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From working with Chelsea’s future superstars to nerve-racking relegation battles at Burton Albion, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s coaching journey has been unpredictable yet hugely rewarding.
He made his name in the Premier League as a feared striker with a penchant for the spectacular goal, primarily at Leeds and Chelsea, before embarking on a career path that has now taken him to the England set-up.
Hasselbaink, 51 on Monday, has been appointed to Gareth Southgate’s coaching staff and his main remit is to work with England’s strikers for the Euro 2024 campaign.
It is an unexpected but deserved promotion for the Dutchman, who has a relationship with Southgate which stretches back to their playing days at Middlesbrough.
An infectious character with a bubbly personality, Hasselbaink is also a highly-regarded coach who completed the Uefa pro-license in 2016.
He studied at St. George’s Park alongside former England internationals Scott Parker and Phil Neville, while Mark Sampson, the former England women’s manager, was also on the course.
While this position may have come as a surprise – he was working as a Sky Sports pundit before Southgate’s call – there is little doubt that he has put in the hard yards.
After retirement at the age of 36, his coaching journey started at Chelsea’s academy with the under-17s, while Carlo Ancelotti was in charge of the senior team.
An 18-month spell with Nottingham Forest followed, working first under Steve McClaren, before his first job as a No. 1 with Royal Antwerp.
Yet it was his return to England in November 2014, with Burton Albion, where Hasselbaink’s reputation began to rise.
Ben Robinson, the Burton chairman, appointed Hasselbaink twice and recalls a focused individual with ambition.
“Jimmy has a great vision of the game and is passionate about it,” he says.
“In the first spell he had great success and achieved the impossible by getting the club out of League Two and into League One.
“When he came back for the second time we were eight points adrift of safety and we went on a phenomenal run to survive that season.
“He’s always had a good track record working with attacking players and that was a big factor when he was with us.
“We managed to sign quite a few players on loan because of Jimmy’s reputation. He managed to develop a lot of careers during that time.”
During that first spell at Burton, his work was drawing attention. While studying in 2015 for his pro-license – the highest coaching accolade – Hasselbaink made the move to Queens Park Rangers in the Championship.
It proved a tough job, however, and he only lasted 11 months before the first dismissal of his coaching career.
Though it was a difficult assignment in west London, Hasselbaink still made an impression.
Karl Henry, the former QPR midfielder, says: “He was actually more focused on the defensive side, and defending from the front.
“I’ve seen a lot of attack-minded coaches and they are completely oblivious to keeping a clean sheet, but it was very important for Jimmy.
“He was heavily involved with the coaching and took a lot of the sessions.
“When he got sacked I read a few things that he had lost the dressing room, but I can categorically say that wasn’t the case.
“He was a genuine guy, a good man-manager, and we were all fighting for him. I can guarantee he will be well liked within the England set-up.”
After QPR there was a brief tenure at Northampton, and a second spell at Burton where he guided them out of relegation danger.
He resigned in September last year and there was uncertainty over where his next position would be.
After the departure of Chris Powell, England are expected to officially confirm Hasselbaink’s appointment before the Euro 2024 qualifier against Italy.
With Harry Kane one goal away from becoming England’s record scorer, Hasselbaink could be present for a notable moment in football’s recent history.
Ben Chilwell, the Chelsea defender, admitted England are “very lucky” to have Hasselbaink, and Southgate views him as a crucial hire.
Robinson says: “He always thinks positively and he will be great around the England players. If the place ever needs a lift, Jimmy will be one of those guys who improves the mood.”