Boss Hasselbaink off to flier with the Cobblers
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
“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.
PLENTY TO PONDER: Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink has a big challenge at Northampton Town
LAST STRAW: Marcus Maddison’s penalty in a 4-1 defeat vs Peterborough spelt the end for Justin Edinburgh, inset