SIX HERR-RAIS­ING MONTHS IN THE BUN­DESLIGA...

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Chris Dunlavy

EVER heard of Ein­tra­cht Braun­schweig? Nei­ther had Simeon Jack­son un­til he got a call from his agent ask­ing if he fan­cied a shot at the Bun­desliga.

“It came right out of the blue re­ally,” says the 26-year-old for­mer Nor­wich and Gilling­ham striker.

“I’d just been re­leased by Nor­wich and was play­ing in the Gold Cup with the Cana­dian na­tional team. I was ac­tu­ally on the verge of sign­ing for Bournemouth. Ev­ery­thing was agreed, it just needed to be signed and sealed.

“Then I got a phone call from my agent say­ing: ‘There might be an op­por­tu­nity out in the Bun­desliga – why don’t you go and have a look?’ ”

So he did, and 24 hours later, clutch­ing a yel­low and blue shirt on a for­eign field in Sax­ony, Jack­son be­came part of the Braun­schweig fairy­tale.

Win­ner

One of the found­ing mem­bers of the Bun­desliga in 1963, Ein­tra­cht ac­tu­ally won the ti­tle four years later and – with stars like West Ger­man World Cup win­ner Paul Bre­it­ner in their ranks – spent much of the 70s and 80s in the top flight.

Un­for­tu­nately, rel­e­ga­tion in 1985 her­alded two decades of de­cline and by the end of 2008, the Li­ons were fac­ing fi­nan­cial cri­sis and a first ever de­mo­tion to the fourth tier of Ger­man foot­ball.

Then came man­ager Torsten Lieberknecht, fi­nal-day sur­vival, and in May 2013, pro­mo­tion back to the Bun­desliga for the first time in 28 years.

It was not in the plan. “Only a year ago we wanted to de­velop step by step,” said Lieberknecht on the eve of the sea­son. “Now these in­cred­i­ble boys are in the Bun­desliga. We will have to see what comes of it but there are huge ath­letic and fi­nan­cial dif­fer­ences.”

This then, was the club that Jack­son joined – a side on the crest of a wave but way out of their depth.

“It’s a pretty small club,” ad­mits the Cana­dian. “They were in the third divi­sion just a cou­ple of sea­sons ago and the same core of play­ers have come up pretty much all the way.

“Braun­schweig was a re­ally ex­cit­ing place to be. It was a real fam­ily club and ev­ery­body in the city was buzzing off their suc­cess.” Jack­son en­joyed life off the pitch, mak­ing an effort to learn Ger­man us­ing an app on his iPad and get­ting to know his new home.

“It’s near Han­nover, and the place it­self was great,” he adds. “Ger­many is ev­ery­thing peo­ple say – it has a lot of struc­ture and a lot of rules. But Braun­schweig was a re­ally great city. It had ev­ery­thing you needed to live well.”

Tough

But on the pitch, things went less well. Re­al­ity soon bit, with Ein­tra­cht los­ing 13 of their first 19 games. For­wards were few, and chances even fewer.

Lieberknecht also asked his play­ers to en­gage with his tac­tics – a tough ask for some­one with lim­ited Ger­man “The Bun­desliga is a re­ally high stan­dard and they found it tough go­ing,” ad­mits Jack­son, who scored 35 goals in 1001 games for Gilling­ham and won to the Premier League with Nor­wich.

“And so did I. It was a new coun­try, a new lan­guage to learn But it was also a new man­tality to­wards foot­ball – that was the tough­est thing.

“Tempo-wise, it’s not as quick as the Cham­pi­onship or the Premier League. But it’s very ro­bust-phys­i­cally, you have to be in great shape to com­pete.

“It’s a to­tally dif­fer­ent game ac­tu­ally. A to­tally dif­fer­ent game Train­ing and games are very ta-tical, very or­gan­ised.

“Through­out my ca­reer I've played as quite a quick, ex­plo­sive striker. My train­ing has al­ways been about short, sharp ses­sions. My job has been sim­ple.

“Over there, it’s more about

your role in a sys­tem. I could try and be my­self, and play in bursts. But the type of game they play, it wouldn’t have worked.

“A striker has to do a lot more over there – he’s not just there to score goals, he’s there to keep his team in the game as well.

“The man­ager was very good. He tried to help me any way he could, and would al­ways try to break his in­struc­tions down into English. But I don’t think I could ever un­der­stand com­pletely what he wanted me to do.”

In the end, Jack­son played just nine games and failed to score a sin­gle goal. By the time Jan­uary rolled round, he knew a re­turn to Blighty was in or­der and when Milwall boss Ian Hol­loway showed an in­ter­est, Jack­son wasted lit­tle time packing his bags.

Buzzing

“To go there and hit the ground run­ning would have been great,” he says. “But once I didn’t, I wasn’t afraid to ad­mit I needed to come back.

“I got a call from my agent say­ing there was in­ter­est. The next thing I know I was on the phone to Ian Hol­loway and we had a re­ally good chat.

“I was ab­so­lutely buzzing off him and couldn’t wait to come and work with him. That was me de­cided, pretty much there and then.”

So does Jack­son see his time in Ger­many as a waste of six months?

“Not at all,” he in­sists. “It was an ex­cit­ing place to be and I felt I couldn’t re­ally turn down the chance to play at that level.

“It was also a chance to ex­pe­ri­ence foot­ball in a dif­fer­ent coun­try, which not ev­ery­one gets to do. It didn’t work out the way I wanted it to but I’ve learned a lot.

“In the end, though, it was about play­ing games and I’m just glad to be back in Eng­land, play­ing the game I know.”

PIC­TURES:

FREE LION: Jack­son and Ed Up­son af­ter they both signed for Mill­wall Simeon in ac­tion for Ein­tra­cht Braun­schweig

: Ac­tion Im­ages PIC­TURE: Me­dia Im­age Ltd

FLY­ING VISIT: Simeon Jack­son as a Ca­nary at Nor­wich, be­fore his ill-fated move to Ein­tra­cht Braun­schweig, inset

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