Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink: Looking back at Burton Albion’s recent success
PUBLISHED: 15:19 07 August 2015
As the new season starts, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink of League Two winners Burton Albion talks about his recent success
DESPITE leading Burton Albion to the third tier of English football there was no big celebration for Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink after promotion was secured at Morecambe’s Globe Arena. There was work still to be done, a title to win and Jimmy wouldn’t let his team rest until they secured the championship two weeks later with a dramatic last day of the season win at Cambridge.
That victory, coming from behind with only ten men to win 3-2, typified the spirit in the squad and the commitment to the cause demanded by the ‘gaffer’.
The former Holland international who played in the 1998 World Cup finals and who twice won the Golden Boot in the Premiership for his goal-scoring prowess, was a surprise appointment at the Pirelli Stadium last November.
Chairman Ben Robinson has a track record of giving young managers a stepping stone having appointed Neil Warnock, Nigel Clough and Gary Rowett. Unusually in football, Burton Albion is a place where fledgling managers get the chance to learn their trade and build a team. There’s no quick finger on the trigger if things go wrong.
Even so, it was a major coup for the League Two club to unveil the former Chelsea and Atletico Madrid striker as it looked to find a successor to Gary Rowett, who had moved onto Birmingham City. Gary had taken the club from League Two strugglers to two consecutive play offs but Jimmy found another gear and secured promotion at the first time of asking.
With assistant David Oldfield, Jimmy led his team to 19 victories in 30 games, losing only three times and never conceding more than one goal until that last match of a long season.
The fans began celebrating after securing automatic promotion at Morecambe with two games to spare but there was no champagne for Jimmy. He wasn’t content until the title was won on 2nd May in front of 2,000 travelling fans.
Even then it was a quiet celebration for this family man, whose daughters joined him on the pitch as the trophy was presented the following day back at the Pirelli Stadium.
‘I’m not a big drinker. I enjoy a glass of wine and you can let your guard down for one day, enjoy the moment and try to reflect on what you have achieved,’ he says.
‘It’s been a good season for the club, the supporters and the players, for everyone associated with Burton Albion. Winning the title made it even more special. We didn’t celebrate after winning promotion, we waited for the right moment.
‘Supporters have come in numbers so they deserve our attention and gratitude. At Morecambe we wanted to say thank you very much. But I did not celebrate. There was still work to be done to get over the line, only then could we have a celebration.
‘It’s about wanting to be the best and wanting to get to the top. In 10 years time that’s what you want to tell your family and your children and to look back on and remember.’
So how does this taste of success as a manager compare with the triumphs of his playing career?
‘You have to keep them separate, as a player and a manager. I’m just starting this career and they are totally different, you can’t compare.’
He’s also not looking back to his playing days anymore. ‘They are over,’ he says. ‘I don’t even know where my medals are. My wife will know where they are, but I’m not sentimental.’
So what is the Hasselbaink management style that has helped take the Brewers to the next level?
‘My style is hands on, flexible and determined. I like everyone to have an input but in a disciplined way. Express yourself but stay in that circle.
‘When players are doing things wrong, you need to tell them and to try to improve them but more importantly you have to tell them when they are doing things well. In this country we don’t do that enough.’
In his first job in English management it appears to have gone like dream but Jimmy says it has been tougher than fans might imagine.
‘It has not always been very smooth. You might not have noticed but that’s because we have kept it from you. At times during the season you get difficult moments. It’s a case of what you do in those moments, whether you panic or don’t. We have not made a fuss when we have had problems, such as our striker Jacob Blyth getting injured at a very important time. We didn’t moan or feel sorry for ourselves. We got on with the job and had to come up with a different idea of how to play.’
Working with young players and developing their skills is a particular passion for Jimmy.
‘That’s what England needs. I’m a big believer in working with young talent. It’s very important. I have been in this country since 1997 and it has been very good to me. For me, to work with British players and trying to make them better is fundamental – the core of my team has to be British.’
The Brewers train at the National Football Centre at St George’s Park where the big international clubs often take up residence. It was Chelsea that day, and a chance for Jimmy to chat with the likes of John Terry and Jose Mourinho.
‘We had a few words with the big boss – I know Mourinho,’ he says.
So is that the kind of manager he would like to emulate?
‘No you have to do it your own way,’ he says. ‘You have to listen to people. You can look at what others are doing but you have to be you. That’s what’s important.’
Ben Robinson describes Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink as an ‘inspirational man’ and there’s no doubt that he has intensified media interest in the club as well as taking the team up a division.
But with that success the interest in Jimmy and speculation linking him to other clubs is inevitable.
When we meet, it’s the Leeds United job that the media is associating him with.
He’s diplomatic in batting away the interest.
‘Leeds is a very beautiful club where I played for two years and have lots of friends but I have a good job here that I really like. It’s not nice to talk about these kind of things. Speculation – that’s football. I can’t help that, I can only concentrate on my job and what will be will be. This club is very close to my heart, I’m enjoying immensely this challenge. I have a good squad, boys I really like working with, but at the end of the day football is football and we know how it works in this industry. I will make decisions for myself with my brain not my heart.’
It’s inevitable that Jimmy will move on at some point, just as Nigel Clough and Gary Rowett did before him, but Burton Albion have already reaped the rewards of this appointment with both promotion and an increased profile.
That has enabled the club not only to move into League One but also to continue to grow its community activities through its charitable trust. The town of Burton is benefitting enormously from the continuing success of its football team and Brewers fans have an exciting season to look forward to when League One action comes to the Pirelli Stadium in August.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink is the latest chapter in this long-running success story.