days.

It did however come as a bitter blow for Burton Albion fans; they had never been so successful and it was all down to one lone Dutchman. Hasselbaink did remark in his leaving statement that he “will be looking at the results, supporting you guys and will definitely be back watching a game soon.”

Now as Hasselbaink looks towards his new challenge, it will be interesting to see if he can withstand the test of a higher level. However successful Hasselbaink has been, nothing will have prepared him for what he is about to face. Tony Fernandes is yet to find a winning solution at QPR even with the amount of money he has invested; however he hopes that Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink will be the answer.

The humble Hasselbaink noted that his reign at Burton “has been an amazing time but I have to move on and go for the next challenge.” Hasselbaink’s success has been understated on many occasions but it is finally time for the quiet, modest Dutchman to prove his managerial ability on a bigger stage.

In my opinion, Hasselbaink will be more than successful at QPR as he has all the capabilities to become a top-class manager. His tactics which are forward thinking and ingenious allowed Burton to play a more attacking style of football while still not conceding. QPR have been praised for their strikers in recent years and especially with Charlie Austin still at the club I think Hasselbaink will get the best out of the team. I do not think it will be long before we see Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink managing in the Premier League right next to those who used to coach him.



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