By Dan Brett
After a spate of woeful performances from Pompey, with a significant halo around Kenny Jackett’s style of play, it’s no wonder why supporters are questioning the manager’s longevity at the club.
Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Wycombe would’ve done little to preserve even the most stern of the club’s in-favour fanbase, with “we want Jackett out” heard prominently during the second half.
However, time’s not just running out on the Blues boss – but also on the Eisner leadership, who’ve yet to show their mettle in handling mid-season shakeups in their senior leadership team.
Snippets of Mark Catlin’s August update nodded to no immediate action to even question his performance as the Fratton Park boss, but a number of questions still linger across the broad fanbase.
My take on Jackett’s reign is one of a slight improvement on Paul Cook; a leader who, whilst reserved, leads from within. No post-match explosions, no pitch-side furore. Calm, cool, collected.
That said, there’s no doubting Cook’s style of play excited and draw more inspiration from pitch to the stands. But (and the one thing I think many have forgotten) is that even Cook knew when he had to play ugly to win.
Jackett isn’t entirely different in that regard. However worryingly for Pompey, is the inability to close out a game, or go for the kill with a player advantage.
There’s been multiple occasions this season with Pompey heralding a man advantage but, for one reason or another – whether that’s failed tactics or lacklustre effort – the Blues have either failed to capitalise on a possible three points, or have altogether folded and handed the win away.
The jury’s still out, too, on his decision to axe two key players of leadership responsibilities as Brett Pitman and Gareth Evans lost the captaincy and vice roles respectively, with the boss offering roles to Tom Naylor – who arguably has impressed and been ever-present since joining – and left-back Lee Brown.
Whether that was the right call or not remains to be seen, and once again we’re seeing the very best of Pompey social media as the split fanbase both support the move to reward two regular starters, while others (including myself) question Pitman’s omission entirely… not just with the captaincy.
You look at his managerial reign at other clubs and there’s a similar trend that follows suit. He’s a strong leader however, especially at his time at Wolves, plenty of (very similar) questions were asked about the playing style and omission of key players. But, that’s what we knew during the recruitment process and that’s what we knew as fans clamoured to celebrate his appointment.
Also observing his reign at Millwall and then, his nearly 40-day spell at Rotherham, it’s clear to see a pattern emerging for a boss running on borrowed time. Jackett’s a manager of principle but, one whom you can see hasn’t shifted his tactics into the modern-day quality of EFL football.
Gone are the days where 90% of Pompey’s games would’ve been combative, defensively-minded opposition who want to kick you in the air. Now, you can see the focus on progressive, passing football. The culture most of the Football League have adopted, making Jackett’s style feel draconian and recessive.
The biggest make or break for Jackett will, sadly, come in the upcoming derby match at home to… them. Whilst 99% of the football community will see us as the underdogs, playing Premier League opposition with international talent, we’re at home with nothing really to lose.
Of course, both sides want the bragging rights and a match under the floodlights usually sees the best of Pompey – however for me, it’s also Jackett’s chance to win back a large portion of his fanbase, or, hammer another nail into his tenure.
It’s not all on Jackett, though. You appoint an individual into a role and, whilst it’s up to them to uphold the highest standards and progress their team up to the required standard – ultimately the bigger test will be how involved our owners and senior management want to be with day-to-day decision making. Whether they’re happy to stick and see out the campaign, or twist and hope for a change.
No change is guaranteed at this stage. A popular question is who’d take over. My take? Chris Hughton or Chris Powell – both with a track record of success, blooding youth and getting results.
But that’s just me.
Photo: Andrew Hurdle