No compromises

I don’t read many autobiographies but felt compelled to dip into Sir Alex Ferguson’s latest book.

Kenny Jackett Wolves

I wasn’t in the market for anecdotes about David Beckham’s hair or Diego Forlan’s masterful tennis skills, I simply hoped to gain insight into what made the Scot so successful.

And whilst I wouldn’t say I discovered one definitive revelation, Fergie did impart a few pearls of managerial wisdom in amongst all those headline-grabbing tales.

1. Give a player an inch and he’ll take a mile. Be tough on discipline or players run amok.

2. No player is more important than the manager. If any individual (regardless of talent) tries to control the dressing room, they must be removed.

3. Most important of all – don’t compromise.

The obvious connection amongst all these titbits is ruthlessness. Ferguson was notoriously fearless of the big decision if he believed it was best for the team.

Kenny Jackett has shown similar traits in a brief tenure as Wolves head coach, seemingly unperturbed by ruffling feathers.

Publicly calling out Wayne Hennessey for his refusal to play at Gillingham was just the latest in a long line of actions that stated in no uncertain terms – I’m the boss.

After exiling egos in the summer, he’s since re-populated the squad with young, ambitious players that can be shaped into his team. His ideas, his philosophy.

And guess what? They can actually play football. Ricketts, Golbourne, McDonald, Henry and Jacobs are all acquisitions that even the most critical supporter would struggle to find fault with.

It’s perverse that only in recent games, camouflaged by bad results, have we seen glimpses of what Kenny Jackett’s Wolves are capable of.

Against Leyton Orient, Tranmere and again in Friday’s loss at Priestfield, we saw a Wolves side dominate possession and boss large sections of the game.

Unfortunately, individual errors at one end and squandered opportunities at the other have resulted in criticism of our head coach based on a few bad results rather than praise for an encouraging improvement in performance levels.

I believe as a football fan you have to accept that a) you will never agree with any manager’s team selection all the time b) you won’t always play well when you win and c) you don’t always win when you play well.

It ultimately comes down to trust. Do you trust, based on everything (results, style of play, tactics, recruitment, management style, etc) that the manager (or head coach) will ultimately deliver success?

In the case of Kenny Jackett, it’s a resounding yes from me.

Not since Mick McCarthy was shown the door have we had such clear and decisive leadership. And where Mick failed (too much loyalty to old players, one-dimensional football, no fan rapport), the signs are that Kenny will succeed.

But perhaps most encouragingly of all, there are signs that for the first time in a long time, a Wolves team is developing an identity. The fact that that identity looks like being a team that play neat and attractive football only makes it all the more pleasing.

For these reasons I hope Kenny stays for a long time and continues to play it as he has done, with no compromises.

Kenny cut the mustard? A Watford perspective

It is roughly two weeks since Kenny Jackett was appointed as head coach but unless I am reading the vibes around Wolverhampton incorrectly, it will take a little longer to generate unanimous excitement over the whole announcement.

Jackett

We probably all agree that apart from a 50 goal a season striker,  a steady pair of hands is the most important asset we could hope for right now, which is why we neither jumped for joy or threw our toys out of the pram when  the Special One (cringe) was unveiled.

The obligatory platitudes followed in the press, from the likes of Andy Keogh, Graham Taylor and even our old 50 goal a season striker, who would barely say anything other than: ‘He’ll do a great job for Wolves.’

I wanted  to speak to someone who packs more of a punch and tells it as he sees it!

Who better than Matt Rowson, a Watford statistician, blogger and lifelong fan, where Jackett helped gain two promotions as a coach in the 1990s, after being their manager in 1996?

Ben: On face value, some Wolves fans feel a bit underwhelmed by the appointment, more due to the fact a general ‘pick-me-up’ is needed after four pretty terrible years of football. A personality – someone like Zola funnily enough – would have got the juices going a bit more, but as time goes on, I think we all feel we’re in safe hands with Jackett.

Matt: Part of Wolves’ problem for me is a valuation of style – or perhaps status – over substance.  ‘Not a big enough name for Wolves,’ for example, is not a helpful attitude. Zola, a bigger name, is at Watford, a smaller club, but only because of the project that he’s bought into. We’re under no illusions that he wouldn’t be here otherwise, and I’d rather have a Jackett in any other circumstances than a Vialli for example.

Ben: Mick McCarthy’s achilles heel was a stubborn, dogmatic and thoroughly cantankerous attitude, which bordered on the insane by the time he left. Was Jackett ever guilty of favouritism / blind loyalty during his time at Vicarage Road? Was he fair to all players?

Matt: From memory there was no evidence of favouritism but we were a third tier side with very little scope to change things, and with players (Kevin Phillips) injured all season. Incidentally David Connolly broke through six months or so earlier but had his head turned by Mick McCarthy, ironically, who earned the brief ire of Watford supporters by telling Connolly, then 18/19 with 15 starts to his name, that he had nothing to prove at third tier level.

Ben: Both Mick and Saunders placed an onus on sweat and brawn over style and substance. Ugly, direct football has been our staple diet for longer than we can remember. What can we expect from Jackett?

Matt: Jackett is a pragmatic manager.  In 1997 his side struggled for goals, but that was more down to the fact that he wasn’t allowed to spend money on much needed striking cover than natural reticence.  Barry Hayles from Stevenage for £100k was the one he wanted at the time.  Personally, I’d suggest that style of football is less important than winning?  Jackett is a pragmatist, I think, but surely Wolves’ priority is to get the hell out of the division rather than trying to play pretty football and being battered.  You won’t get any credit for being Wolves, quite the opposite – every bugger will raise their game at Molineux.  I would expect Jackett to be quite direct, but he’s not Dave Bassett or John Beck.

Ben: As a coach under Graham Taylor and  as a manager himself, what style was favoured? Direct to a big striker with 2 wingers? Was it easily identifiable?

Matt: From memory 4-4-2, but a long time ago and with limited options.  Taylor (with Jackett as no2) was MUCH more flexible than history gives him credit for, we played wing backs the year we won the third tier (1997/98 with KJ back as assistant) but reverted to 4-4-2 early the following season and were promoted again.  Those two years quite extraordinary by any standards, we had some very good players but significantly very few of them stayed or returned to the top flight when we were immediately relegated in 2000.  We were much more than the sum of our parts, I’d certainly expect that from Jackett based on his experiences then and since (but ask Swansea/MIllwall).

Ben: McCarthy’s attitude was often abrasive to both the fans and press, Solbakken was occasionally aloof, while Saunders was downright bonkers. What can we expect from KJ? He always strikes me as being very measured and calm.

Matt: I’ve interviewed Kenny a couple of times. He’s extremely smart, calm, doesn’t get panicked into things.  Can come across as a little surly, but absolutely committed.  And he inspires confidence.

Ben: Overall, how do Watford fans remember Jackett?

Matt: As a player – a hero, very much part of our most successful era.  He was an all-round midfielder, both a ball winner and a decent passer with a hell of a shot.  He also played successfully at left back, including for Wales during a stronger era.  He claims his best position was CB, but he lacked the inches.  As a coach, he was again associated with great success, especially youth development.  As a manager his season was unsuccessful but he is excused from culpability, impossible circumstances.

Ben: If he came back tomorrow in a hold the back page shocker (pretend Zola has been abducted for a moment) how would you react?!

Matt: Astonishment.  Given our current circumstances (a WHOLE different question) it would take a huge revolution.  But it wouldn’t be a bad thing, in those circumstances.