The first in a series looking at the ‘up-and-coming’, Dutch coaches making their names in the world of football management. First on the radar is recently appointed QPR boss, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.

  • By Glenn Billingham
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“This is my Barcelona.” A memorable quip from the then Burton Albion manager, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. Far from being an attempt at British sarcasm, or in any way condescending towards a smaller club, the statement is telling of a lofty level of thought. Higher order thinking, and equally steep ambition appear to fuel the existence of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink the football coach.

Transitioning from legendary and endearingly popular player to the dug out can be hard. However, purists and traditionalists will appreciate Hasselbaink’s early managerial career choices. As a player, he wasn’t afraid of dropping down a level or two to find success, and the same is true of Jimmy the manager. Both humble footballing corners of the continent; Antwerp and Burton, could appear somewhat ‘random’ choices. However, both appointments perfectly fit the criteria of a very conscious entry into coaching and management.

Royal Antwerp are historically one of Belgium’s bigger clubs, yet have spent just over a decade in the second tier. Appointed prior to the 2013/14 season, Hasselbaink was a novice manager at a mid-table club. Without expectation, pressure, and the glare of of a bigger club, he was free to explore and learn his new trade. He did so quickly and admirably. Antwerp finished the season in seventh place, and the club wished to extend his contract. However, with a young family back in England, Hasselbaink wanted to return ‘home’.

Hasselbaink spent the majority of his playing career in England. However, following a slow start in the Erstedivisie with Telstar and AZ, it was in Portugal where he literally made a name for himself. Hasselbaink signed for newly-promoted Campomaiorense in 1995. Their manager, Manuel Fernandes, wanted to keep his new strikers identity a secret. Rather than reveal his real name (Jerell Floyd Hasselbaink), he was nicknamed Jimmy. The name has remained ever since.

Hasselbaink went on to play for Boavista, Leeds United, Atletico Madrid, Chelsea, Middlesborough, Charlton Athletic, and Cardiff City. Everywhere he went, he was quick to settle, and fast to find success. Renown for his strength, powerful play, and lethal finishing, he scored goals everywhere. Though while individual success was easy to come by, Hasselbaink’s playing career wasn’t exactly littered with trophies. Somewhat surprisingly, his only winners medals are the 1997 Portugese Cup, and a 2000 FA Charity Shield. If life’s truer lessons come in defeat, Hasselbaink’s runners-up collection stands him in good stead; 2000 Copa del Rey, 2002 FA Cup, 2004 Premier League, 2006 UEFA Cup, and the 2008 FA Cup.

So, with the bulk of his playing days spent merrily in England, and a young family settled in the country, England was the natural next step of his coaching career. Hasselbaink politely declined the offer of a contract extension at Royal Antwerp, and took the managers position at League Two’s Burton Albion.

On an upward curve on and off the field, Burton, though in the bottom tier of English football, were an inspired choice. Hasselbaink was quick to forge a hugely positive relationship with his chairman, Ben Robinson, and began a fruitful partnership with his assistant, Dave Oldfield. Burton won automatic promotion in Hasselbaink’s first season in charge. That 2015 League Two title was both Burton, and Hasselbaink’s first professional league championship.

The upward trajectory continued for club and manager this season. Burton climbed to the peak of League One by November, and Hasselbaink’s managerial stock was rising. Rumours linking him to the vacant Leeds Utd job were quickly dismissed. Strong of Hasselbaink’s astute head ruling a contented heart. However contented, Hasselbaink is also ambitious. In the same breath as dismissing rumours of being Leeds-bound, Hasselbaink also told of his desire to progress should the right opportunity come knocking.

A matter of weeks later, it did. Led by Director of Football, Les Ferdinand, QPR sought carefully the for right man, before being hugely impressed with Hasselbaink’s interview. Jimmy departed Burton last week, leaving them top of League One. Incidentally, providing what looks like an opportune moment for Nigel Clough to return ‘home’ at Burton. In West London, Hasselbaink will also have a renewed sense of homecoming. QPR sit just outside the Championship play-off places, and appear to be well-placed to push on. Hasselbaink has taken Dave Oldfield with him, and all evidence points to their careers continuing their upward spiral.

As can be expected, Hasselbaink has worked under diverse set of managers. Under the assorted and contrasting leadership of the likes of; Claudio Ranieri, Radomir Antic, Arrigo Sacchi, George Graham, David O’Leary, Steve McClaren, and Alan Pardew, Hasselbaink will have plenty of ideas. At international level, Hasselbaink played twenty-three times for his country. Capped by Frank Rijkaard and Louis van Gaal, Hasselbaink will undoubtedly have those wonderfully Dutch traits of independence, flexibility, style, and an uncanny ability to balance between approachable, and focused.

Glenn Billingham (6 Posts)