Guus Hiddink gave his first press conference as Chelsea’s interim head coach on Wednesday with the veteran Dutchman in a reflective mood.
Hiddink, 69, replaced Jose Mourinho following the firing of the Portuguese boss last week — nine defeats in your opening 16 games of a season will do that to you — and although he was installed ahead of Chelsea’s 3-1 win against Sunderland on Saturday, his first game in charge will be against Watford on Boxing Day (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on USA and online via Live Extra).
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After arriving at Stamford Bridge on an interim basis in 2009, Hiddink won the FA Cup and led Chelsea to a third-place finish and a UEFA Champions League semifinal. This time around, he stopped short of making any specific goals for the month ahead but did say: “I shouldn’t be here halfway through the season. It means things are not going well. But anyhow, I am glad to be back. It is a few years ago I was here in a similar situation.”
Asked about the scenes on Saturday which saw the likes of Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas and Eden Hazard singled out for criticism by Chelsea’s fans as they believe the star players had a big part to play in Mourinho’s downfall, Hiddink revealed what he has told his players since arriving.
“I talked to the squad yesterday and we talked about the past a little – why I am here, the reason why we are down,” Hiddink said. “But I also told them things happen in football and I want everyone to look themselves in the mirror, for not just a second but for a long time, to see what anyone from now on can contribute to the way up.
“I emphasized that. And not to look back too much. We cannot ignore what has happened in the recent past but I have asked them to be professionals and see if they can give themselves the best of the team. So I like to look forward.”
Hiddink spoke calmly and impressively on a number of topics, praising Mourinho for his “many, many titles” and on the subject of Didier Drogba sat alongside himself and owner Roman Abramovich for the win against Sunderland, he had the following to say.
“I worked with Didier a while ago and he is a legend in this club,” Hiddink said. “At this moment he is playing in Montreal but all clubs have figures who can be ambassadors, coaches, manager or whatever, and they need the opportunity to do so. They give the brand Chelsea a big image worldwide.”
The man who was last in charge of the Dutch national team — his nomadic coaching career includes spells in Holland, Spain, Turkey, South Korea, Australia and Russia — refused to talk about staying at Chelsea any longer than the end of the season and was also asked about the possibility of Chelsea finishing in the top four.
“Mathematically it is possible,” Hiddink said. “If you can add up then it is possible but this league is very strong, which has been especially proven this year with all respect to the clubs at the top – Leicester, Crystal Palace, Watford… it is amazing and refreshing. It means that all the teams can kill each other.”
With Chelsea’s dreadful start to the season, the reigning champs have been killing themselves with poor displays leading to a plethora of defeats.
Let’s see if Hiddink’s positivity can rub off on the under-performing stars and kick-start a Chelsea revival.