Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink on Mourinho, Chelsea and United's Opening Fixtures

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterJune 19, 2013

LONDON - APRIL 3:   Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink of Chelsea celebrates scoring the first goal past goalkeeper Kasey Keller of Tottenham Hotspur during the FA Barclaycard Premiership match between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea at White Hart Lane on April 3, 2004 in London.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Clive Rose/Getty Images

Football fans woke up to an air of trepidation on Wednesday morning, knowing that at 9 a.m., the all-important Barclay's Premier League fixture list would be released.

Twitter was awash with predictions, best and worst possible outcomes, hopes, fears and—to an extent—people claiming they'd seen the list already, delivering the information early.

Southampton were already assured to be playing Arsenal away, Norwich at home and Stoke away, while Liverpool were set for bouts against both Aston Villa and Stoke City simultaneously.

Every football fan yearned for 9 a.m., and when it came, the reaction was predictably mixed.

B/R caught up with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink to preview the fixtures, and the former Chelsea striker spoke of his old club's good chance of a great start under Jose Mourinho.

SAM TIGHE: As a player, does the opening day of the season hold an extra edge to it? The sun's out and the crowd feels different. Does that translate itself onto the field?

JIMMY FLOYD HASSELBAINK: Yes, it definitely does. Preseason is so long, you're working very hard for six weeks for that first game, making sure you're fit for it.

You see the stadium is full of fans. After weeks of conditioning, it feels a little bit special to be back.

ST: A lot of pundits often talk about the importance of that fabled "good start." Does the dressing room feel that pressure to start well?

JH: It's very important to get the first three points, but how much of an importance there is on securing them in the first game is down to the manager.

It does help, though, to settle the whole club down into the new season. People are on board, they're able to focus and you can go on a run [of results].

Last season, Reading did not secure a win until their 11th BPL fixture. It went on for so long, it's not what you want.

ST: Once the fixtures have been drawn, the players are aware of who they are facing in the big kickoff. Does it come up in training? Do the players talk about it or is it business as usual?

JH: It's largely business as usual. As a player, you know who are you are playing, and the manager might mention it and give specific instruction in reference to the fixture.

Players will think about it but they won't talk about it—the focus is on getting fit.

ST: Is there a certain fixture on the opening day that you'd want to avoid? What's the one to dodge?

JH: It depends what team you are. If you're a midtable club, you don't really want to land (for example) Hull City away on the first day.

You want to play at home—if possible—against the likes of Norwich City or Southampton. It's still going to be a hard game, but they've been in the Barclay's Premier League before and the expectation is a little bit different. The vibe is a little bit different.

If you go to Hull, Crystal Palace or Cardiff City, those places can be rocking. They're in the BPL, everybody is up for it, there's parties in the stands. You want to avoid that if you can.

ST: Looking at the opening day draw, which newly promoted side is in with the best chance of getting off to a great start?

JH: Hull are away to Chelsea, that's very difficult. Cardiff are away at West Ham, that is also going to be a tricky one. Nobody will expect Malky Mackay to get a win there. If he gets a draw it's a great point.

Crystal Palace, though, will fancy their chances against Tottenham at home. Spurs don't always start that well, and Selhurst Park will be bouncing.

Palace will be targeting three points, and they'll want to make a habit of winning at home. For all three clubs, it's very important that they make their home stadiums fortresses.

ST: If you could only watch one of the 10 opening day fixtures, which one would you choose? Which tie is a can't-miss prospect?

JH: I would watch Swansea City vs. Manchester United.

I like how the Swans play, I enjoy watching [Michael Laudrup's] team work. It's also David Moyes' first game as United manager, so it has to be that one.

ST: Chelsea have drawn Hull. Is that the perfect chance for Jose Mourinho to get off to a great start in an important season?

JH: On paper, he couldn't have asked for a better fixture to get things going. He'll be very happy with the draw.

ST: Finally, onto striking matters: You scored a debut goal for Leeds United, and there'll be plenty of pressure on incoming strikers this summer to do the same. Do players feel the need to grab a debut goal?

JH: It helps, it definitely helps. As soon as you score, a lot of weight is lifted from your shoulders. It helps you and everybody and everybody else settles down around you.

Much the same with the first three points—the sooner the better.

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was speaking at the launch of the 2013/14 Barclays Premier League fixtures. To hear Phil Neville, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Ray Parlour and John Hartson preview the new fixtures, download the exclusive podcast at: bit.ly/BPLfixtures


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