Johnnie Jackson has admitted it is hard to switch off from football management. But the newly-appointed Charlton Athletic boss wouldn’t have it any other way.
Impressive results in caretaker charge led to the 39-year-old being handed the job on a permanent basis by Addicks owner Thomas Sandgaard exactly a week ago.
Jackson’s contract runs until the end of the season – with an automatic renewal over the next two campaigns dependent on the club’s finishing position.
Charlton’s former captain – a huge fans’ favourite – had never hidden his desire to become manager in SE7. Sandgaard has spoken before about the ultimate goal being a return to the Premier League and even European football.
Jackson’s extended spell as temporary boss after Nigel Adkins’ departure gave him a real taste of the highs and lows of management.
“It’s a high-pressure job,” he said. “I was well aware of what I was getting into. It comes with pressure and it comes with stresses – but I wanted this. So I’m not going to moan about it. I knew it would be difficult to switch off and I’ve found that to be the case.
“Even when I’m away from the club at home then you can’t quite switch off – you’re thinking about your next team or training session. It does consume you.
“Whether that gets less down the years, who knows? I doubt it. You have to be full blast with it. You can’t be half-hearted otherwise you get half-hearted results. You have to throw everything at it. That is in my nature. It’s how I played football, how I coached and how I’ll manage.”
Jackson admits his phone “blew up” with messages after last week’s announcement.
That included the likes of Chris Powell and Lee Bowyer – but also plenty of other people he has worked with since arriving at Charlton from Notts County in 2010.
“Powelly and Bow are two people I worked closely with as a player and as a manager,” said Jackson. “But I can also always pick the phone up to Karl Robinson, Alex Dyer and Damian Matthew.
“Throughout the years it has been great to have that network of support.
“The amount of well-wishers I had get in contact was lovely. A fair few of those people have helped me get to that position.”
So what does Jackson make of his performance-related contract?
“If things go well on the pitch then the trigger will be met,” he said. “Or the owner might like what he is seeing anyway and want to proceed.
“Obviously it need to be acknowledged that we were 22nd in the league when I took over – so it is what the definition or interpretation of success is.”
The clamour from supporters for Jackson to shed the caretaker tag heightened after a 2-0 win over Plymouth on November 20.
They had taken 20 points from a possible 27 before his status was changed.
“I understand the process and that the owner wanted to have a close eye on me when I first took it over – to see how I did things and how I go about it,” said Jackson. “What I was going to change and try to implement. I was also well aware he was keeping his options open. That’s his prerogative and how you should approach things.
“He made no secret the process would run for at least a month before he did make any decision. About three or four weeks ago he intimated that he wanted to make it permanent.
“Since then it had been a discussion trying to get it right for both parties. I’m probably a little frustrated it didn’t happen sooner.
“Trying to negotiate a deal and concentrating on doing the job, that can’t go on for too long. It probably went on a little bit too long. But it got to where I wanted it to get to, so it doesn’t matter now.”
Jackson always approached it as if replacing Adkins was permanent.
“A lot of people said it [Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Plymouth] was my first game but it felt like the 15th game,” said Jackson. “Because from the moment I asked to take the team I spoke and conducted myself like I was the manager.
“I felt it was the best way to get through to the players, get results and the opportunity to showcase myself.”
Arguably most importantly, Charlton’s players performed like they were desperate for Jackson to realise his ambition.
“You could see they were giving everything to me and were behind me,” he said. “Their performances did all the talking that they needed to do. Then they backed it up with their words in the press. To hear what they said in the media was lovely and rewarding.
“I can’t thank them enough for their efforts up to now. The whole group have been brilliant.”
One of the pressing questions is whether Jackson adds to his backroom team.
He has already talked about being a coach light since Adkins left. Anthony Hayes, U23 senior professional development lead coach, has helped fill the void.
“Euelly [Jason Euell] has been first class,” said Jackson. “I’ve been really pleased with the help he has given and input he has had. He has done great. But we are a coach down. To give us – me, the club and everybody here – the best opportunity to be a success, you need that bigger team around you.
“It is a conversation I need to have with the owner and it is one we’re scheduled to have about filling that role. That will happen fairly soon.”
Just as pressing is the opportunity in January to reshape his squad.
“It’s not the most straight-forward of window,” said Jackson. “We have highlighted certain positions we feel we can maybe strengthen and add a couple. We have to be careful about the size of the squad and whether that means a couple have to go or a couple go on loan.
“The recruitment team have been working on lists of potential targets. We need to bring that all together and narrow down to see who is or isn’t available. We need to get that moving soon.”
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