Jack­ett exit could prove a bless­ing

The Football League Paper - - FRONT PAGE - Chris Dunlavy

KENNY Jack­ett’s brief Rother­ham reign was just a few hours old when he was asked whether the wreck­age of the Alan Stubbs era could be sal­vaged.

“Well,” said the for­mer Wolves and Mill­wall boss, “I have al­ways left a club in a bet­ter state than I found it.”

Not any more. The 54-year-old’s depar­ture, just five games and 39 days af­ter his ar­rival, has turned a rel­e­ga­tion bat­tle into a dam­age lim­i­ta­tion ex­er­cise.

Hope, burn­ing but sput­ter­ing, has been ex­tin­guished. The Millers, peren­ni­ally haunted by rel­e­ga­tion, are now doomed.

Sta­tis­tics can of­ten mis­lead, but in this case they are ir­refutably damn­ing. Pre-week­end, the Millers had amassed a sorry seven points from their 18 games.


By the same stage last sea­son, Bolton had 12 on the board – and the cash-strapped Trot­ters still fin­ished the cam­paign a cav­ernous 19 shy of safety.

In fact, no EFL side has EVER sur­vived rel­e­ga­tion on the back of such an ap­palling start.

The ques­tion – and, with Jack­ett even more ret­i­cent than usual, an­swers are in short sup­ply – is: what changed so dra­mat­i­cally in the space of four weeks?

Millers chair­man Tony Ste­wart in­sisted there was no fall out, no ag­gro, noth­ing like that.

“We didn’t even have time to ex­change harsh words,” he joked, pre­sum­ably through grit­ted teeth. Yet sources all use the same word to ex­plain Jack­ett’s depar­ture – bud­get.

Jack­ett knew money was tight. Steve Evans kept the Millers in the Cham­pi­onship on a wage bill of £5m. Neil Warnock’s great es­cape was achieved on £7m, not that he spent much of it.

Go­ing to the New York Sta­dium and ex­pect­ing a trans­fer war chest is like us­ing South­ern Rail and ex­pect­ing to ar­rive on time.

Nev­er­the­less, Jack­ett, a man renowned for his meticulous de­lib­er­a­tion, still com­mit­ted an un­char­ac­ter­is­tic mis­judge­ment.

Ba­sic due dili­gence, or a chat with any reg­u­lar sup­porter, should have told him that Rother­ham’s sum­mer re­cruit­ment stank to high heaven.

Cal­low kids, has-beens, Scots with scant ex­pe­ri­ence.

The fact that Dex­ter Black­stock and Peter Odemwingie ar­rived on frees in Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber tells you ev­ery­thing about their botched ef­forts to sign a striker.

Jack­ett, pre­sum­ably, knew that too. There’s no way he would have taken the job with­out as­sur­ances from Ste­wart that he’d be given funds in Jan­uary.

Yet a month on the train­ing ground led to a dawn­ing re­al­i­sa­tion that the play­ers he’d in­her­ited were worse than he thought, the re­build­ing job less one-bed flat and more four-storey man­sion. As the de­feats piled up and safety looked ever more dis­tant, Jack­ett re­alised at­tract­ing play­ers would be nigh on im­pos­si­ble with­out a se­ri­ous bud­get hike. Aware that wasn’t forth­com­ing, he jumped ship. When a shark is at­tacked, it re­leases a chem­i­cal sig­nal de­tectable for miles around. Es­sen­tially a kind of prim­i­tive alarm bell, it tells other sharks to run – or swim – for the hills. In bail­ing so dra­mat­i­cally out of the New York Sta­dium, Jack­ett has un­leashed his own chem­i­cal sig­nal, one that will send ev­ery other man­ager with a CV to pro­tect a mes­sage that Rother­ham is poi­son. It is in­con­ceiv­able that Ste­wart will be able to tempt an­other man­ager of Jack­ett’s cal­i­bre. In a sense, though, his depar­ture at least brings clar­ity.

Rother­ham’s ex­plo­sive leap from League Two to the Cham­pi­onship clearly out­stripped their in­fra­struc­ture. Be­hind the sta­teof-the-art sta­dium is an an­ti­quated train­ing fa­cil­ity and slap­dash scout­ing sys­tems.

Stubbs, though hardly blame­less him­self, pointed this out in Septem­ber.

“It does need an over­haul, a trans­for­ma­tion,” he said. “We need a proper re­cruit­ment sys­tem and more scouts. The old sys­tem worked for the club in League Two and League One, but in the Cham­pi­onship there is no mar­gin for er­ror. We are se­verely play­ing catch-up.”


And, if Rother­ham keep cling­ing to sur­vival in the sec­ond tier, spend­ing ev­ery penny on play­ers no­body else wants, they al­ways will be.

Don’t chuck money at sur­vival in Jan­uary. Don’t ap­point an­other 20-minute man­ager.

Just as Burn­ley sac­ri­ficed their first Pre­mier League sea­son to up­grade the club, so Ste­wart should write off this cam­paign to fo­cus on re­struc­tur­ing, de­vel­op­ing a strat­egy and ap­point­ing a man­ager to im­ple­ment it.

Short-term, that will be deeply de­press­ing. Long-term, it will end the tur­moil and up­heaval that has char­ac­terised their re­cent history.

In­ad­ver­tently, Jack­ett may have left Rother­ham in bet­ter shape than he found it, too.

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