Steve Brown has pinned a large portion of the blame for Charlton Athletic’s mediocre season on the last two transfer windows – and feels Johnnie Jackson’s dismissal was “harsh”.
Addicks owner Thomas Sandgaard broke the news to Jackson early on Tuesday afternoon that his 12-year association with the club – who he captained to the League One title in 2012 – was over.
It means that the US-based Dane’s two menagerial appointments, Nigel Adkins and Jackson, have both lasted no longer than seven months in the Valley top job.
Sandgaard had previously stated that Jackson, 39, was safe. He succeeded Adkins in late October with the Addicks third bottom of the table with nine points from their opening 13 league fixtures.
Jackson won six and drew two of his first eight matches to land the job full-time. Charlton finished 13th with Jackson averaging 1.56 points per game – a touch under 72 over the course of a 46-game campaign.
Brown, who played nearly 250 matches for the South London club during a 14-year stay, has been a regular pundit on Charlton TV since it launched last season.
“The first reaction would be one of surprise,” Brown told the South London Press, when asked about Jackson’s departure. “There was a choice to be made, in terms of the direction of the football club from Thomas’ perspective.
“But I’m going back to when Johnnie came out [in our paper in February] and said: ‘I don’t even know if I’m going to be here next season’. I remember Thomas saying Johnnie will be here, so that’s why it’s a surprise.
“I was convinced Johnnie would get the summer to at least discuss players coming in and have his own team, rather than someone else’s. Let’s not forget this was a team put together late last summer for Nigel Adkins.
“Nigel couldn’t make it work. The reaction from the team, and what Johnnie has done, I don’t know what more you can want from Johnnie than getting us up to almost mid-table. To not allow him a summer to try and recruit or advise what he wanted to improve the team is a little bit harsh on him, to be brutally honest.
“Nine points from [the opening] 13 games means you’re 17 points off your two-points-per-game [average] for promotion.
“When that period is done then you’re not in the running for it, certainly not automatic which we were hoping to achieve, by all accounts that is what the expectation levels were – play-offs at worst.
“You’re then thinking ‘can we catch the coat-tails of the play-offs?’. We’re looking at sixth [as a best-case option] after 13 games. Realistically we were never going to catch sixth.
“We’ve got a young manager who we’ve just given an opportunity to in this country, and it’s not just happening here at Charlton but up and down the country, people just aren’t getting time. Young coaches who have got their whole career in front of them are being tripped up, like this.
“Johnnie has got several arguments as to why things didn’t work out and why Thomas has made the change.
“He’ll argue that he has not had his own team, his own recruitment and his own pre-season.
“There are many things that Johnnie Jackson could say that he would be able to do in an ideal world. He’s come in, he’s got a reaction, got us to mid-table and lost his job. I’ve got a great deal of sympathy for him.”
There have already been casualties earlier in the campaign. Ged Roddy left his role as technical director just before Christmas with Sandgaard’s son Martin appointed director of analysis.
Tottenham’s Nile John arrived on loan in January but did not play a minute. Chelsea’s Juan Castillo, also a temporary addition, made two league appearances.
Terry Skiverton, who ended a 23-year career at Yeovil Town to become a first-team coach under Jackson, has also been fired.
“Modern-day football has become entirely about recruitment, really,” said Brown.
“It could be that your manager is able to recruit and has the last say on players brought in. You can also say he has no say and we want a top head coach.
“Recruitment can be so many things – it could be about sell-on fees. So you’re signing 22, 23 or 24-year-olds that haven’t quite made the top grade and you’re trying to coach them up. But to do that you’ve got to be successful first on the pitch. The problem with Charlton is that it’s not particularly successful on the pitch at the moment.
“If you’re just a head coach you have an outball [on transfers].
“I think Johnnie sees himself as a manager and wants to have last say on recruitment. I don’t think he did, although I can’t tell you that for sure.
“Thomas Sandgaard has come out himself and said the summer window was a poor one. If you look at January, I’m not sure that proved too successful.
“We brought in two young kids who couldn’t get a game, Chuks Aneke, who barely starts, and Scott Fraser, who has barely played due to his injuries and Covid.
“So you can look at January and ask: ‘What help has Johnnie had, really – in terms of a side that is capable of challenging?’ And still he’s had two very good runs either side of a very poor run.
“In terms of this summer if we have another poor window, I think there will be a few raised eyebrows about where you go from there.”
Sandgaard is now starting the process of making his third managerial appointment.
“If you are an experienced manager, you’re going to look at it and think ‘they’ve had three managers in 18 months now’,” said Brown.
“It looked as if Lee Bowyer wanted to stay at Charlton but there was a big U-turn and he left. He didn’t go to a club [Birmingham] in a fantastic position or that it was well-run – he went to a club that has two sides of the stadium shut, no-one knows who the owner is and no money is being pumped into the team. He left Charlton for that. Why has he done that?
“Nigel comes in and gets a response and then the recruitment, and how late it was, just didn’t give him a chance.
“I do think there are one or two things Nigel could’ve done with the team but players came in late and they weren’t fit because they hadn’t been playing for their respective teams – so they were miles behind with their levels. Now Johnnie has gone.
“If you’re an experienced manager you think ‘I might only have nine months here’. They might think twice.
“But if you’re going for a young, category-one U23 manager who has a lot of experience at that level – but more of a head coach – there will be plenty of those out there who would jump at the chance. They want to prove themselves.
“We’ll see which way Thomas Sandgaard goes. It’s his club, it’s his money and, in some respects, you could say he is very brave in making the changes. You could look at it from that perspective – because it is all on him.
“He’ll be fully aware they’ve got to have a better summer, make a very good appointment and then we’ll see. You’re never quite sure how it will go until that first kick-off comes and you get a look at your team. It’s a really important summer for the football club.”
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