Humble Jackett is still the best

© Edmund Boyden

KENNY Jackett is the best Millwall manager I've ever seen.

Having read Mike Calvin’s Family: Life, Death and Football, and watched plenty of his interviews, I tend to think of Jackett as the quietly-proud father of a boisterous family. Outwardly reserved, but prepared to keep his house in order when he needs to.

He also has a fantastic football brain and is excellent at developing talent – probably why he was so highly regarded in the Manchester City youth set-up. He has overseen a fantastic turnaround at the club, taking us from the bottom-half of League One through two play-off finals (including one promotion) to the verge of the Championship play-offs last year.



No matter what his critics say, this was not a fluke.

However, this season has seen the most challenging since Jackett joined the club. Yes, we have been in lower positions during his reign, but back then our expectations were also rock-bottom. He is a victim of his own success.

Jackett's biggest problem seems to be an ever-changing starting XI, combined with an apparent lack of confidence and leadership when we do get on the pitch. Not to mention numerous rumoured bust-ups between Jackett and several of the playing staff – one documented in the latest reprint of Calvin’s book was after Millwall surrendered a two-goal lead to Peterborough at The Den.



James Henry questioned whether David Forde should have been beaten from the range he was, and the keeper reacted. As Calvin states: 'unusually, Jackett was drawn into the maelstrom, and stood toe-to-toe with him.' It wouldn’t be the last incident that fans would hear about between our manager and one of his players.

Having mentioned that, I’d like to share a Jackett quote with you from Family, one that focuses on John Barnes' depature from Tranmere following a 5-0 drubbing:

‘Management is not as easy as it looks on the telly. If a player at the top level has a bad game, he has the intrinsic confidence to know that he has only to wait a week to put things right. If things don’t go well at a lower level, players start to clutch at straws. They’re balls-out. They want to do well, and when it doesn’t, they worry about what comes next. There’s a time to bollock them, but if you hammer the life out of people you’d better not do it too often. They’ve a habit of turning around and saying “fuck you”.’

Jackett’s admission last week that he may have taken a step backwards as a manager was extremely revealing. It suggests, perhaps, that he got too far ahead of himself a bit this season and bollocked the players a little too much. Perhaps the type of player we are seeing at the club is different to in previous seasons and Jackett is now adjusting to that.

In any case, any man that can admit his failings – particularly with a fan base as passionate as Millwall's – certainly earns my respect and re-affirms why Jackett is the only man I can see running our club.

If Saturday's result (but more importantly, performance) at Burnley is anything to go by, it seems that the players have responded well to Jackett’s humbling interview too.

Family – Life, Death and Football: A Year on the Frontline with a Proper Club, by Michael Calvin (Corinithian, £8.99)

7 thoughts on “Humble Jackett is still the best

  • February 28, 2012 at 16:08
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    Jackett is the best manager you've ever seen? I take it you mean the best manager of Millwall you've ever seen. If you mean more than that then please start taking your medication again. If he's the best Lions manager you've ever seen that leads me to suspect you haven't been supporting Millwall for very long.

    Ron Gray (1962?) is the first manager I can remember....so from that point are you seriously suggesting Jackett is a better manager than Billy Gray, Benny Fenton, Gordon jago, George Graham, John Docherty, Bruce Rioch, Mark McGhee and Dennis Wise? He may be nicer than many of that lot but not better. And many of those spent far longer at higher divisions than Jacket has.

    Michael Calvin is a very competent journalist, though he's not a Millwall fan (Watford), and for me his book was a bit of a Jackett hagiography. Not surprising as they are old mates since childhood. But I found the book a bit cloying and it didn't really give you the true insight into the club. Eamon Dunphy's Only a Game? reveals more about Millwall and lower league footballers. I recall especially he and Harry Cripps watching a game they'd both been dropped for and both wishing the Lions got beat to put them back in the side.

    This season has exposed Jackett's shortcomings as a manager at this level: it's his responsibility to get players to perform and know when and how to do that. The results speak for themselves. Where we are is dopwn to him, his tactics and his team selection. he certainly has not lackied money, boardroom or fan support. Yet here we in a relegation fight. I think he should go. He looks like Gordon Brown being reminded of his boom-and-bust speech. I think he should go EVEN if we remain up.

