LONDON (Reuters) – Chelsea turned again to experienced Dutchman Guus Hiddink to guide them out of a crisis when they named him interim manager on Saturday for the rest of the season following the sacking of Jose Mourinho.
Hiddink, 69, had a caretaker spell in charge at Stamford Bridge in 2009 when Brazilian Luiz Felipe Scolari was fired and Chelsea went on to reach the Champions League semi-finals and win the FA Cup under his care.
“I am excited to return to Stamford Bridge. Chelsea is one of the biggest clubs in the world but is not where it should be at the moment. However, I am sure we can all turn this season around,” Hiddink said in a club statement.
Hiddink’s first priority will be to breathe some life into Chelsea’s Premier League campaign after the champions lost nine of their first 16 matches this season — a calamitous run that ended with three-times title winner Mourinho’s dismissal on Thursday.
Chelsea, embroiled in their worst start to a league season since 1978, are one point above the relegation zone ahead of Saturday’s home clash with fellow strugglers Sunderland. Hiddink will attend the match although assistant coaches Steve Holland and Eddie Newton will take charge.
Mourinho was sacked for the second time as Chelsea manager on Thursday, seven months after leading them to the title.
The Portuguese was also fired in 2007, having won back-to-back league titles, after falling out with the club’s billionaire Russian owner Roman Abramovich.
Since signing off from Chelsea with an FA Cup win over Everton, Hiddink has been manager of Turkey, Russian club side Anzi Makhachkala and most recently a dismal second spell as Netherlands coach which ended in his sacking after they failed to qualify for next year’s Euro 2016 finals.
However, he made a great impression in his brief stay in London in 2009 and proved popular with the Chelsea players.
Further ahead he will have the chance to steer Chelsea in the Champions League in which they face Paris St Germain in the last 16 when the tournament resumes in February.
Hiddink has enjoyed an itinerant career that has included a spell at Real Madrid and national team roles with South Korea, Russia and Australia.
He took his first head coach’s job at PSV Eindhoven in 1987 and won the Dutch title in three consecutive seasons as well as winning the European Cup in 1988.
After leaving PSV and joining Fenerbahce in 1990, he returned to the club in 2002 and won three more league titles in a four-year spell.
(By Martyn Herman, editing by Justin Palmer)