Kenny Jackett – The best coach you’ve never heard of?

I’m sure many of you would never have given Millwall manager Kenny Jackett a second thought. His team currently sit in 18th place in English League One. He has never held down a really high profile job and to my knowledge has never been linked with any top jobs when they have become vacant or been mentioned when discussing the fine young managers and coaches in England.

I know Kenny Jackett because is a bit of a legend at my beloved Watford. He was part of the team in the glory days for Watford under Graham Taylor back in the eighties. I’ve always followed his career, but a closer look at what he has achieved reveals a remarkable record.

Prior to taking on the Millwall managers position Jackett had been working as a coach under Sven Goran Eriksson at Manchester City. Somebody mentioned to me the other day that I should investigate the possibility that City’s slump in form had coincided with him leaving the club. I was doubtful, but the facts and figures are amazing.

Jackett left Manchester City to take up his new post on November 6th last year. Prior to his departure City had won eleven of fifteen games played. Since his departure they have won just five of twenty-one.

These astonishing figures led me to look at Kenny Jackett’s managerial and coaching career so far, and I’m sure you’ll agree that the findings suggest that he is a very talented individual.

As a player, Jackett was a one club man playing for Watford throughout the eighties. He was a cultured left footed player equally at home at left back or in the centre of midfield. He played well over three hundred games for the Hornets and gained 31 International caps with Wales (Despite being born in Watford). His career came to a premature end in 1990 when at the age of twenty-eight Jackett was forced to retire with a serious knee injury.

On retirement Watford recognised his potential and he stayed at the club working in various coaching roles with the academy, youth players reserves and first team. Six years later, at the age of thirty-four he was handed the managerial reins at Vicarage Road.

That stint only lasted for one season because he was unable to resurrect a dispirited Watford who had been relegated to Division Two, and he led them to a disappointing thirteenth place. At the end of the season he was moved across to be assistant manager to his old boss Graham Taylor. During his one season in charge he achieved a club record of 22 games without defeat, but his popularity with the fans was tested due to his seeming inability to ‘fire up’ the players.

As assistant manager he helped Taylor to two consecutive promotions and a season in the top flight. When Taylor left at the end of the 2000-2001 season the incoming manager Gianlucca Vialli had Jackett moved out. One of the many reasons that it is best not to mention the Italian legend’s name in the vicinity of Vicarage Road!

On leaving Watford for the first time in his career Jackett was appointed as number two to Ian Holloway at Queens Park Rangers. He helped Holloway guide Rangers to promotion from the Second Division and after three seasons was offered the manger’s role at Swansea City.

In his first full season in charge he gained promotion for the club from League Two and won the Welsh Premier Cup. In his second season he guided Swansea to the League One play-off final, losing on penalties to Barnsley. In that season he won the FAW Premier Cup for the second successive season, and also won the Football League Trophy.

In February 2007, despite being in or around the top six in League One all season, Jackett left Swansea by mutual consent, stating that he didn’t think he retained everybody’s backing at the club. He had certainly become unpopular with the fans. There was a growing call for his head from the stands, but as an outsider, it seemed that he had brought nothing but long overdue to success to the club.

The acrimonious split with Swansea led to there being concerns about the reaction he would get from their fans when he returned to the ground with Millwall. Swansea captain Gary Monk spoke for the players:

“‘I think Kenny deserves a good reception. I don’t know if the fans ever really gave him their full backing during his time here, but I think the job he did put us on the road to success. If you look at his record compared to those of other managers at this club down the years, it’s a lot better than a lot of them.You can’t ignore that and I think it would be very harsh if he was to get booed. He did a lot of good things for this club and he deserves a decent welcome in return.The players have talked about it. We’ve all said the same thing, and I think the majority of fans will appreciate the job that he did..”

I don’t know why the Swansea fans disliked Jacket so much. Maybe someone could let us know why? It is clear that the feelings were strong from this fans forum entry at the time.

On 7th March he was appointed as Reserve Team Manager at Manchester City. He was kept on in a coaching role by Mr Eriksson when he arrived in the Summer and the results achieved by them are detailed above.

He took over at Millwall with them struggling in the bottom three with only three wins from fourteen games. In his quiet and unassuming way he has guided them to probable safety, although they are not totally out of danger yet.

The Millwall chairman said of Jackett, “Kenny has gained tremendous experience as a player, coach and manager. He has helped three teams win promotion as manager or assistant. His management skills are first class and I am confident he will soon have Millwall moving up the league.”

Again, his appointment was certainly not universally welcomed at the Den. He doesn’t appear to be too popular with the Millwall fans. There seems to be a feeling that he is a ‘nice bloke’ but can’t motivate his players.

So it can be seen that as a manager, Jackett has won a promotion, three cups and missed out on another promotion in a penalty shoot-out. As a coach, he has won three promotions at two different clubs and has helped guide Manchester City to their best start to a season for many years. He is now fighting hard to save a club with no money from relegation, a battle he looks like winning.

His record as a manager consists of 105 wins from 249 games. That is a win percentage of 42.2%. The impressive figure is that he has only lost 67 of his games. That produces a lose percentage of only 27%, comparable favourably with most.

Despite his apparent unpopularity with the fans of the clubs he has managed, and his very low media profile, I would challenge anyone to find an English (Welsh) coach with a better record. At the age of forty-six he still has a long career ahead of him in the game, and it would be nice to think that some of the top clubs are monitoring his progress.

When looking at his record it stands comparison with the very best. Can any Swansea or Millwall fans explain why he was and is not popular? Do Manchester City fans think his departure has anything to do with their change in fortunes?

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  1. Hugo Steckelmacher 12 March, 2008
  2. James 14 March, 2008
  3. Martin 14 March, 2008
  4. mick 31 October, 2008
  5. joshua 27 December, 2008