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Chelsea’s current interim manager Guus Hiddink is a legend in footballing circles and tellingly, has achieved success wherever he has chanced his hand. Hiddink, born in November 1946, started his career as a player with De Graafschap in his native Holland. His time there was punctuated by an unsuccessful season at PSV Eindhoven, before a return to De Graafschap. This was followed by a move to the US, where Hiddink played for the Washington Diplomats and the San Jose Earthquakes in consecutive seasons, before moving back to Holland to sign with NEC. In 1981 he played a final season at De Graafschap, before retiring at the age of 36. Hiddink’s playing career had been moderately successful, however his management career has turned him into a football legend, and a national hero in many a country.
Hiddink started his life in the dugout as assistant coach at De Graafschap, before taking over the top job at PSV Eindhoven in 1987. Here, he enjoyed immediate success, winning the now defunct European Cup in 1988, as well as three Eredivisie titles, before his departure in 1990.
He spent a solitary season at Fenerbache in Turkey, before moving to Spanish giants Valencia. However, he departed at the end of 1994, to take up his first job as an international manager, taking over as manager of the Dutch national team on January 1, 1995.
It was in this occupation that Hiddink truly cemented his reputation as a manager of outstanding quality. His ability to gather his thoughts at short notice and to optimise the performance of any group of players had him earmarked as one of the brightest in the game. Crucially, the manner in which he is able to influence matches from the sideline and adapt to different situations during the match itself, and his exceptional motivational skills, set Hiddink apart from his contemporaries.
Hiddink is also a disciplinarian, though popular with the players he manages. However, this didn’t stop him from sending fiery midfielder Edgar Davids home from the Euro ’96 tournament, which saw Holland qualify for the second round despite being famously thumped 4-1 by a rampant England at Wembley in the group stages. Regardless, they weren’t able to progress beyond the quarter finals, losing to France 5-4 on penalties, after a 0-0 draw over 120 minutes.
Nonetheless, Hiddink remained in charge through to the 1998 World Cup. His side qualified for the second round out of a relatively weak group, containing Mexico, the Korean Republic and Belgium, the highlight being the 5-0 thrashing of the Koreans in the second match. To say that the round of 16 match against Yugoslavia was eventful, would be to show a mastery of understatement. Holland lead through a Dennis Bergkamp goal, only for the Yugoslavs to equalise just after half time. With the match looking certain to head to extra time, Edgar Davids won redemption, scoring in injury time to send the Dutch through.
Likewise in the quarter finals, Hiddink’s side left it late to secure their passage through to the next round, Bergkamp’s famously brilliant 89th minute goal enough to beat Argentina 2-1. The Dutch side were earning praise for their enterprising and entertaining brand of football, and Davids would go on to earn a place in the team of the tournament. Unfortunately, despite another late equaliser in the semi final, from Patrick Kluivert, the Dutch were unable to defeat Brazil. After 120 minutes and with the score locked at 1-1, penalties were to decide the victor, and with Cocu and Ronald de Boer unsuccessful, Holland were knocked out.
This so ended Hiddink’s tenure as Holland coach, his resignation tendered at the conclusion of the tournament. Nonetheless, his services were still in high demand, and he signed as coach of Spanish giants Real Madrid in the summer of 1998. Typically blunt and occasionally outspoken, Hiddink was sacked in February 1999, after making disparaging remarks about the board and the club’s finances. When Hiddink reportedly stated that the club needed to be more professional, Club President Lorenzo Sanz reportedly stated, “If he said it, he’ll be gone in five minutes”.
Hiddink’s next job was also in Spain, taking over as temporary manager of Real Betis in 2000. This situation wasn’t to end favourably though, as he was sacked at the end of the season. With rumours abound about a move to Celtic, Hiddink weighed up his options and decided to move back into international management, a situation which optimised his strengths as a manager. The next few years truly cemented Hiddink’s position as one of the top managers in the game.
The 2002 FIFA World Cup was hosted jointly by South Korea and Japan, and the opportunity to manage on the biggest stage in world football saw Hiddink sign with the South Korean national team, in early 2001.
His reputation as a fitness guru and disciplinarian again came to the fore, as in the months prior to the tournament, Hiddink ran his troops into the ground, determined to form a base from which the South Koreans could maintain a base of competitiveness – they made the semi finals. This incredible achievement was exemplified by the fact that in five previous world cup tournaments, South Korea had yet to even win a match. This time around though, they defeated Poland, drew with the USA and then snatched a fanciful 1-0 win over Portugal. The second round saw South Korea unbelievably defeat Italy 2-1 after extra time and then somehow defeat tournament heavyweights Spain 1-0 in the quarter final. Asian football hadn’t seen anything like this ever – “Hiddink for President” was an indication of his popularity. Unfortunately the fairytale ended in the semi final, where the South Koreans were defeated by eventual runners up Germany. It mattered little to the local fraternity though, as Hiddink became the first foreigner to be awarded an honorary citizenship. Other perks followed, including free flights for life on Korean Airlines, and one of the world cup stadiums being renamed “Guus Hiddink Stadium” in his honour. In his home town in Holland, a “Guuseum” was set up to commemorate his career.
Hiddink moved back to club football for the 2002-2003 season, rejoining PSV Eindhoven. He was immediately successful, both domestically and in European competition, winning the Dutch Eredivisie three times, as well as the Dutch Cup and Dutch Super Cup during his time there. He also guided PSV to the semi finals of the 2004-2005 Champions League, where they lost out on away goals to AC Milan. His second spell in Holland made him the most successful Dutch coach in the history of football.
What followed was perhaps his biggest challenge yet. In an unexpected coup, the Football Federation of Australia signed Hiddink to prepare for Australia’s world cup qualification playoff against Uruguay, and the tournament itself, should they qualify. He would continue in his role at PSV during this time. “Aussie Guus” as he is still affectionately known, guided Australia to their first world cup in 32 years, by virtue of a 4-2 penalty shootout win after extra time in the second leg, in Sydney. Both matches had ended 1-0 to the home sides, before John Aloisi netted his famous spot kick to send Australia through, after Mark Schwarzer’s two shootout saves.
The world cup itself was a success. Typically, Hiddink moulded the side into an immensely fit, tactically disciplined unit. In the first match, he presided over the most famous match in Australia’s footballing history, the incredible 3-1 comeback win against the Japanese. A loss to Brazil and a nailbiting 1-1 draw with Croatia were enough to guide the Socceroos into the second round. Unfortunately though, a controversial Francesco Totti penalty at the very end of the match saw Australia defeated 1-0 and thus knocked out of the competition.
Next for Hiddink was at one of his current jobs, the Russian national team, where his wages are paid at least in part by Roman Abramovich. Despite qualification being in doubt at one stage, Hiddink secured their passage through to the Euro 2008 tournament in Austria and Switzerland. Once there though, the Russians caused waves, beating defending champions Greece in the group stage and Hiddink’s native Holland en route to the semi finals, where they were defeated 3-0 by eventual tournament winners, Spain. Particularly, the performances of Roman Pavlyuchenko and Andrei Arshavin stood out, earning them big money moves to Tottenham and Arsenal respectively.
After the tournament, Hiddink elected to continue on. Nevertheless, the prompt sacking of Luiz Felipe Scolari in February of this year, presented Hiddink with the opportunity to become interim manager for the remainder of the season, whilst juggling his commitments with Russia. As a favour for Abramovich he agreed, and so far has embarked on a successful tenure as Chelsea manager. All of his famous managerial traits will be required if Chelsea are to win any of the three competitions they still remain in this season, but as the Australian fans coined back in 2006 - in Guus we trust!