BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Johnnie Jackson has described Karl Robinson as a “mentor” ahead of the Oxford United manager returning to The Valley tomorrow.
Robinson, 41, was Charlton Athletic boss when he appointed Jackson as player-coach in the summer of 2017.
The Scouser quit in March 2018 – jumping to the U’s as he expected to lose his job if Andrew Muir took control of the club. But the Australian failed to pull together a consortium to push through a deal with then owner Roland Duchatelet.
“Karl was the one who gave me my first opportunity and brought me into the coaching set-up,” said Jackson, who succeeded Nigel Adkins in The Valley hotseat, initially on a caretaker basis in October. “I was coming to the end of my playing days and Karl recognised that, but he also recognised something in me.
“He is someone I look up to. He has definitely been a bit of a mentor to me. I’m thankful he helped me get on the ladder. It’s going to be a strange one, I’ve coached against his teams before but not as a manager.
“He did a great job at Charlton in difficult circumstances with the ownership and instability at the club. He was building something that, over time, could’ve been something good.
“I don’t think he liked the uncertainty over the ownership, and decided to move elsewhere. He’s a proven, successful manager who has done it over a number of years at different clubs. I’ve no doubt that if he had stayed at Charlton then he’d have gone on to be a big success.”
Jackson made 18 appearances in the 2017-18 campaign, his last before hanging up his boots.
He admits Robinson helped him adjust to his change in status.
“It’s a difficult period in a player’s career because your ego tells you that you’re still able to do what you used to do on the pitch – so you want to be valued as a player,” said Jackson. “But the reality is you’re not as good and not as valuable as you once were.
“It’s hard to see that yourself at the time. It’s only looking back that I can see it was absolutely the right time for me to step away and start coaching.
“Karl helped me in doing that. It wasn’t easy – we had some difficult conversations. But he helped me help myself to get into that mindset that I’d had a good career but that I want to be a coach or manager for the next 30 years.
“Karl made that transition much easier than it could’ve been.”
Robinson is the 11th longest-serving manager in England’s top four divisions.
“He’s built a good team and they have flirted with promotion and the play-offs,” said Jackson, who has had 26 matches in charge of Charlton. “He has been afforded time and resources there, which is what we all ask for as managers, and he’s had the autonomy to run it how he sees fit.”
Charlton look set to once again be without three of their senior strikers against Oxford.
Top-scorer Jayden Stockley (hip) has been out since December with Conor Washington and Chuks Aneke missing last weekend’s 2-1 loss at Wigan due to muscle injuries.
Jackson said: “It’s a challenge, isn’t it? It’s much more difficult to get positive results when you’re talking about three key experienced players – any team would miss those.”
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