Gone for a Burton: where and when did it all go wrong for Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink?

Gone for a Burton: where and when did it all go wrong for Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink?

In his first column for The Near Post, Edward Walker gives us the inside track on how Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s second spell in charge of Burton Albion unravelled.

How do you sum up Burton Albion’s start to the 2022/23 season? Words come to mind, but I don’t think they’re family friendly ones.

It’s been a very mixed 20 months with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink at the helm of Burton Albion. Rewind back to the end of 2020/21 and he seemingly could do no wrong. Taking over with the Brewers rock bottom of League One, Hasselbaink was given the chance to greatly enhance and overhaul the squad during the January window. He was rewarded with play-off form that took Burton out of the bottom four in the space of just a couple of months, including a club-record run of six consecutive football league wins. Everyone had written Burton Albion off after the first half of the campaign and to turn it around in such a short space of time was one of the greatest escapes we’ve probably ever seen at this level.

Entering the 2021/22 season, what you always want at the very least as a football fan is a sign of progression. The start couldn’t have been more perfect. Three wins from three, including victories over two promotion favourites, and a solid first month of points that left Burton flirting with the early frontrunners in League One. Even as the season progressed, they remained a competent top half/mid-table outfit that was well clear of any potential relegation trouble.

If you want to work out where it all began to go wrong for the Brewers, you can start by looking at the beginning of 2022. The January window hit Burton hard as a large chunk of the team’s goals departed. Tom O’Connor was sold to Wrexham, Kane Hemmings moved on to Tranmere Rovers, Lucas Akins signed for Mansfield Town, and the most painful exit of the lot was Daniel Jebbison being recalled by Sheffield United on the final day of the window. Unable to replace what had gone, Burton really tailed off in the backend of 2021/22. Their final 15 games brought 13 points. Only Fleetwood Town and the relegated pair of Crewe Alexandra and AFC Wimbledon collected fewer. The goals started flying into the Burton net as a reactive approach to matches started to become apparent. Burton’s line-ups were essentially sent out to test the waters each match and then would often find themselves having to react to more-structured sides putting goals past them in the first half. There were the high profile free agent signings of Oumar Niasse and Adlene Guedioura, who both showed their quality with goals. Niasse was never likely to stay beyond the end of his short-term contract and Guedioura had only joined Burton to get back into the Algeria frame and try to help his country qualify for the upcoming World Cup. He was gone not long after Algeria failed to qualify for Qatar.

For the final third of last season, Burton Albion had games where they didn’t just look bad – they looked dreadful. It left many fans believing that retaining Hasselbaink for another season would not be a good idea and his relationship with the supporters was tested further during the summer when the news came out that he was one of the candidates being interviewed for the vacant Barnsley job. I still firmly maintain my belief that picking Michael Duff over him was absolutely the right decision for Barnsley.

The signs were there even in pre-season of what might be coming. Results in pre-season are something that I care very little about, but when you are consistently finding yourselves coming off second best against opposition both higher and lower down the pyramid than you, it doesn’t bode well. Those poor performances carried over into the start of the season and, unsurprisingly, they’ve left Burton Albion bottom of League One.

In my opinion, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink should not have begun this season as Burton Albion manager, but what’s happened since has happened and it can’t be changed. These first seven league games have been a waste but, thankfully, it is only seven league games and not more…

Edward Walker is the founder of The Matchday Man (https://www.thematchdayman.com/) – an online stadium guide for football fans, from first-time visitors to the most loyal supporters. You can find Edward on Twitter (@edward_w97) and you can hear from him on the D3D4 podcast (http://d3d4football.com/).

(Photo Creds – Charlie David)