Kenny Jackett’s Tenure as Portsmouth Manager: An Era Wasted

By Freddie Webb

Behind all the moments of success under Kenny Jackett’s time at Portsmouth, there was an overwhelming sense of the team not being quite good enough.

His departure from Pompey, after the club lost on penalties against Salford in the Papa John’s Trophy final, came as a surprise to journalists and fans alike.

The support from Mark Catlin and the owners for the manager has been overwhelming over the last four seasons; it was expected that Jackett would run down his contract until the end of the season.

But after only one win in eight games in all competitions – where the attack sputtered in the same way as both play-off semi-final defeats and the defensive structure collapsed – that support crumbled, and my patience for the current regime ran out.

The inevitability of the situation was the final straw for me.

I would watch matches knowing the same old on-pitch problems Portsmouth have had for years would appear again and again, and the fact that the side were playing a successful, aggressive high pressing style of football earlier in the season, makes this one last slide even more frustrating.

No longer was I angry, upset, or even disgusted like I was in previous weeks, I was apathetic.

I legitimately stopped caring about Pompey’s results, and that has never happened to me before.

The side, with all the talent and financial resources needed for success, has been sickenly mediocre at times.

There were periods of success over the last four years of Jackett’s managerial tenure, and it would be unfair to gloss over them.

Becoming EFL Trophy champions in 2019 was a wonderful achievement despite the competition’s deteriorated reputation.

Deep runs in the FA Cup and a range of league records – including being unbeaten at home all of last season and a run of six clean sheets this campaign – were all great achievements, but in reality, the club still haven’t been promoted from League One.

The main expectation from the fans and the board has not been met, which makes all of these details redundant, leaving a sour taste in my mouth.

For general football league pundits and neutrals, a change of manager seems harsh, but for all of us that watch Portsmouth week in and week out, the sides deficiencies have been apparent for a long time.

The tactical philosophy rarely got the best out of Pompey’s key players.

Ball-playing defenders were told to send the ball long, strikers were all too often treated as target-men – regardless of their skillset – or sometimes played out of position.

All too often, Pompey would struggle mightily to break down a well-structured defence.

There are of course exceptions, this season’s pressing 4-4-2 was fluid and got the best out of Marquis, Curtis, Harness and Williams, but only for a moment.

When it mattered most, in the play-offs and key games against promotion rivals, the tactical set up was found out repeatedly and the performances were turgid and ineffective.

Strange decisions on and off the pitch made me think club was never in an entirely harmonious state.

There was always something negative lingering in the background.

Dropping your captain for the play-offs for someone coming off a long-term injury, persisting with certain exhausted players while not giving others a chance are not the actions of a successful manager.

The captain is never just a winter player, and those key performances were not good ways to lose either.

When ex and current players like anti-management posts on social media, with some openly criticising the style of play after they have left, you know there is always a potential for the side to collapse.

The only solution to all these distractions is keep getting positive results.

Once the wins dried up, all cracks in the dressing room and on the pitch were on full display.

Winning ugly is not a trait which should be relied upon with the players at Portsmouth’s disposal.

As a squad, the talent at Fratton Park over the last four seasons has been there.

Teams boasting the likes of Matt Clarke, Jamal Lowe, Christian Burgess, Craig MacGillivray, Jack Whatmough, Tom Naylor, Marcus Harness and Ronan Curtis, among others, with a competitive wage budget, should get promoted.

Anything less is failure.

All that talent has been squandered over the years, with Portsmouth fading away at the most crucial times.

It takes so much to make me disinterested in the football club I have supported for years, but under Jackett during this latest poor run of form, I stopped caring.

I knew all the flaws in the side beforehand, and the perceived lack of a willingness from the board to make a change detached me from the football club.

As a person, Kenny Jackett served the club as a gentleman with distinction, believing in his decisions while having the club’s best interests at heart.

I wish him all the best and thank him for all his hard work and dedication, but it was obvious that a change was needed, and arguably should have happened last season.

It was an era wasted and will always be remembered as such.

Photo: Andrew Hurdle

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