It’s a matter of when, not if, Johnnie Jackson is made Charlton Athletic manager on a full-time basis. And absolutely nobody can argue he doesn’t deserve to lose the caretaker part of his job title.
The idea when the Valley fans’ favourite stepped up following the dismissal of Nigel Adkins in late October was that it gave him a window of opportunity to stake a claim.
Consider that claim well and truly staked.
Charlton have banked 17 points from a possible 24 in his eight League One matches in charge. Only Rotherham, Oxford and Portsmouth (18) have had a marginally better return.
What Jackson inherited was a team wallowing in the bottom four and struggling for any kind of identity or cohesion.
Just look at them now. Tuesday’s entirely straightforward 2-0 win over Ipswich Town leaves them just two points outside of the top 10.
Charlton have tightened up defensively. They have kept clean sheets in all five of their victories on Jacko’s watch and Craig MacGillivray did not have a save to make against a Tractor Boys side who were red-hot promotion favourites before the campaign commenced.
“That was a 2-0 thumping,” was Alan Curbishley’s verdict on Charlton TV.
And he was absolutely right.
If Ipswich keeper Christian Walton had not been in defiant mood then the Addicks would have won this at a canter.
You wondered if Ipswich’s decision to sack Paul Cook on Saturday and install John McGreal as interim boss might have produced a reaction. Especially with 3,189 Town fans crammed in the Jimmy Seed Stand.
But instead of new manager bounce, they sank without a trace.
If they had managed to salvage a positive result Charlton’s players should, and I’m sure would, have been fuming with themselves.
But Alex Gilbey ensured that would not be the case when he collected Elliot Lee’s pass, stepped confidently inside of George Edmundson before producing a cool finish across Walton.
Charlton have the attacking players to hurt absolutely any team at this level.
One of Jackson’s changes was to go with two up front and Conor Washington and Jayden Stockley have linked so effectively.
Washington’s pace got him into damaging positions time and again in midweek. Although Walton kept out his shot in the first half, Stockley was quickest to react and converted the rebound.
Stockley is on 14 goals for the season and 12 of them have come in the last 12 matches. That is already five more than he managed in the 2020-21 campaign.
It makes it all the more head-scratching that the experienced striker lost his place as the pressure ramped up on Adkins.
Going back to Jackson, it’s hard to fathom what else he needs to do to impress owner Thomas Sandgaard.
Putting the rise up the league table to one side, Charlton have also progressed to the third round of the FA Cup and a relatively attractive third round tie at home to Norwich City, eminently winnable if Dean Smith priotises Premier League survival and fields a weakened side. And if they can beat Milton Keynes in the last-16 of the EFL Trophy then a trip to Wembley comes sharper into focus.
What’s abundantly clear is that Charlton’s players are performing like they want Jackson to be the long-term answer.
Gilbey’s first reaction after getting off the mark this season was to jump into the arms of his manager.
The future is looking a lot brighter than it did when Adkins’ reign was ended. Things were a mess, but the caretaker has properly cleaned things up.
Conor Washington. His ability to make run after run behind the Ipswich defence was a key factor in the victory.
Excellent finish by Gilbey for his first goal of the campaign.
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