Why Thomas Sandgaard’s sacking of Johnnie Jackson should set alarm bells ringing for Charlton fans

·3-min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Charlton owner Thomas Sandgaard’s reasoning for sacking manager Johnnie Jackson on Tuesday should set alarm bells ringing among Addicks fans.

In an interview with Standard Sport, Sandgaard revealed a major factor in his decision was the team’s style of play and the manager’s inflexible tactics.

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Jackson took over as caretaker in October, with the Addicks 22nd in League One, and was given the job permanently after taking 20 points from his first nine matches. He led the club to 13th after their hopes of joining a fiercely-competitive play-off picture were ended by six defeats in seven in February and March, when the squad was largely without all three strikers through injury.

He is widely considered to have done, at least, an acceptable job and deserved the chance to bid for promotion after a pre-season and summer transfer window.

Sandgaard, however, is “convinced” a more “high-pressing style” would give Charlton a greater chance of returning to the Championship and has targeted a head coach with a more flexible approach to formations.

It is usually a red flag when an owner talks tactics and Sandgaard, whose vision for the club has often straddled a fine line between ambitious and naive, appears increasingly misguided, demanding Liverpool football on a League One budget.

Dismissing Jackson adds to a growing sense that the owner is micro-managing every aspect of the club, rather than trusting in the expertise of his staff.

This would be one thing if Sandgaard was acting from a position of strength but the Dane had no prior experience of football before he bought Charlton in September 2020 and lives most of the year in Colorado.

There is a feeling at Charlton that Sandgaard always knows best and is reluctant to listen to well-meaning advice, even from far more experienced operators. He is still yet to hire a new CEO to help run the club (although he has just appointed a COO), and among his other troubling decisions are plans to re-brand the women’s team from Charlton Women to Charlton Ladies, which have been met with fierce opposition from both outside and inside the club.

The biggest red flag to date was Sandgaard’s appointment of his son, Martin, as director of analysis, despite no prior experience in football. There is now a concern the Sandgaards will take control of this summer’s recruitment and new manager search, again in spite of their lack of expertise.

Charlton owner Thomas Sandgaard playing the guitar before a match at the Valley earlier this season (Getty Images)
Charlton owner Thomas Sandgaard playing the guitar before a match at the Valley earlier this season (Getty Images)

Charlton fans owe Sandgaard an enormous debt of gratitude for saving the club and there is no doubting his ambition to return them to the pinnacle of the English game, which has been backed by hard cash.

He is not beyond scrutiny, however, and his running of Charlton is increasingly concerning, particularly an apparent unwillingness to trust people who know the game, the league and the club — like Jackson.

There is an argument that Jackson, in his first managerial role, was too fixed on his 3-5-2 formation and too slow to respond to events during matches.

Clearly, the 39-year-old was learning on the job and Sandgaard could point to a high-profile example in Manchester United, who appointed a successful caretaker and popular former player in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer but held on too long after it was clear he was not cut out for the position.

Perhaps Jackson’s sacking will prove a harsh but necessary step in Charlton’s development, but it does not feel that way today.

Good owners who make ruthless but necessary decisions are usually vastly experienced or at least supported by people who are.

Sandgaard appears to have neither the experience nor the support, so it is hard to trust him to get the next appointment right.