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Hasselbaink can take us to the next level

Tom Reed runs the rule over the famous new Cobblers manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink…

Cobblers Chairman Kelvin Thomas moved swiftly to appoint the ex-Chelsea forward Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink as Northampton Town manager. Now it is up to the Dutchman with thighs as thick as the Express Lifts tower to elevate Northampton from the bottom of League 1 following Justin Edinburgh’s departure.

Hasselbaink arrives as a popular choice for the Sixfields hot-seat having a solid enough record in his previous jobs at Queens Park Rangers and Burton Albion while also offering a tactical fluidity away from Edinburgh’s despised 3-5-2.

Town supremo Thomas was under pressure to deliver a bullet-proof choice after appointing two duds in Robert Page and Edinburgh who were fired without seeing out a year in the job. And, it seems Hasselbaink ticks a number of boxes for majority owners 5USports as Northampton look to turn their season around.

The well travelled Hasselbaink, who hit the net 70 times in 136 outings for Chelsea in the Premier League as well as being capped 23 by the Netherlands will bring a cultured eye and good contacts to Sixfields. Indeed, Hasselbaink is fondly remembered, closer to home, in Staffordshire where he guided Burton Albion to the League 2 title in 2014. Hasselbaink, or JFH for short, then left Burton for Queens Park Rangers with the Brewers bubbling away at the top of League 1.

It’s fair to say that things were far from smooth at Loftus Road with the club adjusting to regime change under billionaire Tony Fernandes and coping with one of the most competitive leagues on the planet. Hasselbaink guided the Hoops to 12th place in his first season but was then relieved of his job in November 2016 with QPR in 17th place in the Championship. However, QPR under Fernandes is a world away from the Cobblers under Kelvin Thomas and the Town board were clearly impressed with Hasselbaink’s 61.1 % win ratio in his time at Burton Albion. JFH’s stats at QPR are not too shabby in any case with 14 wins only slightly overshadowed by 15 defeats in 42 matches.

Unfortunately, Hasselbaink was part of a Daily Telegraph sting at the time after allegedly asking for a £55,000 fee for work in the Far East. But QPR ended its investigation after the newspaper failed to present any evidence with Fernandes calling JFH a ‘decent man who works his socks off for QPR’.

So QPR’s loss could be Northampton’s gain with Hasselbaink dropping down a level and taking over at Sixfields. Fans will be pleased with their new manager’s fondness for the 4-2-3-1 formation while Hasselbaink also utilised a 4-1-4-1 counter-attacking lineup at Burton.

Indeed JFH’s approach to football quoted in a more positive Telegraph piece from 2014 could be tailor made for the Shoe Army faithful: “The perfect way for me is if the keeper can roll the ball out, and we play the ball from back to front. With a lot of movement from the midfield and the strikers, and a lot of creativity. And when we don’t have the ball, that we are very aggressive to get the ball back”. Hasselbaink has travelled widely in his year’s hiatus from the game, coaching in countries such as Turkey while also studying for his LMA Diploma in Football Management

It makes sense that 5USports would opt for a ‘name’ appointment given the publicity potential back in China, something that PR unfriendly Justin Edinburgh would have struggled with. Hasselbaink’s coaching ability will come in useful too with the Cobblers’ recruitment all but finished and the Town boss expected to get the best out of the talented but under-performing bunch at his disposal.

Of course it hasn’t been plain sailing for the man from Dutch colony Suriname and people will be quick to point to Hasselbaink’s stuttering career trajectory as reason to be wary of handing him the Town job. Others will look at his time at Burton and the stupendously well kitted out training facility at St George’s Park as the catalyst for his success there. However, any keen lower league fans will tell you that most of the sports science goes out the window on a wet Tuesday night at Rochdale and then managers are left with their coaching and motivational ability to eek out small margin victories.

Given a fairly strict budget and scouting guidance from the savvy Graham Carr there is no reason why Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink can’t turn into a fine manager for the Cobblers. Indeed, Hasselbaink is a ‘next level’ acquisition that will get the town talking and worth a signature for the PR benefits alone. Make no mistake, one corner of this claret and white town is about to turn Oranje.

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