When Raich Carter vacated the Hull City manager’s position in September 1952 the board of directors took their time to select a replacement – indeed when Carter returned as a player three months later the directors were still taking control of team matters while working to secure a long term replacement. By March 1952 rumours were circulating that Portsmouth manager Bob Jackson was in the frame, and while that suggestion was denied at the time it turned out to have substance when Jackson’s acquisition was confirmed in June 1952. Jackson was a high profile appointment in the same way as Carter was four years previously, though for different reasons – Jackson’s profile had started modestly as a non-league player and a scout in Lancashire, he then emerged from the shadows in the late 1940s and led Portsmouth to two Division One titles. The Hull City board clearly hoped that their big salary capture would deliver similar table-topping success to the Tigers.
It didn’t work out that way. Jackson inherited an expensively assembled squad that was definitely high profile but perhaps not his ideal blend. Jackson made one strategic signing with experienced inside forward Ken Horton signing from Preston North End, but in the main he relied on his existing squad and on blooding the young talent that the club had acquired under Carter’s tutelage, who were now coming to the end of National Service duties. Players like Andy Davidson, Frank Harrison, Brian Cripsey and Paul Feasey were all handed debuts by Jackson in his first season at the helm and became stalwarts of the club into the following decade. However in 1952 they were inexperienced and the manager’s approach – which was perhaps forced upon him – did not deliver immediate success on the field. In the 1952/53 season a fine start found the Tigers fourth in the Division Two table in mid-September, but that form quickly petered out and by Christmas the club lurked in the bottom half. By the end of February 1953 the real prospect of relegation emerged until three consecutive wins in March saw the Tigers pull clear and finish 18th.
The 1953/54 season saw a more prolonged struggle, plus the distraction of a FA Cup Fifth Round tie against top flight side Tottenham Hotspur that went to a replay, but the Tigers cobbled enough points together to finish in 15th place. Jackson’s side appeared to have turned the corner at the start of the 1954/55 season, ascending to third place in the table when Notts County were dispatched 5-2 at the end of October 1954, however ten winless League games again saw the Tigers sink into the bottom half and the City board were showing signs of alarm. Not even the signing of former England forward Wilf Mannion could arrest the decline and Jackson was given leave of absence in March 1955, the same day that his replacement Bob Brocklebank was handed the managerial reins. Jackson was eventually the beneficiary of a financial settlement relating to alleged breach of contract, but his time at Hull City drew an abrupt close to his football management career.
John Robert Jackson was born and raised in Farnworth, a coal mining town two miles south east of Bolton. He played Lancashire League football for Atherton as a teenager before serving the Army during World War One. He fought at Passchendaele and developed trench feet which led to his discharge from front line duty and a return to England where he became a machine gun instructor. Jackson was demobilised in 1919 and throughout the 1920s he was a centre forward that played for, and scored freely for, several Lancashire Combination sides. However when he was handed the chance to test his powers in the Football League he was found wanting. Bob had been on the books at Bury during the 1922/23 season without making a first team appearance, then scored an impressive 29 goals for Lancaster Town during the 1923/24 season. This form led to a move to Division Three North side Tranmere Rovers where he scored regularly for the Reserves, however when his time to shine in the first team came in March 1925 he was found wanting – though the task he was handed, to follow in the footsteps of goalscoring legend Dixie Dean who had just moved to Everton, was a tall one. Returning to Lancashire Combination football, Jackson served the likes of Chorley, Darwen and Nelson for several years before hanging up his boots in 1932.
By 1934 he was working as chief scout for Division One side Bolton Wanderers. Credited with unearthing several gems that served the Trotters’ first team, Jackson retained this role for eleven years until May 1945 when he was appointed secretary/manager at Southern League side Worcester City. After one successful season that featured a league title win and defeat in the Southern League Cup Final Jackson joined Division One side Portsmouth in May 1946, reprising his role as chief scout. A year later in July 1947 the retirement of veteran boss Jack Tinn, who had led Pompey for the last 20 years, opened up the opportunity for Jackson take the manager’s role. It was a task that he fulfilled with aplomb.
His first season in charge saw Pompey finish eighth in Division One, then for the next two seasons the south coast side dominated the English game, twice winning the Division One title and reaching the 1948/49 FA Cup Semi Final only to lose to Division Two side Leicester City, a side featuring future Tiger Don Revie. Jackson’s Portsmouth side remained competitive following the two title wins, finishing eighth in the 1950/51 season and fourth in the 1951/52 season. However by the early weeks of 1952 an approach by Hull City and the promise of a significant hike in wages was starting to turn his head. In June 1952 the Pompey board allowed him to end his contract and leave the club to head for the Humber Estuary – he managed Portsmouth for 228 senior fixtures.
Following his dismissal and subsequent pay-off from Hull City, Jackson moved to Blackpool and undertook scouting missions for several local clubs. He died in Blackpool in May 1968.
Date/Place of Birth: 29 April 1896, Farnworth, England
Date/Place of Death: 17 May 1968, Blackpool, England; 72 years, 18 days old
Appointed by Hull City: 20 June 1952; 56 years, 52 days old
Left Hull City: 17 March 1955; 58 years, 322 days old
Tenure: 1,000 days
Worcester City (1945-1946), Portsmouth (1947-1952), Hull City (1952-1955)
Hull City Record
Playing Record: Played 125, Won 43, Drawn 26, Lost 56, Goals For 173, Goals Against 196
Achievements: 15th in Division Three North, 1953/54 season