JIMMY Floyd Hasselbaink is sitting in the Burton Albion Press room when he is asked whether he will swap his expensive tailoring for a tracksuit on the touchline.
“That depends how cold it is,” laughs the new Brewers boss. What about an umbrella if it rains? “Hey,” he says, instantly understanding the Steve McClaren reference and turning suddenly serious. “Watch it.”
To Hasselbaink, McClaren was never the Wally with the Brolly, even in those dark, sodden days when England crashed out of Euro 2008.
“I think the world of Steve,” said the Dutchman, who worked under the Derby manager as a player at Middlesbrough, then as a coach at Nottingham Forest.
“For me, he is a very important figure, a very good friend. He is someone I can always call, someone I respect and always listen to.
“I don’t call him Steve. I still call him boss. And to me, he is the best English coach working today. I really do believe that.
“It’s not fair how he has been treated, particularly by the written Press. He is someone who has taken a lot of criticism, undeservedly in my opinion.
“I know it is part of the job as a manager. But I think the English do like to kill their own a little bit too much. Steve is one of the good guys and I think he is very important to English football.”
Hasselbaink’s defence of McClaren is no surprise given the instrumental part the former England man played in his arrival at the Pirelli. When Gary Rowett left to join Birmingham last month, McClaren called Brewers chairman Ben Robinson out of the blue to recommend Hasselbaink.
“He told me all about his enthusiasm, his drive, the way he can be an inspiration to players,” said Robinson. “And when I met him in person, it was all true. He blew us away.”
Now, of course, it is Hasselbaink’s turn to see if he can avoid being skewered. Once the Premier League’s deadliest marksman on a salary of £50,000 per week, he has elected to begin his managerial journey in the murky depths of League Two, where he is likely to earn less in a year.
Didn’t he fancy something more, well, glamorous? “To me it is not about League One, League Two or whatever,” explains the 42-year-old, who won two Premier League golden boots and scored 195 goals in 468 games for the likes of Leeds, Chelsea and Ateltico Madrid.
“It is about the project. And the project here is great. Yes, many players start managing at the highest level. But how many of them stay there? You don’t have to serve your time but if you are a young manager and you start at the highest level, expectancy is a lot higher. That is not a good environment to learn.”
Still, it’s a rarity to see someone like him in these parts. Why don’t more high-profile players follow his lead?
“Why would they?” he says, only half joking. “These days, they are very, very rich. Me, I am not! But it is not about money. It is about football.
“I would go anywhere for football. It is my life. At home, I have a television designated to me, just to watch football.
“Not because I’m the boss. I am definitely not the boss at home. I have a wife and four girls – one 18, one seven, one five and one little baby. They are definitely in charge.
“I’ve got a little corner that is mine. And I talk about football so much that sometimes they get annoyed and my wife, she just says ‘Go to your TV, leave us alone’. I cannot live without it.”
Born in Suriname before moving to Holland, Hasselbaink has played in four countries, managed in another and speaks five languages. But England has long been home.
“Ever since I came to Chelsea, my home has always been England,” says Hasselbaink, who spent last season in charge of Belgian side Royal Antwerp while his family remained in Blighty.
“My wife is English, I speak mainly English. I even support England – after Holland of course!
“Right now, my home is in London. My kids are in school in Oxshott, Surrey and they are very happy and settled. I don’t want them disrupted. So I will start by having a flat here and then we will see.”
Hasselbaink was scathing of England’s attempts to lift a footballing philosophy from the continent.
“You can’t one week decide to play ‘the Spanish way’ and one week ‘the German way’,” he says. “You can take pieces, but you have to find the English way. What is that? Tempo. England teams I knew used to kill opponents with their tempo. That is what it is all about.”
And while he will try to add a touch of Dutch technique to Burton, he is not daft enough to rip up the groundwork that currently sees the Brewers pushing for League One.
“I want to introduce more passing, more work with the ball,” he adds. “But we will see what is possible. Gary has given us a great base and it would be foolish to change what is working.”
So what about star contacts? McClaren is just up the road. Brendan Rodgers has been in touch, so too Alan Pardew and Gus Poyet. Those hoping for a few Chelsea loanees may be disappointed though.
“Jose is a very private man,” he laughs. “And these days, security is pretty tight at the Bridge. It’s not like in my day!”