Rotherham United: Why did Jackett quit Millers and what happens next?
Barely a month after they said farewell to a manager they decided wasn't up to the job, Rotherham United parted company with the one they were pinning their future on.
Welcome to the crazy world of the Millers’ 2016/17 season.
Kenny Jackett’s shock decision to quit the Championship club just 39 days into his reign leaves them looking for their sixth manager in 14 months and their third since June.
They’re bottom of the table, 11 points adrift of safety, have the worst defensive record in the Football League, have gone 14 fixtures without a win and it would take an even bigger miracle than Neil Warnock’s survival feat last season to stop them heading back to League One.
This is chairman Tony Stewart’s toughest time since he took over the Millers and saved them from administration eight years ago.
Alan Stubbs was appointed in the summer and lasted just 13 league matches before the sack on October 19 ended his toxic spell in charge when he won only one match and lost the fans.
Enter Jackett. The 54-year-old had impeccable credentials: plenty of second-tier experience and promotions at all three of his previous clubs - Swansea City, Millwall and Wolves - where his success was built on stability and longevity.
“I have always left a club in a better state than I found it,” he said in his first press conference after his October 21 appointment.
Not this time. Gone on after just five games, plunging an already-difficult season into further turmoil.
Three years with Swansea, seven with Millwall, three with Wolves, 39 days and five games with Rotherham. Jackett obviously found something very much not to his liking in South Yorkshire.
“There was no fall-out, no aggro, nothing like that,” said Stewart, as stunned as anyone by Jackett offering his resignation after the 2-1 defeat against Leeds United on Saturday night and confirming it the following morning.
I suspect the true size of the challenge facing the new man didn’t hit him until he was already behind his desk at New York Stadium.
There are too many players not up to Championship standard, the structure of the club needs overhauling, a coherent recruitment policy must be put in place, the issue of the Roundwood training base needs addressing. All this, with the shadow of an almost-inevitable relegation waiting to stain his CV.
The playing mess he inherited was of Stubbs’ making. The club will be paying the price of the Liverpudlian’s summer signings for the rest of the campaign and possibly beyond.
Jackett hinted for the first time last week at his dissatisfaction.”We’ve fallen behind slightly,” he said, “We’ve not got the best of training grounds. A lot needs to improve at the club behind the scenes.”
There are whispers, unconfirmed, he may have decided his budget wasn’t sufficient and that the January transfer window wouldn’t have brought, or bought, enough relief. He isn’t saying, not responding to a request for an interview.
Stewart, who readily acknowledges the need for change in the way the Millers operate, recognised he’d made a mistake with Stubbs. Turning to Jackett appeared entirely the right decision and the appointment was warmly welcomed by everyone.
Nobody, not the owner, not supporters, not even Jackett at the time, could have predicted events would unfold as they have.
His paltry number of league games at the helm make him the Millers’ shortest-serving manager ever. The man before him, Stubbs, had held the record with 13. The man before Stubbs, Warnock, had held the mark with 16.
That is a trend that simply has to be bucked for the continuing welfare of the club.
Jackett’s spell saw the gap between Rotherham and a place out of the drop zone grow from six points to 11 and the manager won only one point, in a 2-2 draw at Ipswich Town in his second match.
There was much goodwill for him in Millers circles. Supporters believed he was the ideal appointnment and were prepared to accept a long, hard season and the prospect of going down in return for his input behind the scenes and him turning round playing fortunes next year.
No-one would have had it any other way, but maybe Rotherham’s rise from League Two to the Championship happened too quickly, not giving the club time for their off-field infrastructure to catch up with their success on the pitch and sudden, elevated status.
That change has become crucial is a consequence of the lack of long-term, strategic planning as the Millers headed into the second tier.
Fitness coach Paul Warne, a popular and well-respected figure, has been placed in temporary charge of first-team affairs and there should be no rush to make an appointment.
Spend time finding the right man rather than get the wrong man now. The job isn’t about survival miracle No 2. Nobody is expecting that.
Where the Millers finish this term isn’t the most important thing anymore. The shape they’re in when they start next season is.