Opinion: Kenny, it is time to grab your Jackett

By James Robbins

Pompey’s elongated wait to discover if they will finish the current campaign appears to be almost over, and with it, so should Kenny Jackett’s tenure as manager of the club.

This, of course, will come as absolutely no surprise to some of you.

Twelve months ago, following what was quite frankly an unforgivable 180 minutes against Sunderland in the play-off semi-final, my time at Express FM came to an abrupt end.

People inside PFC were enraged that I dare to question whether we should continue with Kenny Jackett as manager.

A year later, the same doubts I had about our illustrious leader remain and arguably, are strengthened.

We will find out how the EFL choose to end the season in due course, but the general consensus seems to be on a Points Per Game system – which would see Pompey demoted to 7th in the League One table.

Clearly, it isn’t fair to remove a manager based on this.

However, I would ask this question: 

If the season ended with Pompey in the play offs with the current teams in their current positions, do you honestly believe we would be promoted?

According to a recent poll conducted by PNN, 53%of the 1,158 fans who voted believe we would have lost in the play-offs. 

I am sure the majority of those who went to our last game against Fleetwood would fall down on the ‘no’ side of the argument. 

Therefore, surely this would indicate a second consecutive season of failure. 

Paul Cook wasn’t given this much slack, all anyone could talk about in his second season was that he would be sacked if he didn’t get Pompey promoted – I am struggling to see why given the recruitment this season and feeling among fans at the beginning of the season why the same isn’t being said.

It is Cook’s quote which has always resonated with me.

“A team reflects a manager.”

For my money, the past three seasons, the team has been a fair reflection of Kenny Jackett as manager.

At the start of the season, the overriding feeling following the signature of last season’s top goalscorer John Marquis was that this was a very strong statement of intent from the Blues. Anything short of promotion was a failure.

In the league, last season’s red-hot goalscorer John Marquis is needing an extra game to find the back of the net for Pompey. (Doncaster 2.1 goals per game, Portsmouth 3.1 goals per game). I am not a huge fan of stats as there is such a vast array of data available you can prove pretty much anything, but some of these points need some sort of validity!

I am a bigger believer in using your eyes to analyse the games, which as we all know isn’t very pretty – actually that is being polite, in 2020 the style of football is abhorrent.

My biggest worry is the reluctance of the Pompey hierarchy to act, which could see us Pompey become a team that meanders season after season in England’s third division.

The longer this happens, the lure of Pompey will continue to dwindle and the harder it will be to attract players to get out of the league. 

Messieurs Eisner/Torante’s love and passion for being owners of Pompey is undeniable – that I have no doubt.

However, a quick search on their social media accounts following abject matches would suggest there is still some gaps in their footballing knowledge which clouds their vision as to how well the team are doing. 

Or, the decision to trigger a two-year contract extension five months into his reign when he had achieved absolutely nothing!

It would also explain how such influential people in the entertainment industry can happily sit by and watch the dross served up most weeks. 

The reality fans are becoming disenchanted with the ‘trust the process’ and ‘brick-by-brick’ rallying cries while watching prehistoric tactics. 

They are being aided by one of the best CEO’s in the business – but Kenny Jackett is Mark Catlin’s man.

He has staunchly defended his man to the hilt during his monthly Q&A’s, one of the reasons cited was the business was not seeing a negative impact on revenue to justify a managerial departure which of course was all orchestrated by a vocal minority on social media – points which irked me.

Before the campaign commenced, when optimism is high, season ticket sales were already at capacity so there was a guaranteed 12,000 coming through the turnstiles.  

I would safely assume the majority of those people are not doing it because they are enthused at the prospect of watching Jackettball.

It is because they have always done it. Every Saturday it is a great chance to meet up with friends and family which they might not otherwise have caught up with. 

As for dismissing a vocal minority on social media, this is old hat. Purely based on what I have seen, the vocal minority are the fans who think Jackett is doing a good job!

Due to commitments outside of football, opportunities to see Pompey play away from PO4 is limited and while Teflon Jackett is in charge, I couldn’t care less.

