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.