The 31st May 2013 is a date that hopefully Wolves fans will look back at as a day where the club began to change. Today has signalled another new dawn for the club as the former Millwall manager, Kenny Jackett has been appointed as the new head coach of Wolverhampton Wanderers.
It took twenty-four days for the powers that be to decide who should be the next man to take the top job at the ailing club. It all began on the 7th May, when Dean Saunders was given his marching orders by the club after Wolves suffered an unprecedented successive relegation. A 2-0 loss, away at Brighton, was the final nail in Saunders’ coffin and three days later he left Compton for the last time.
This was met with universal approval from Wolves fans, 99% happy to see the back of the former Welsh international. Citing lack of experience and not being able to manage the egos at the club as reasons for his lack of success, to be honest, it is hard to disagree with them. A record of five wins, five draws and ten defeats speak for it self. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, especially in football, but looking back it was clear that Dean Saunders was never going to be a quick fix nor was he a man that was going to build the club up over a number of years.
There were very little positives and plenty of negatives under Saunders’ time, but I’d like to think that most sane Wolves fans would at least like to say thank you for giving it a go. I am sure that he tried his level best but sadly it was just not good enough.
So, with another relegation certain and tensions between fan and club higher than ever, the club moved away from the spot light for three weeks and decided to take their time with this next, monumental appointment. The club announced it would make a planned and measured decision over the coming days and weeks with the help of Kevin Thelwell, the clubs head of recruitment and development.
With this began the rumours, who was next for the job? Who is mad enough to take this position? Shteve McClaren, Owen Coyle and Steve Davies were some of the front-runners. With no word from the club, some fans began to grow impatient. I think, however, that this is the best thing the board have done since their time at Wolves began. Going to League One has given us the perfect opportunity to take our time and plan things carefully, so we can set our selves up perfectly in the long term, the board have found themselves under immense pressure in the past to appoint someone quickly, not giving any sort of time to consider who is actually the right fit for the club. This time we have had the opportunity and it is fantastic to see.
On a sunny, Friday afternoon the club finally announced that Kenny Jackett would be the man to take the incredibly hot seat at Wolves. He is a man with almost two decades of managerial experience under his belt. It all began at Watford in 1996 when he succeeded another former Wolves manager, Graham Taylor. During the close season of the 1996/1997 season he was demoted to assistant manager, with Taylor once again coming in as manager. Jackett worked under Taylor during Watford’s premier league campaign in 1999/2000, which ultimately ended in The Hornets finishing in 20th place and being relegated to the Championship. Jackett then left Watford in 2001, rather controversially, after being ‘instructed’ to by the former, Chelsea, Juventus and Sampdoria striker, Gianluca Vialli who took over as manager at the beginning of the century.
After three years as an assistant under the charismatic Ian Holloway at Queens Park Rangers, Jackett took up the chance to manage in south Wales, with Swansea City. In Jackett’s first full season as manager of The Jacks he steered them to a third place finish in League Two and subsequently got promotion to League One. His time at Swansea City was a mixed bag of successes and failures, winning the clubs first Football League Trophy (a.k.a The JPT trophy) and gaining promotion were positives, but a failure to get promotion to the Championship in 2005/2006, after an impressive start, will be seen as a blot. The following season The Swans hovered around the top six of League One but Jackett and Swansea parted company on the 15th February 2007.
Overall, a mixed bag, but his tenure at The Jacks is quite intriguing, it could be argued that he was the man that kick started the Swans resurgence to the Premier League, Jackett was the foundation layer for Sousa, Martinez and then Rodgers to do their work. Without him, Swansea may not be the club that so many admire to this day. This must have been a key factor for Moxey, Morgan and Thelwell when deliberating over the new manager. On the other hand, maybe Jackett was the person stopping Swansea, I spoke to ‘Vital Swansea’ a fan run Twitter account and asked them about Jackett, they said that “Martinez started the revolution” but Jackett “got us out the bottom league, which was crucial”. They also praised Jackett’s ability “to sort us out at the back”. In addition they commented on how “he is a good solid appointment”. Something Wolves can be encouraged from hearing.
Wolves are a club that most certainly need a change in philosophy, from top to bottom, it has been two years of constant failure, in which nothing has been achieved. The board had no choice but to radically change the way things are done at this sinking ship of a club, maybe Jackett’s time at Swansea was seen as something the club wanted to emulate. I duly hope it was.
Jackett then moved to East London, more specifically, The New Den as he was appointed as boss of League One side, Millwall, where he would remain for five years. Jackett failed to get Millwall promoted in his first season in charge. He did get them into the play off final, but lost 3-2 to Scunthorpe after staging a second half comeback. The following season, 2009/2010, Millwall had a tremendous second half to the season, failing to gain automatic promotion by just one point. However, Jackett finally got The Lions promoted at second time of asking after beating Swindon Town 1-0. Jackett was written into Millwall folklore, he was the first man to get them promoted via the play-offs.
