BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Johnnie Jackson admits Karl Robinson is set to get a rough reception at The Valley tonight – but says he will always be grateful to the former Charlton Athletic manager.
The Liverpudlian stepped down as Addicks chief in late March and almost instantly walked into the vacant Oxford United job.
But Robinson returns to SE7 for the first time since his exit this evening and with pressure on as the U’s have been in the League One dropzone after just two wins in their opening 14 games.
But Jackson, now assistant manager to Lee Bowyer, will always remember it was Robinson who handed him the chance to take on a player-coach role last season.
“He gave me that opportunity straight away,” said the Addicks legend. “You could say he inherited me or was stuck with me – but he never made me feel that way. He made me feel wanted.
“He showed faith because he let me get on with a hell of a lot of stuff. He mentored me for the time he was here. I got on great with him, I really did. I still do now, I speak to him regularly.
“I’ve got nothing but gratitude towards him.”
Robinson was feeling the heat with Charlton as they slid further out of play-off contention – and felt he would be pushed out the door when a takeover happened. But as it has turned out, the Australian consortium’s build to buy it off Roland Duchatelet has fallen apart – if it was ever truly a credible proposition.
The former Milton Keynes manager also felt promises had been broken over funding for signings in the January window.
But Robinson also failed to connect with Charlton fans in the instant way that Bowyer and Jackson, who both played for the club, did when put in caretaker charge.
“I know he’s going to get stick,” said Jackson. “I hoped he wouldn’t. But knowing him like I do, I don’t think he’ll be too bothered.
“He’s had a bit of a tough time at Oxford and I don’t like seeing that. But on Tuesday I hope we stuff him, and probably a little bit more so – because I know him so well.
“It is that competitive instinct and it is even more when you do know someone. He’ll be desperate to beat us – that’s fine, it is the nature of football and the way it should be.
“I’d like to see him get a good reception. But I’m pretty sure it won’t happen.”
So how did Jackson see Robinson’s departure? His dissatisfaction at life with the South Londoners seemed to grow and grow until a parting of the ways became inevitable.
“It was a bit of a crazy time here,” said Jackson. “He’ll tell you he probably felt he wasn’t backed as much with transfers as he would’ve liked. I wasn’t privvy to whether that was the case or not.
“A lot of the frustration [of the fans] was a lack of flexibility. He was totally convinced about the way he wants his teams to play and he was really good at coaching it.
“But it wasn’t working at Charlton, or certain times it wasn’t working. We kept doing the same thing but we weren’t getting the results.
“But he was completely convinced, rightly or wrongly, about his style, philosophy and the way to coach it. It was good to coach it, no doubt about that. But there is more than one way to win a football game.
“I learned a lot from him – you can be a bit more flexible and open to other things. He asked your opinion and valued it, I think. He took it on board but he was very much his own man.
“What I will say is that it is a bloody hard job! I’ve seen that close up since I’ve been here with Lee and involved with Karl. I can see how tough it is. I’m not sat here being critical of anyone who does it.”