Five years at Den secures Jackett's status as Millwall great

© Edmund Boyden

IT IS fitting that, on the day Kenny Jackett celebrates five years as Millwall manager, he returns to where it all began.

Born and raised in Watford, Jackett made 337 appearances for his hometown club in a playing career spanning 11 years. His father, Frank, was also a Golden Boy.

After a knee injury forced him into an early retirement at the age of 28, Jackett took to coaching and oversaw 59 games as Watford boss between 1996 and 1997. Vicarage Road will forever be Jackett's footballing home.

And it is against the Hornets that Jackett takes charge of his 270th game as Lions manager on Tuesday night. As his career comes full circle, it is indisputable that his place is cemented in the history books of both clubs.

All four terraces will hold the former Wales international in the highest esteem upon the highest pedestal. Arguably Watford's greatest ever player, arguably Millwall's greatest ever manager.

"It's nice to get compliments and plaudits but I'm in the wrong profession to start paying attention to those too much," Jackett said, after reaching 200 games at The Den last August.

"Things can change so quickly for a football manager. If you take your foot off the gas things can go wrong for you."

Outwardly, Jackett is rarely sentimental. Even previous returns to The Vic, where he has never recorded a victory, have been dismissed as just another game, despite the unavoidable stigma.

For Jackett, the job is never done. The slog is never-ending. There's always another game, another three points, another challenge. Reflection is part of his job – but not a hobby and never an indulgence.

To many Jackett is understated – perhaps even withdrawn – but there is a feverish incessancy about his management style that will be the enduring legacy of his tenure in SE16.

After all, Jackett is the seventh-longest serving manager in English football at a club which, prior to his appointment, had dispensed with six bosses in two years.

Without that grind, that obsession, would he really still be here now?

Chairman John Beryslon described his decision to take the job in 2007 as "brave".  "He said to me, 'it's my family's future I'm risking and Millwall isn't a safe haven for managers at the moment'.

"I couldn't argue with that. He could have had a lot of other jobs."

But Jackett has relished the challenge of rebuilding Millwall. Adding, replacing and expanding. Bit by bit, year by year.

His tangible achievements are well-documented. Jackett inherited the Lions languishing at the wrong end of League One but two play-off campaigns later, the club was back in the Championship and finished 9th in the 2010-11 season.

At the start of 2012, the club that Jackett saved, saved him. Berylson was considering bringing an end to his reign after five defeats in eight matches.

But, yet again, faith was placed in Jackett to arrest the slump and he did not disappoint. Jackett has taught Millwall the importance of trust and implemented a culture of patience.

That is perhaps his greatest achievement – and the one that the record books won't tell you about. Fans at The Den still want blood-thirsty performances from the Lions, but the manager is given his own space and left alone to a job they know, with certainty, he is capable of doing.

Record goalscorer Neil Harris, towards the end of his time at the club, was forgiven a missed penalty or a poor performance – and now Jackett too is judged over the long-term rather than on one result or one substitution.

But make no mistake, Jackett is not living on former glories – though there have been many – but on the acceptance by the supporters that small steps forward, no matter how small, are nevertheless steps in the right direction.

Over five years, dips in form are inevitable and under Jackett this has proved to be the case. One, two, three even four successive defeats, while tough to endure, are part of the process.

After a 6-0 defeat to Birmingham City last season, the Lions were applauded off the field. Unprecedented. Unbelievable. Such is the strength of the binding admiration between manager and supporter at Millwall these days.

The club has changed. Rather, Jackett has changed the club.

You wonder whether he fully appreciates the magnitude of his own achievement. Maybe he won't until he retires. That will be his chosen time for reflection.

Within the current climate, where managers come and go at clubs as quickly as players do, five years at the helm is an achievement worth celebrating. At Vicarage Road, Millwall fans will pay tribute to one of their greatest ever managers.

But knowing Jackett, he would rather just have the three points.



2 thoughts on “Five years at Den secures Jackett's status as Millwall great

  • November 6, 2012 at 16:44

    Apart from having the man management skills, he has also got an eye for gifted players he can shoehorn into the Millwall style. Kenny Jacket is a shrewd operator behind the scenes too. Millwall is changing, and Kenny is the major reason. Yes, we still slip up every now and again, but these slips are mere blips, and personally, I've never thought we looked like crashing out of The Championship. Nowadays, Millwall have the strength and attitude to bounce back. Kenny is the reason why.

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  • November 6, 2012 at 17:12

    In Kenny we trust COYL

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