His time at Millwall got even better, in their first season back in The Championship, Jackett guided The Lions to a 9th placed finish. They missed out on a prestigious play-off place but were still in the hunt with just one game to go, very impressive for a team that had just been promoted. The following two seasons were not a rosy, Millwall struggled in 2011/2012 but Jackett guided his team to a strong end to the season winning five games in a row. Jackett’s final season in charge was of a similar pattern, the club struggled throughout, despite a trip to Wembley in the F.A Cup semi final, the club finished 20th. Jackett soon resigned after a relatively successful tenure in the big smoke. It was clear in the last season that Jackett needed a fresh challenge, he had, to a certain extent, taken Millwall as far as he could, without serious investment. He resigned three days after the final game of The Championship season.
I managed to grab a few words from Michael Calvin, the chief sportswriter and columnist at the Independent on Sunday, his book “Family: life, death and football: A year on the front line with a proper football club” gives a fascinating insight into the inner workings of Millwall under Kenny Jackett.
I asked him whether Jackett was the right appointment for Wolves, he said that “He is an ideal appointment for Wolves, whatever his title, because he has the personal and professional qualities they need, in their current state”.
Michael also praised Jackett’s ability to focus on bringing through youth players “In that sense, you need to look at his work at Watford and Swansea where he developed young players and responded to the culture of the club. He has a great eye for a player and I know, from speaking to him this morning (31/5/13), that he already has a good handle on the emerging players at Wolves”.
Wolves fans need not worry about the big egos at the club either, according to Michael, “I have no doubt he will deal with the egos which obviously pollute your dressing room (I speak as one who saw that shambles in the Cup at Luton) He expects the highest standards from his players, and will not tolerate those who fail to put the work in”.
So what can Wolves fans learn from Jackett’s seventeen-year career? Well by the looks of it, he likes to play a 4-4-2 formation, full of players who are willing to work for the team. There seems to be no stars, the whole team is greater than the sum of its parts and all that. Wingers also seem to be a key component of Jackett’s teams, players like James Henry and Dany N’Guessan are all indicators of what Wolves fans should expect. Moreover, I get the sense that Jackett’s teams are centred around a strong spine, Danny Shittu and Liam Trotter were key players for Millwall in the past season or two, they are big strong players who you can rely on to build a team around. It does sound same old, same old however, saying that, maybe this new job at Wolves will see Jackett change his formation in order for Wolves to play a more fluid style of football, who knows.
Saying that, it is possibly a bit to early to analyse Jackett’s tactics and systems, he may have done that at Millwall, but he may go onto do something completely different at Wolves, because he has the recourses to do so. He needs time.
Time will be a key word over the coming season for Wolves fans, it is going to take a long while for the club to get back on its feet, expectations should be relatively low. Fans should not be disheartened if we fail to make automatic promotion or the play offs. At the current rate, just staying in the league we are in for more than a year is an achievement! What we need to focus on is progress, not in the league, but in terms of the players on the field and the way the club is run by Jackett and co.
It is time for Wolves to get rid of the shackles of constant relegation and negative approaches towards games of football. Wolves are beginning a complete refresh in their thinking and their approach. Morgan and Moxey seem to have adopted a long-term approach. Wolves are at least two seasons away from being where the owner wants us to be, sacking managers over and over does not work, a few bad results does not equate to a bad manager. Lets hope that Jackett will be around for a long time.
I have no doubt Jackett will assemble a team of honest, hardworking and young players who are hungry to fight for the shirt and play with freedom. Young players are not bogged down by past experiences of relegation or failure, they play without fear, look at Davis, Batth, Robinson and Doherty. They have been excellent when given the opportunity. It is because they do not fear games, they play with the exuberance of youth, it can work, but it needs time and patience from everyone. Wolves have been given a platform now on which to build, they have a core of good young players of which Jackett can build a team around.
Jackett is in and it is going to be an extremely interesting summer at the Molineux. All Wolves fans can do is be patient, that is key. If we lose a few games, that is fine, we have to look long term. We have no other choice. In a strange sort of way, once you get over the shock, going into League One might be the best thing to happen to Wolves. Look at all the teams who have dropped to the third tier, Norwich, Swansea and Southampton are all examples of clubs have had to take one step back to take two steps forward, something the club will have to do over the next few years.
Call me crazy, but the future is bright.
Link to Michael Calvin’s book, Family: life, death and football: A year on the front line with a proper football club: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Family-Football-Frontline-Proper-ebook/dp/B006NZKA74/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1370026942&sr=1-1&keywords=michael+calvin
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