In his first interview since being appointed, Johnnie Jackson outlined his vision for the future of AFC Wimbledon.
The former Charlton Athletic boss, who will be assisted by Terry Skiverton, has vast experience of managing and playing at various levels of the Football League pyramid and is understandably determined to help us bounce back at the first attempt after relegation.
Chris Thorpe spoke to Johnnie shortly after the 39-year-old put pen to paper on a two-year deal with the Dons and the full Q&A is below.
Johnnie, welcome to Wimbledon. What convinced you that this is the right opportunity for you?
Just the project. The vision I’ve been sold and the story behind the reformation of the club. How far its come in such a short space of time – it’s really exciting to be part of it.
What are your immediate plans and priorities?
I’m really keen to get cracking. I’ve got to get a real handle on the playing staff and the recruitment side of things. I’ve got to get to know those guys – we’re all going to be working closely together. We need to get plans in place for pre-season.
You arrive at the club in a period in which we are looking to bounce back after a difficult season. How will you look to go about improving morale?
We need to get that winning mentality back. It’s been a difficult season, there’s no getting away from that. It can act as a reset. I want to bring a freshness – new staff, new players coming in. We want to make sure that there’s no hangover from what’s come before and I’m sure there won’t be.
What have you learnt from your time at Charlton and how will you use that experience to help you in this role?
I’ve learnt a hell of a lot! I had been at that football club for a long time. I’ve been through all the steps as a player, captain, first-team coach, assistant manager and manager. I’ve worked with some really good people. It’s all about taking the best bits that you see and parking the bits that you wouldn’t do. You have to come up with your own methods and that’s something I’ve been doing since I was player. I was always focused on what next. There’s been lots of lessons learned. You always want to be the best coach and manager. I want to manage at the highest possible level.
You’ve faced us a few times in the past. How much do you know about the squad that you’re inheriting?
I’ve got a good handle on it. I know the lads from being in the same division as them. We came up against them a few times last season and I’ve watched them several times when I’ve been doing my due diligence. It helps when you’re doing your homework. Meeting and working with them will only broaden that knowledge.
Are you convinced that we can achieve an instant return to League One next season?
I’m an ambitious young manager. If I felt like that wasn’t achievable, then I wouldn’t be sat here today. I think AFC Wimbledon in League Two need to be pushing. We need to use the disappointment of relegation as fuel to try and bounce back at the first opportunity. That will be everyone’s mantra. I’ll be pushing that hard.
You’ve brought in Terry Skiverton as your assistant. What qualities does he bring to the role and why do you work so well together?
Terry brings a wealth of experience. He’s been there, he’s done it, he’s managed at various levels in different roles. He was at Yeovil Town for 20 years. He worked with the academy there, he worked with the first-team and he managed them all the way up to the Championship. We’ve got a guy with unbelievable experience. He’s someone I know well and I trust him to compliment what I do.
We have one of the most productive category 3 academies in the country. How are you looking to utilise it?
It’s going to be key going forwards. We’re a club that likes to promote youth. We want to try and progress their careers, whether that’s here, or them moving on. We want to produce footballers for AFC Wimbledon, but to also go and have a career in the game. It’s something that I have always promoted in my coaching.
Finally, how big a role do you feel the supporters can have moving forwards?
They’re absolutely vital. Any club that wants success needs to have that connection. Between players, supporters, staff – it needs to be one big family pushing in the right direction. I’ve seen it first-hand here, the galvanising effect that the supporters can have. We need to use our stadium – a wonderful facility – and turn it into a fortress.
Johnnie, we wish you all the best, thanks for your time.
Thank you very much.