Kenny Jackett made his return to management last week after being out of the game since August, after his removal by the new regime at Wolves on the eve of the season. Rotherham United’s new manager is a man for the firefight that he faces at the New York Stadium. Tom Simmonds, who witnessed a large percentage of the games Jackett oversaw as Millwall manager, explains.
When Swansea City appointed Bob Bradley as their new manager to much outward derision during the international break, Jackett will undoubtedly have had a sly laugh to himself. The fact Swansea’s managerial appointments are in any way resonant outside of South Wales, let alone the subject of widespread discussion across the planet, has quite a lot to do with Jackett and the groundwork he put in at a time when The Jacks had to be built from the bottom up.
Jackett arrived at Swansea in April 2004, with the club loafing in the middle reaches of the bottom division of the Football League, having two years earlier emerged from a protracted ownership battle which saw the club pass into fan ownership.
Jackett’s management saw Swansea start to prosper on the pitch. Despite losing his first six games, Swansea won promotion in 2004-05 and reached the play-off final in what is now League One the following season (their first at the Liberty Stadium), losing out on promotion to Barnsley on penalties. Jackett also delivered a trophy when Swansea edged past Carlisle 2-1 in the Football League Trophy final.
That was as good as it got for Jackett in South Wales. He resigned mid-season in 2005-06 after an underwhelming start. The Swans replaced him with Roberto Martinez and continued their ascent towards the Premier League on the foundation Jackett and the fan owners built.
Jackett’s next job was an even stiffer challenge. He took the Millwall job in November 2007 with a quote from David Moyes “if you can manage that club, you can manage any club” ringing in his ears. Millwall were in free fall and in danger of being relegated to League Two. Jackett applied himself in much the same way as he did at Swansea, concentrating on tightening the defence and building an unshowy, unpretentious team in his own image. A 17th-place finish was achieved, followed by two play-off final appearances and promotion in 2010.
That upward curve continued with three seasons in the Championship, all of which contained streaks of exhilarating form enabled by the likes of James Henry, Steve Morison and stellar but transient loan signings including Jason Puncheon, Harry Kane, Andros Townsend and Chris Wood. An FA Cup semi-final appearance in 2013 was achieved against a backdrop of an alarming descent in the League, almost directly resultant of Wood’s departure, which proved another example of Jackett’s achievements with little resource.
Jackett’s at Wolves, while perhaps not as fondly remembered as it should be, must be seen in correct context. Jackett delivered immediate promotion and the League One title upon appointment and stabilised the club in the Championship again. He righted a ship that had come loose from its moorings giving it a platform on which success could be built. A look at Jackett’s career shows this is his speciality, and he is extremely good at it.
Millers fans should be extremely heartened by this appointment. Jackett, while nowhere near as bombastic as Neil Warnock, seems to be blessed with a similar ability to engender revivals of the sort the Yorkshireman inspired at Rotherham last season.
Even if Jackett can’t save Rotherham this season, faith should be kept. His record when given time at a club speaks for itself and he has an unrivalled record for making mid-sized clubs overachieve for a period.
Rotherham fans-are you happy with the appointment of Kenny Jackett?
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