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    • February 28, 2012 at 22:41
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      The first line reads the best MILLWALL manager I've ever seen. Being born in '88 I've seen a few but not those you've mentioned so yes it is a subjective view but not one that i've hidden. Is Jackett better than McGhee and Wise? Absolutely, both failed to achieve promotion with the best crop of youngsters we have had for a generation and while the Cup final is a memory I will cherish I would hardly say we got there due to Wise's tactical proficiency.

      If you read his latest version you will find that Mike Calvin has (rightly or wrongly) switched allegiances to Millwall, and I think you'll find the game is different from the Cripps era so his book was completely revealing for the modern era.

      As for this season, it has exposed Jackett's inexperience in a lot of areas and he is currently rebuilding this team from League One standard that relied on a lot of leaders with passion though lacking talent (Harris, Alexander, Frampton) but the Championship calls for quality players that Jackett is slowly bringing in as well as changing his tactics to suit the level we are at. The money you refer to has gone on the biggest reasons we are still above the drop zone Darius Henderson and Liam Feeney as well as Andy Keogh and Shane Lowry.

      To me it seems you have an agenda against Jackett although I'm not sure who you think we would or even COULD get to replace him as manager? The best and worst part of our club is that we are not very attractive.

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  • February 29, 2012 at 21:47
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    Craig, your right, I did misread the intro. You did say Millwall. Apologies.
    Graig, your right, I do have an agenda. And for that I make no apologies.

    I think Jackett is in danger of taking the club down. If we are relegated we lose about 60 per cent of our revenue in TV money, sponsorhsip and lower gates. We now have a crop of players who are now on long-term contracts: we wil have to retain a group of players demoralised by going down. And what's to say Berylson, who has been good for the club, will then won't lose interest and depart. as we've been there many times. I can recall us bouncing back immediately from relegation only once, though there might have been one from the fourth back to the third in the early sixties.

    There is no sentimentality about hanging on to loyal players who have served Millwall well. As jackett himself as demonstrated that. The same rules should apply to a manager who is not doing it.
    But for a club in admin, we'd be three points off the drop zone with the club below us has a game in hand. That's the season-long reality.
    With 14 games to go Jackett realises he needs a different system. That was obvious even last season.

    Sorry, Kenny son, you had it once, you haven't got it any more.

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  • February 29, 2012 at 21:50
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    PS: What kind of a fan switches his allegiance, the way Mike Calvin has done? That's like saying I've just seen another family much better than mine so I'm moving in with them.

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  • March 2, 2012 at 09:29
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    I see so many times on here and elsewhere people saying we should keep faith with KJ, that he was the one who got us up and it's the players fault that we are near relegation zone. So KJ only gets credit for good times and no responsibility for the bad times?? We are also asked to keep faith with him and show loyalty as he is the person who got us up the the championship, but what about all the players who helped get millwall get there, KJ didn't think twice about dumping them as soon as he felt they were no longer good enough or he fell out with them.

    I am a Millwall fan, my loyalty first and foremost is to the club and I do not feel that KJ has it in him to take us any further and for that reason I believe it is time to bring in new blood, just like when we feel players no longer can advance us it should be exactly the same for the manager...

    BTW Craig Bomber Harris may not have been the most talented player but he had heart and passion for the club and was able to lift the team whenever he came on the pitch, and that has been something that is visibly lacking this season. KJ should never have let him go, Bomber should have been kept at the club...maybe not as a player but for sure in some other role IMO

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  • March 2, 2012 at 16:45
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    I think my piece was to point out that Kenny has gotten it wrong this year not to absolve him of responsibility. I think he lost his way on how he handles players but has come to realise that recently - and it is in admitting that fault that I have admiration for him. Most managers would just ignore the problems and take their club down.

    As for your comment on past players, I think they're slightly naive or perhaps ill-informed. While I agree they were important to the continuity of the team they were not asked to leave by Kenny but were instead given an honest choice. To Alexander who wasn't getting into the team Kenny said he would keep him but that he wouldn't get much play time due to being lower down on the pecking order than Morison, Lisbie and others. Alexander decided that for the good of his career and family that he would take the opportunity to join Brentford and impress there to keep his future.

    As for Harris - he said so himself that he felt he had some playing years left in him and that he didn't want to coach yet. Kenny offered Neil to stay at the club and see how the season goes but this is following a year where Harris started only around 5 times? Harris was offered a 3 year contract at the club he has supported since he was a boy and a 3 year contract at his age is a massive deal.

    Make no mistake though, Kenny didn't push these players to leave, he was happy to have them in the squad but was honest about the fact that they may not get much play time.

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