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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Impatient Imps dismiss Jackson

They used to crank up an old air raid siren at Lincoln when the home side won a corner. Now it's the sound of a panic alarm reverberating around Sincil Bank. Just seven games into the season, and the Imps have sacked manager Peter Jackson.

It's a far cry from a couple of seasons ago. The club were struggling at the wrong end of League Two and relegation to the Conference for the first time in 20 years looked a possibility.

In came Jackson, and the former Huddersfield boss turned fortunes around -
the appointment was heralded a huge success. Fans and board alike were energised, falling in love with the Yorkshireman's passion and enthusiasm for the game and club.

Then, in 2008, when Jackson was diagnosed with throat cancer, the fans and club rallied around and supported him as he made his recovery. He had been embraced into the Lincoln family - a match made in heaven it seemed.

So where has it all gone wrong, and how has it come to this less than a month into the new campaign?

Fans will point to a disappointing season last time out. After a summer of expensive recruits like former Leicester man Frank Sinclair, Jackson declared his squad, "the envy of League Two," and sent out a clear message that the Imps would be challenging for promotion.

They didn't. A frustrating campaign, where they managed just six victories on home soil, saw home crowds take a dive. Supporters who had been promised so much felt badly let down.

Twelve months on, and Jackson downplayed his side's chances, preferring to keep quiet and learn from his error last season. However, despite winning two of their opening three matches, dispiriting losses to Burton and Dagenham, where fans turned on the manager, saw the side continue in last term's inconsistent form.

Last night's loss at League Two's bottom club, Darlington, in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy was the final straw. Indeed, the board, in their statement, indicated that the exit from two cup competitions so early on was a factor in their decision.

However, should it have been? The JPT is not a huge money-spinning competition and, as attendances show, fans only really start to care about it when their side gets to the semi-final stage. It's not a competition that should influence a manager losing his job.

And then in the League Cup, despite a good performance, they lost 1-0 to Championship side Barnsley. Were they expecting to beat a side two divisions above them? It was a tough fixture that the South Yorkshire side were always the favourites in. No, Jackson should not be blamed for that defeat.

So what about the league form. Just five games have been played, and although City lie 16th, they're just three points from the play-off places. Not a disastrous start to the season by any means.

And, although Dagenham and Burton are smaller clubs, losing to them is not a disgrace. The Daggers are top of the table after all, and Burton are an unknown package having been promoted last season. Performances may have been poor - but where does the responsibility of the players come into matters?

Jackson had been in charge at Lincoln since 2007

However, this is football, where common sense seems to have no place or merit. Explaining the dismissal, Chairman Stef Wright referred to the anti-climax of last season as part of the reasoning.

If this was the case, why then did the board agree a new contract with the manager in January? Why not simply allow Jackson's contract to run down and him leave at the end of the campaign?

Why allow him to continue for a few games this season, tell him he has no more budget to strengthen with, then spend a lot of money paying him compensation when giving him his P45? The nonsensical nature of how to run a football club.

Wright is a poor chairman though, and he has proven it in the past. Ever since replacing Rob Bradley, he has overseen a downward trend at the club. If anyone should leave, it should be him.

Lincoln's major problem though is that they were spoiled during Keith Alexander's reign at the club. He led the club to four successive play-off finishes, the first of which was totally against the odds with the club freshly out of administration.

His replacement, John Schofield, also led the Imps to the play-offs, where they lost for a fifth successive season, a League record. However, Schofield paid the price for a poor start the following campaign.

Alexander's legacy is now a raised bar at the Bank though. Fans expect their club, who had previously never made the play-offs, to now challenge for them every season. City have been in the basement division for 11 years though, and only the man known as 'Big Keef' has brought them any success.

They are far from one of the biggest or richest clubs at that level and competing is always going to be difficult. However, fans don't want to hear or accept this. Lincoln supporters were unhappy with the style of football under Alexander, despite the results. Then they quickly turned on Schofield, and now Jackson.

Yes, in harsh economic times, football teams almost become even more important. People look to their club to bring them joy during hard times, especially at home matches, and City were struggling to do that.

However, the season is still so young, and this was a time for everyone at Sincil Bank to hold their nerve, back the manager, and give him the time he needed to get the side challenging. They have failed spectacularly.

"We are Imps," the fans sing on the terraces. "We are Impatient," might be more appropriate. This sacking is largely supporter driven, and City fans have got their wishes.

And if they also get their way, John Ward (left), the former Carlisle and Cheltenham boss, and Lincoln player, will fill the vacant manager's seat. Then again, they do say to be careful what you wish for. Jackson is better off without them.


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