For a player who wowed crowds at the very top level of the domestic and international game, it’s perhaps somewhat strange to find Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink plotting a route around Accrington Stanley’s back four, or the blind side runs put together by Cambridge United’s wide men.
But the 42-year-old’s desire to allow memorable playing days – which included over 200 goals and 23 appearances for the Netherlands – to form the bedrock for a successful managerial and coaching career, typifies the former striker’s passion for football, whether taking part or watching from the dugout.
“I’ve never minded about the environment or the level,” he begins, “I’m just a complete fan of football.
“Prior to my recent appointment as Burton Albion manager I spent a season in charge of Royal Antwerp. When I joined the club, I wanted to implement a totally new playing style, one that would be more attractive for the supporters. The fact that some of the team were coming to the end of their contracts made it easier to bring in new players and get them to gel together as a squad, and that’s the sort of thing that really excites me.
“I was also fortunate to have the support of the board, which is especially important when you’re just starting out in management. While I normally wouldn’t advise changing players en masse, I brought in 20 new people, all of whom I recruited carefully.”
Hasselbaink explains that of greatest importance was the fact personnel understood his vision for the club whilst bedding in well with the new playing style. “It meant we could hit the ground running and see instant improvement. In the two seasons prior to my appointment, the club had finished 12th and 10th, which for a side like Royal Antwerp wasn’t good enough. During my season with the club, attendances increased from 5,000 to 8,000 and we finished seventh in the table and just outside the play-offs – positive progress, especially given my budget had been cut by 15 per cent.”
Hasselbaink then brought his unique brand of man-management to England, and accepting the chance to take over from successful former manager Gary Rowett, has further galvanised the Burton Albion machine into a slick, motivated unit.
“For me the motivational parts are just about being sensible and gradually building the messages of support, and this is especially true if you are joining a club mid-season. It is also essential to explain your reasoning behind any planned changes. You have to make them believe in what you are trying to do; honesty is key if you want everyone on board.”
Since being back in the country, Hasselbaink has also coached with Woking, Nottingham Forest, Chelsea’s Under-16 squad and at the Nike Academy. The pressures of managing in Sky Bet League Two probably don’t compare to derby days as a player at the likes of Boavista, Leeds United, Atlético Madrid and Chelsea, but given the man he is, you feel Hasselbaink cares every bit as much… as do his players.