Boss Has­sel­baink off to flier with the Cob­blers

The Football League Paper - - FRONT PAGE - By John Lyons

IT DIDN’T take Jimmy Floyd Has­sel­baink long to make an im­pact as Northamp­ton Town manager – his new side scored the win­ner against Don­caster af­ter just 21 sec­onds! The Cob­blers then held on to se­cure their first league points of the sea­son and climb off the bot­tom of the ta­ble.

“I en­joyed be­ing back to­day and my voice is now gone,” said a de­lighted Has­sel­baink. “That’s a plat­form on which we can build.”

WHEN Jimmy Floyd Has­sel­baink ar­rived at QPR in De­cem­ber 2015, his mes­sage to the play­ers was sim­ple.

“If you want to be suc­cess­ful,” he an­nounced, “you have to train hard. And that train­ing has to be harder than games.”

Over the next 12 months, the for­mer Chelsea striker proved as good as his word. Drills, shut­tles, bleep tests. The reg­i­men that had pow­ered Bur­ton Al­bion to pro­mo­tion was ruth­lessly im­ple­mented at Lof­tus Road.

“I’ve been at a lot of clubs at a lot of lev­els,” re­marked mid­field gen­eral Karl Henry, “but I’ve never trained as hard as I did un­der Jimmy.”

This time, how­ever, the re­sults were very dif­fer­ent. Some play­ers mu­tinied. Oth­ers flagged. Ei­ther way, the Hoops side that kicked off the 2016-17 cam­paign was leggy and brit­tle – the ex­act op­po­site of what Has­sel­baink tried to achieve. By Novem­ber, the 45-year-old was gone.

So as Has­sel­baink re­turns to man­age­ment with Northamp­ton in League One, will the whip fi­nally fall limp? Not likely.

“That’s ex­actly the mes­sage we got from the new gaffer,” says Cob­blers striker Alex Rev­ell, pic­tured right. “In terms of fitness, he wants peo­ple to be at the top. And if you’re not at the top, you won’t play. It re­ally is as sim­ple as that.” Is this just Has­sel­baink be­ing the “stub­born Dutch boy” he de­scribed him­self as dur­ing an in­ter­view last year? Or jus­ti­fied faith in meth­ods that have worked be­fore? For Ben Robin­son, the Bur­ton chair­man who worked at close quar­ters with Has­sel­baink, it is the lat­ter. “Jimmy wants his play­ers

to be as pas­sion­ate and ded­i­cated and driven as he is,” ex­plains the 71-yearold. “At clubs with a cer­tain ethic, that’s not a prob­lem. At oth­ers, it is.

“I’m not say­ing QPR had ego­tis­ti­cal play­ers but, some­times, the size of the con­tract can cre­ate is­sues when things get tough.

“When a manager joins a club and he’s try­ing to ap­ply his method­ol­ogy, it’s not al­ways well re­ceived. But that’s when the board needs to stick by him and say ‘He’s the boss, not you’.


“One of the big­gest prob­lems in our game is that young man­agers don’t get enough time to work through those dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions.

“All man­agers have blips. Sadly, very few get the op­por­tu­nity to adapt their meth­ods and show their re­silience. I do feel that was the case with Jimmy at QPR.”

Those “is­sues” shouldn’t arise at Northamp­ton, at least ac­cord­ing to Rev­ell.

“When some­one like Jimmy walks into your club, re­spect is in­stant,” says the for­mer Rother­ham, Cardiff and Brighton man. “He’s done so much in the game al­ready that you’d be daft not to lis­ten when he speaks.

“He’s told us about the way he wants us to train and play. We all know it’s not go­ing to hap­pen overnight. You can’t change ev­ery­thing at once. It’s im­pos­si­ble be­cause the games come

too fast.

“He’s put his points across. We’ve worked hard tac­ti­cally all week. He ba­si­cally said ‘This is a re­ally good squad that isn’t in the right po­si­tion and it’s my job to turn that around’.”

Northamp­ton’s play­ers can ex­pect to see an aw­ful lot of Has­sel­baink. Though based in Sur­rey, he spent ev­ery day at Bur­ton’s train­ing base in St Ge­orge’s Park, a five-hour round trip.

Robin­son de­scribed him as a “track­suit” manager, a view en­dorsed by QPR de­fender James Perch. “He’s very hands on,” said the 31-year-old. “He al­ways wants to be on the train­ing ground and in­volved with ev­ery­thing. “I’ve worked with old school man­agers who aren’t tak­ing train­ing ses­sions and you might not see them un­til Thurs­day morn­ing.

“Then I’ve worked with a cou­ple who want to do ev­ery­thing – take train­ing, do the warm up and spend as much time as they can with play­ers. Jimmy’s def­i­nitely one of those.” And he will need to be if Northamp­ton – tipped by many as a play-off dark horse are to be roused from their stu­por. Pre-week­end, the Cob­blers had lost all four league games, with for­mer manager Justin Ed­in­burgh sacked af­ter a 4-1 de­feat to Peter­bor- ough. At Lof­tus Road, Has­sel­baink was of­ten crit­i­cised for a fo­cus on neg­a­tive, safety-first foot­ball. Hav­ing shipped ten goals so far, no­body at Six­fields is likely to com­plain if the bar­ri­cades go up.

“When­ever a manager goes, it re­flects badly on us as play­ers,” adds Rev­ell. “It means we haven’t been good enough. And let’s be hon­est with the play­ers who came in, we ex­pected to be up at the other end of the ta­ble.


“We’ve been frus­trated. Justin was frus­trated. None of us could put our fin­ger on what was go­ing wrong.

“We’ve been in all the games. Even Charl­ton when we lost 4-1. Only Peter­bor­ough was a re­ally poor per­for­mance. We de­served to lose and, at that point, I think the club de­cided to act.

“See­ing Justin go was an aw­ful feel­ing. That’s some­one’s job. They’ve got fam­ily, re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. They’ve worked hard to get into that po­si­tion.

“Play­ers aren’t heart­less, but the na­ture of the in­dus­try is that you have to for­get about all that and keep go­ing. Be­cause three, four, five days later there’s an­other game.

“Now the onus is on us to keep the new gaffer in a job. It’s re­ally about be­liev­ing in what the new manager is telling us.

“Do that, take on board what he wants and who knows? Four games is noth­ing. Get on a good run and all of a sud­den the bad start is for­got­ten. We’re work­ing hard to put it right. We re­ally are.”

And if Has­sel­baink gets his way, they’ll work a lot harder yet.

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

PLENTY TO PON­DER: Jimmy Floyd Has­sel­baink has a big chal­lenge at Northamp­ton Town

PIC­TURE: PSI/Den­nis Good­win

LAST STRAW: Mar­cus Mad­di­son’s penalty in a 4-1 de­feat vs Peter­bor­ough spelt the end for Justin Ed­in­burgh, in­set

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