Jackett deserves huge credit for Millwall's tactical revolution

© Edmund Boyden

IT IS often said that with winning the manager of the month award comes a curse, instantly affecting form and undoing much of the good work carried out in the first place.

Perhaps, then, with Millwall's season now over, such an accolade could not have been bestowed upon Kenny Jackett at a better time.

With the Lions taking 16 points from a possible 18 in April, few would have argued against the former Wales international's case for winning the award – a feat that saw him overcome competition from Sam Allardyce and then promotion hopeful Malky Mackay.

Yet it's fair to say that the seeds for such a triumph had been sewn some time ago. In February, Jackett expressed the need to transform his side's approach, involving a more patient, passing-based brand of football.

Many supporters were unconvinced that any such tactical revolution could be achieved with just a third of the campaign remaining, but the nature of the 3-1 away win at Burnley just days later suggested that things were already beginning to change.

Further evidence came in the following two weeks, with a vital 3-0 victory against Peterborough United at London Road.

After a disappointing away blip against Nottingham Forest – a game that felt more significant at the time than it eventually proved to be at the bottom of the Championship – and desperately unfortunate defeat at the hands of Southampton, Millwall recovered to beat Doncaster Rovers 3-0 at the Keepmoat Stadium.

If the call for an attractive, free-flowing style not normally associated with the blood and thunder of the relegation battle came as a surprise, the rapidity of its application bordered on the astonishing.

For the most part, we were now playing in an effective, counter-attacking manner – intriguing not only as it seemed to resolve an age-old Millwall problem of not being clinical enough in front of goal, but also because it was producing some of our most impressive away form in recent memory.

Kenny Jackett's assessment of the situation has been modest, if not self-critical. He has partly attributed his team's unbeaten run of seven games to the undeniable sense of unity inspired throughout the club by Barry Kitchener’s death, and even questioned his judgement with regards to last summer’s transfer activity.

Yet as much as these events may have had an impact on our season, he himself must take a fair amount of the credit for its turnaround.

To place such an emphasis on fluent passing and attacking movement with the business end of the campaign fast approaching was an ambitious, potentially risky, but ultimately vindicated decision on the manager's part, while the signings of Shane Lowry, Harry Kane, Andy Keogh and Maik Taylor have all proved to be inspired and essential additions to this newfound formula.

Some could be tricked into thinking that Jackett’s flavour of the month status implies that Millwall have experienced only a glimmer of positivity this season.

The award should, however, be recognised as the successful fruition of a transitional experiment, and hopefully a sign of things to come in the future.

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