Merve Payne takes a look at the career of Kenny Jackett and the reputation of the Millwall manager.
Kenny Jackett is one of those managers who tends to slip under the radar. Few will know, for example, that he is one of the game’s longest-serving bosses, second in Football League terms only to Exeter’s Paul Tisdale and sixth in total with the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsène Wenger, David Moyes and Tony Pulis ahead of him.
His achievements in his five-and-a-half years at Millwall have been nothing short of remarkable. When he took over, the club were heading for League Two, yet, within two seasons, he was leading them out at Wembley for a play off final with Scunthorpe.
Twelve months after defeat in that final he was back again, and this time his team made no mistake, winning a place in the Championship. It’s typical of his own determination – which is mirrored in his teams. He was insistent that there would be no feeling sorry for themselves, just a ‘dusting off and back to business’ attitude that has earned him continued success at The Den.
This Sunday, Jackett aims to make it a third Wembley appearance in five years as Millwall face Blackburn in an FA Cup quarter-final at The Den. It would be yet another glowing reference to add to his managerial CV – the club had only managed one trip to the national stadium in 86 years before he took over.
FA Cup quarter-finals and Millwall often evoke images of the other side of the club’s colourful history, such as crowd disturbances like those seen in the games against Ipswich in 1978 and at Luton in 1985 which thankfully weren’t rammed down the club’s throat quite as much as they feared before they travelled to Luton in the previous round.
Jackett acknowledges that the club has had its problems but also defends the efforts of those behind the scenes and is always grateful for the help given to the team by the vast majority of well-behaved supporters. It’s this empathy with the club that endears him to fans when it would be so easy to distance himself from it and treat it as ‘just another job’.
Millwall’s cup run has taken the focus off their league form somewhat. Up until December they looked good for another play off challenge. But once the goals of loan signing Chris Wood dried up when the striker opted to sign for Leicester, things have fallen away and they have suffered seven defeats in the last eight league games, although they’re still looking a good bet to remain in the Championship for a third season.
Jackett’s pedigree is modest but impressive. He was manager of Swansea when their rise through the leagues began and was put in charge of the youth set up at Manchester City, such is his stock with nurturing talent and building teams.
Whatever happens on Sunday – win, lose or draw – don’t expect to hear Kenny Jackett crowing too hard, bemoaning officials’ performances or berating his players in the post-match press conference. However, victory may see his profile rise enough to alert rival clubs on the lookout for a new manager in the summer, which could be a disaster for Millwall.
Because if ever there was a club and manager with such different personalities it’s Jackett and The Lions, and yet they seem to be a perfect fit.