Foot in both camps: Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink
feature Sun 7 May 2017
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink is a true Chelsea legend having scored 87 goals during his four-year spell at the club before he moved to Middlesbrough in the summer of 2004. We hear from the Dutchman ahead of Monday’s meeting between his two former teams…
As debuts go, scoring a goal at Wembley in a victory against the then champions of England is difficult to top.
For Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, who netted the opener in our 2-0 win over Manchester United in the 2000 Charity Shield, it was the sweetest of starts to his Chelsea career, and over the course of the next four years he displayed a clinical, ruthless streak in front of goal which proved decisive for the team on countless occasions.
A week after the goal against United he was on target again as he made his league bow in a home game against West Ham United and, by the end of October, he had already scored 11 times, including four in a 6-1 win over Coventry City.
Hasselbaink had arrived that summer as the club’s record signing, brought in from Atletico Madrid for £15million. His passion for scoring goals was clear for all to see and he quickly became a popular figure among supporters, who would serenade the Dutchman with chants of ‘Oh, Jimmy Jimmy…’
‘The fans have always been nice to me, so I remember them with affection,’ Hasselbaink says.
‘They were always singing my name and cheering me on from the word go. That meant a lot because previously I had obviously left England, when I left Leeds, in a little bit of turmoil and coming back I had a little bit of pressure from the same journalists and stuff. But to be held high by my own fans really helped.
‘I remember it when I came back to the Bridge with Charlton and they applauded me when I scored. The amount of love I got from the Chelsea fans was just immense. I had to do a job for Charlton and I was trying to win, obviously, but it was a way of showing my respect and admiration to the fans – to acknowledge them when I scored and not to celebrate. That was the only way to do it.’
Hasselbaink ended his first season as a Chelsea player by finishing as the Premier League’s top scorer with 23 goals, including brilliant strikes against both Manchester United, in Claudio Ranieri’s first game, and Arsenal.
Plenty more goals followed throughout his Chelsea career, and what made Hasselbaink so dangerous was the fact he could score in a variety of ways. Deadly from distance, he was also the type of striker who defenders couldn’t take their eyes off in the penalty area, and one-on-one with the keeper, you would always back him to come out on top.
Those in attendance will never forget the perfect hat-trick he netted in a 4-0 league win against Tottenham in March 2002: a delightful right-footed lob, a clinical header and an unstoppable left-footed curler.
‘I’ve always said those were the most important four years of my career and the best time of my career,’ he acknowledges. ‘I loved every minute of it. I established myself and felt at home.
‘I was always welcomed and I must say, when I played at Leeds, they welcomed me as well, but I left there in turmoil. At Boro I also had a really good time and we achieved a lot of great things but that was in the later part of my career.
‘At all three clubs I have great memories but with Chelsea it’s a little bit more special because it was a time when I had to really prove myself. I was bought for a record fee at the time, £15million, but looking back I had a lot of fun moments.’
Supporters who watched the Blues in action around that time will fondly remember the partnership between Hasselbaink and Eidur Gudjohnsen, the technically-gifted Icelandic forward who also moved to Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2000, with the duo enjoying an almost telepathic understanding on the pitch.
After scoring 39 times between them during their first season at the club it was the following year, 2001/02, when they really clicked. Hasselbaink and Gudjohnsen were outstanding and 52 goals were shared between the pair as we reached the FA Cup final, which the Dutchman featured in despite not being 100 per cent fit.
‘We lost to Arsenal in Cardiff,’ Hasselbaink remembers. ‘I went into the game with a bit of an injury, I didn’t know what it was at the time but it didn’t feel good. I then found out I had a blocked vein which is quite dangerous.’
Hasselbaink’s strike partnership with Gudjohnsen ranks as one of the best in the club’s history, and the Dutchman explains why it worked so well.
‘They were the good old days, at the worst training ground in England,’ he laughs. ‘Because Eidur speaks Dutch we hit it off straight away. We stayed in the same hotel for the first two or three months because I’d come from abroad and he came from Bolton.
‘Off the ball we knew exactly where each other were, on the ball I knew exactly where he was going to play it. On the pitch we used to speak Dutch, but sometimes we wouldn’t even need to speak.’
Hasselbaink scored 18 goals during 2003/04, despite not starting as many games as he had grown accustomed to previously following the arrival of big-money signings Hernan Crespo and Adrian Mutu, and it proved to be his final season at the club before he headed back up north to join Middlesbrough.
The Dutchman was replaced as the focal point of our attack by Didier Drogba, who went on to write his own Chelsea history by scoring 164 goals for the club over the course of two separate spells.
The Ivorian then made way for Diego Costa who, like Hasselbaink, moved to Stamford Bridge from Atletico Madrid. Of the seven Chelsea players to reach the 50-goal mark in the Premier League, only Hasselbaink got there faster than Diego Costa, and he has been hugely impressed with the powerful attacker.
‘He’s a quality striker and a very important figure in the team with his goals and the way he leads the line,’ explains Hasselbaink. ‘He bullies defenders and it’s great to see. He scores a lot of goals which is really important and since he’s come to England he’s adapted very well.
‘Chelsea are playing as a team and that’s the most important thing. They defend together and attack together. They’re very well organised and always look in control.’
Hasselbaink, who will be at Stamford Bridge to watch Monday's game, enjoyed his time at Middlesbrough and scored 34 goals for the Teessiders, including their first-ever in European competition.
‘Steve McClaren was the one who took me from Chelsea to Middlesbrough and it was a really good two years for me there,’ he recalls.
‘We finished in the club’s highest ever position in the Premier League, we got into Europe and we reached the UEFA Cup final, where we lost to Sevilla, so I have great memories from my time there, it’s really important to me.’
John Terry is the only player at Chelsea who remains from Hasselbaink’s time, with the curtain set to come down on the skipper’s own magnificent Blues career at the end of this season.
Hasselbaink was a team-mate of Terry’s on many occasions, and watched him develop from a promising young defender into one of the finest performers to grace the Premier League.
‘We didn’t know what he would go on to achieve, but we knew how good a defender he was,’ he says. ‘He wasn’t afraid. As a young boy, he didn’t care who was in front of him.
‘He had two good feet, he was intelligent and he knew where he had to be in the box in order to defend. He scored goals and he could pick a pass.’