It hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows for Johnnie Jackson since becoming AFC Wimbledon manager in the summer of 2022.
Jackson’s future at the club was in question at the end of last season after a desperate run of form had the Dons sitting perilously close to the drop zone; “We want Jackson out” chants rang around Plough Lane following the 5-1 thumping by Swindon Town.
Fast forward ten months and Jackson’s fists were punching the air in front of an adoring south stand in full voice. The tone of tune has changed, with the chants now serenading their manager instead of calling for his dismissal.
The 2-0 victory over third placed Barrow capped off an excellent week for Jackson after he put pen to paper on a new contract to remain as Wimbledon boss alongside assistant manager Terry Skiverton.
“I was really pleased to get that sorted this week but it wasn’t about me today, it was about us doing what we do well,” Jackson told London Football Scene following the Barrow win.
The former Charlton manager will be the first to admit that his tenure as Dons boss hasn’t been plain sailing, but his side have turned a significant corner this season and are knocking at the door of the League Two Play-Off places.
“We have moved the club forward a lot this season – it’s chalk and cheese from last season,” Jackson said.
“It’s a real team effort. Things are really gelling well and we have made improvements. We have clearly made big strides, but we haven’t done anything yet.
“We learned so much from the struggles last season. There’s no point in going through that if you aren’t going to learn from it because it doesn’t feel good.
“If you can come through it and take the learnings from it like we did then it can be really valuable.
“We learnt a lot about ourselves, the league, the type of player we want to bring in and the type of squad we want to build.”
Jackson, alongside Head of Football Operations Craig Cope, attacked the summer window aggressively to rebuild a Wimbledon side that was in desperate need of a reset.
Recruitment has been shrewd, calculated and importantly for Jackson, fitting with the identity of the club.
The signings of striker Omar Bugiel, midfielder and captain Jake Reeves and Sunderland loanee goalkeeper Alex Bass have proven crucial, and while the departure of star striker Ali Al-Hamadi in the January window was unquestionably a blow, the additions of Ronan Curtis and Josh Kelly are already paying dividends.
“Building a proper Wimbledon team was huge for us, it’s the first thing we sat down and discussed on the first day of preseason,” Jackson added.
“We planned how to make this team a Wimbledon team, one the supporters demand and expect, and from there we recruited around that style.
“We got the players in and then worked really hard moulding those players and the team around this Wimbledon style.
“There have been a few exceptions of course, but I think if we were playing in green and white stripes you would still recognise us as a Wimbledon team because we’ve got that clear identity.”
Wimbledon are well placed ahead of a busy run-in that will see the Dons play ten games in the space of four weeks.
Ahead of the packed schedule, they sit just one point outside of the Play-Offs and eight off automatic promotion.
Jackson remains focused on the job at hand however, and has made it clear to his side what their aim should be for the rest of the season, “This season you’re seeing a team on the up.
“Building that takes time, but we’re delighted that we’ve built that and installed a feel-good factor about the club.
“The next step is keeping that consistency so we can bring success here. It’s not a pat on the back for a job well done, we ain’t done nothing yet.
“We want to kick on and we want to get out of this league. I love working for this football club and I just want to do the best I can at AFC Wimbledon.”