There’s few managers in the Football League who’ve achieved as much as Kenny Jackett.
The 58-year-old has two promotions to his name (with Millwall and Wolves) and two Football League Trophies (one with Swansea and the other Portsmouth). He’s achieved good success in his Portsmouth tenure so far, and after a cagey first-half of this season, looks to have his side on the brink of promotion back to the Championship.
Pompey were relegated from the Championship in 2012, and finished bottom of the League One table the following season to complete their journey from Premier League regulars, and FA Cup winners, to League Two outfit in only six seasons. It was a chaotic fall from grace, accompanied by off-field controversies and financial problems.
Things at Fratton Park are looking up though – now Wigan boss Paul Cook guided Portsmouth to the League Two title in the 2016/17 season before heading for the DW Stadium, and Jackett – fresh from a short and sour stint at Rotherham United – came into the now League One side.
League One is Jackett’s League – all of his league successes in football have come in League One, making him the ideal candidate to take Portsmouth up into the Championship. He’s now in his third season at the club. His first ended with a stable 8th-place finish after coming up as League Two champions, and that was followed up by a 4th-place finish last year.
In the play-off semi-finals, Portsmouth were beaten 1-0 on aggregate by Sunderland, who’d lost to Pompey in the final of the EFL Trophy a couple months prior. That became Portsmouth’s second domestic trophy win of the century (bar their League Two title), and only their third cup win in their history.
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Promotion was the main aim for Jackett last season, and that cup win gave him some leeway in not achieving promotion, and in making a terrible start to this campaign. Jackett had made a host of impressive signings in the summer, including the £1.5 million signing of John Marquis from Doncaster Rovers, and the purchase of Ellis Harrison from Ipswich Town amongst other loan and free signings.
Portsmouth basically assembled the best League One squad they could. The main aim this time around was the title – forget promotion via 2nd-place or the play-offs, the League One title was Portsmouth’s to lose. But as most know, Portsmouth were slumped in the bottom-half of the table for much of the first-half of this season, and Jackett hung on to his job by the skin of his teeth.
Few clubs today would show their managers the same faith that Portsmouth have shown Jackett. It’s been a real eye-opener to see a manager struggle like that, but bounce back with the backing of the board, and turn his side’s season around like he has done. Pompey now sit in 4th-place and only two points off the top-two, and looking like they could yet achieve automatic promotion.
If they fail to do so again this year, it’ll become harder to see Jackett staying in the job for much longer. But if they do achieve promotion into the Championship, then what? Do they expect to return to the Premier League within a few seasons with Jackett at the helm? Or will they look to remove him at the earliest point and bring in a proven Championship manager?
He’s notoriously struggled when he’s taken teams into the Championship and there’s nothing to suggest that this won’t be the case at Fratton Park. A well-liked character at Portsmouth nonetheless, Jackett was installed as manager for one reason and that was to achieve promotion from League One – the next step might be a challenge for someone else.