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COMMENT: Kenny Jackett sacked - a dignified professional exits with head held high

Wolverhampton | Sport | Published:

The decision wasn't unexpected. The timing certainly was.

At 11.18pm on Friday night Wolves announced that Kenny Jackett's contract had been terminated with immediate effect,

writes Wolves correspondent Tim Spiers

.

The instant emotion was one of disbelief, the second was of inevitability. The third of disappointment.

Disappointment because this was a wholly undignified act towards a man about whom the word courteous could have been invented.

Anyone who met Kenny Jackett during his three-year Wolves tenure will no doubt agree.

Never impolite to those he met, never flippant or anything but gracious to supporters who craved just a minute of his time for a quick picture or a chat about the team.

This is a man who was deeply aware of the grandeur and traditions of the club he was employed to lead.

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But it wasn't any hint of showmanship or public relations that led to Kenny being so affable.

It was just his instinctive manner - a man never anything less than generous with his time.

Well, until the last seven days that is.

  • MORE: Wolves sack Jackett one week after Fosun takeover
  • POLL: Were Wolves right to sack Jackett?

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Kenny foregoing media commitments was rarer than a Jack Price goal.

If he was forced to miss one of the countless one-on-one interviews he obligingly granted to this publication, it was for a damn good reason, and faithful assistant Joe Gallen would be gratefully presented instead.

However, after a fairly upbeat post-Port Vale chat last Saturday, in which he spoke of Fosun's need to settle the club down as "very good news" for him personally, Jackett went MIA.

A decision to forego media commitments - and indeed the touchline managing of the team - at Northampton on Tuesday set the spider sense tingling.

The cancellation of a pre-arranged chat with the Express & Star on Thursday due to a Football League managers' meeting was a legitimate excuse. But with no Gallen offered up as back-up, something didn't feel right.

Then on Friday, when Wolves captured one of their most high-profile signings in recent years with the loan transfer of Helder Costa from Portugal, Jackett was nowhere to be seen in the club statement welcoming the new guy.

Neither, perhaps ominously, was Kevin Thelwell, with all the talking quote-wise left to the non-English speaking Costa.

After two honeymoon years his defensive, safety-first tactics last season infuriated and distanced many supporters who grew apathetic at a club going nowhere, playing excitement-free football.

In his justifiable defence the 12 points so unfashionably accrued in four games over Christmas relieved Wolves of a relegation battle.

And successive home victories over Derby and Bristol City two months later saved the board an uncomfortable decision, with supporter anger at the lack of a play-off push at its height following a bruising and disastrous 3-0 loss at Brentford.

Going-safety first to preserve a team's league status, or your own skin, is one thing.

But to continue with that reserved, inhibited approach during the last two months of the season - snubbing Joe Mason, Kevin McDonald and some talented youngsters despite Wolves' Championship status having been secured - was the last straw for many, who saw Jackett as tactically limited and as having taken Wolves as far as he could.

His penchant for physicality and power was a trait that saw Wolves too often dispense with creativity.

Some bizarre team selections and baffling substitutions didn't help either,

But all that said, Jackett went through 2015/16 with one hand tied behind his back.

Bakary Sako, Richard Stearman and Benik Afobe left. None were adequately replaced by the recruitment team.

Mason joined for £3m, if not against Jackett's will, then certainly on the proviso that a second, more physical striker to accentuate Mason's movement would be forthcoming.

It never happened. Nor did a a replacement for Stearman. And nor did a left-winger to shine Sako's boots.

Jackett was given the raw and unpolished Sheyi Ojo on loan, or an out-of-position Jed Wallace. He unearthed Jordan Graham after some tough love, but lost him to injury, one of many casualties that greatly hampered Jackett's work last season including Nouha Dicko, Mike Williamson, Michael Zyro, Kortney Hause, David Edwards and many more.

With Wolves finishing 14th he was vilified by supporters - and that vilification continued throughout the summer when it emerged that a takeover of the club was imminent.

This time the vilification came via speculation that his job had been offered to another man.

And all the while he was forced to try and prepare a threadbare squad for the upcoming Championship season, amid a ban on transfers until the takeover went through.

It would be enough to make many a weaker man walk away. But Jackett stayed. A club man to the core.

In public he remained dignified throughout, insisting he wouldn't resign, that takeovers were part of football life and that he would continue to train the team until told otherwise, even if in his heart he knew his time was almost up.

Then, post-Fosun takeover, came the death knell from Julen Lopetegui.

"Certainly if the Spanish job hadn't come up, I know I would now be coach at Wolverhampton," the new Spain boss said in a quote to drop the jaw if ever there was one.

Jeff Shi's backtracking in last Monday's press conference was unconvincing at best.

"I'm happy to work with Ken now," he insisted. And Moxey butted in: "Kenny is the coach going forward."

If he'd have added "...to Friday" it would have been accurate.

Their words convinced no-one. Lopetegui was Fosun's man, and Jackett was on borrowed time until the next-best candidate was accrued.

We can therefore expect his successor to be announced shortly. Steve Bruce, Roberto Martinez and Marco Silva are the early names in the frame.

Despite all the undignified speculation Jackett behaved impeccably - a boss with "balls of granite" to quote a member of his backroom staff - and politely answered every single question asked of him.

Even on the day of the takeover when it seemed he was hours from the sack (before the Lopetegui u-turn) he spoke candidly about his future, knowing what to expect but philosophical about it.

For Wolves' future without Jackett, whatever happens next it's clear that things are going to work very differently at Molineux from now on.

Jackett's departure came on the day that fans were banned from the training ground. And it was noticeable that Shi put his name to the Jackett sacking statement. Not "the club" or "Fosun". Certainly not the outgoing Moxey, who had backed Jackett to the hilt.

To release a bombshell of a statement at 11.18pm on a Friday night is not the action of the Wolves that we know.

It's understood that Jackett was informed a few hours earlier - and had been in regular contact with Shi throughout the week.

A new era is upon us and while the signings of players from Benfica and Atletico Madrid bode well, the sacking of a decent man just one week after the club's takeover whiffs of indecision in its timing.

It should have been done when the takeover was announced, as expected.

There's no suggestion, though, of any underhand acts from the new owners. Jackett was respected by everyone at the club and Shi shared that respect. Jackett simply wasn't his guy. New owners, new start.

Fosun, in replacing Jackett and Moxey, are now presented with two huge decisions to get right.

That's for another day. But as for Jackett, how will his Wolves tenure be remembered?

Primarily, one would hope, for dragging a forlorn club from its knees in 2013, efficiently dispensing with underachieving, demotivated high-earners and replacing them with young, improving, hungry players in whom the club's supporters could invest pride and hope.

He won League One with a record points haul - no mean feat in a league that has scuppered and trapped the likes of Nottingham Forest, Leeds and the two Sheffield clubs.

And then in 2014/15 he took the team to within goal difference of the Championship play-offs with a points total that would have earned promotion in other years.

Yes 2015/16 was a let-down. But Jackett, hampered by injuries and poor recruitment, deserved the opportunity to show us what he could do with the backing of bottomless pockets.

Did his face fit in the Fosun/Jorge Mendes era? No, it probably didn't.

But there's one thing we can surely all agree on - he deserved a better exit than this.

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