From the limited amount I did see, there is no connection between him and some of the club’s most loyal. How difficult is it following the final whistle to make an effort to show some appreciation to people who dedicated their time/income to following the team across the country?

Yes, there is always the token ‘the fans were great’ in post match interviews but from the limited sample size of away games I have seen there has been no effort to applaud those fans, which should happen every away game at the very minimum. Actions speak louder than words and all that. It could be argued that Joe Gallen and the senior players have showed more leadership than the manager.

Unfortunately, the feeling is mutual. The connection between the Club and I is diminishing by the game and I am sure I am not the only one. I struggle to see the values which portray a Pompey team.

I refuse to sing Kenny Jackett’s blue and white army and couldn’t bring myself to celebrate a last minute winner (Doncaster away) or equaliser (Burton home) which is hardly conducive to a togetherness on both sides of the sponsorship boards.

It even got to a point where I was deflated when we went a goal ahead as Teflon Jackett moved another step further away from the exit door. 

Actions and decisions this season also make you wonder about the player/manager relationship. The infamous removal of Brett Pitman and Gareth Evans as captain and vice captain respectively, with the former training with the Bournemouth U23’s makes you wonder how much of a happy camp it is at ROKO.

Recently, I spoke to a footballer playing their trade in the American college system with strong aspirations of playing in the MLS next season.

I asked him whether he would consider skipping the draft to play for the Blues. Among other factors to consider, the style of play and tactics enforced at PO4 were cited as reasons for being hesitant about joining the club if the situation was to arise – If they are thinking that then it stands to reason this is a consideration for other footballers. 

He identified Ben Close as one of the most gifted players in the team for his ability and desire to get the ball on the ground and find a blue shirt (a view I share) but he is absolutely wasted in that team when the tactics appear to be ‘Find the forwards feet as quickly as possible’ which is basically code for… HOOF. 

On the flip side to give this piece some sort of balance, for all of Jackett’s failings he should be commended for bringing down the average age of the squad.

It is unquestionable that he has built some very strong foundations for the next manager to propel the club forward. Wolves fans would testify to this.

Also, his cup record in the last two campaigns has been impressive – hopefully a second Wembley appearance and strong FA Cup performances in successive seasons can’t be ignored.

At a time of writing during a global pandemic the club may take the view that stability could be a good thing. 

And as has been pointed out in Mark Catlin’s monthly Q&A’s, his win percentage statistics are also pleasing. (Please see my comment about stats earlier in the article)

Although, most of us would sacrifice all of that for promotion to the Championship. That is the goal, that is how success should be judged.

Despite all of this, my social media feed depicts a growing reluctance that when the following season does commence, Kenny Jackett will be the man in charge. 

Unquestionably Kenny Jackett is an extremely pleasant and honourable man, but as someone pointed out on Twitter – so is Sir Abdul the Steward – it doesn’t mean he should be in the home dugout next season but lord knows we could do with some of Abdul’s exuberance on the touchline!

Photo: Andrew Hurdle

One thought on “Opinion: Kenny, it is time to grab your Jackett

  1. Kenny Jackett has an outstanding track record at this level. In his first season we finished 8th. In his second we finished 4th with 88 points and a trophy.

    This season we are 4th, probably a place or two ahead of our budget, and in a cup final. This despite losing Lowe, Clarke and Thompson and making a big profit in the transfer market.

    Since January 1st we have played 19, W14 D2 L3 – home to Arsenal and away to Peterborough and Fleetwood.

    The logic of this piece is that if we sack Jackett we will then employ another manager who will be guaranteed to get promotion playing much more pleasing football with the players we have. This is what is known in the business as a logical fallacy. Where are we going to get a manager with a better track record playing better football who would come here to work with a 5th placed budget?

    The club are not going to sack the manager and if they did it would be rightly viewed as insanity. The likelihood is much higher that we would get worse. The last two times we chased out a manager because of their ‘style of football’ they were Pulis and Cotterill – both times we got substantially worse very very quickly.


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