‘I came on and I was in this ruthless place’ - Simeon Jackson on his promotion heroics
Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2011
It was a simple nod and a knowing look by Ian Culverhouse in the Norwich City dressing room. No words were necessary, but Simeon Jackson knew his time had come.
Jackson hadn’t managed to hold down a regular starting place in Paul Lambert’s Championship squad of 2010-11. But even during the difficult times, he knew something special was on the horizon.
“I just remember I had this feeling – I am supposed to do something really big here. I don’t know what it is but I just feel like my time is going to come at the right time,” he says.
When City’s assistant manager gave him the almost imperceptible signal, at half-time of a home game against Scunthorpe. Jackson’s time had arrived.
With City cruising at 3-0 up and Scunthorpe down to 10 men, Jackson came on for Dani Pacheco – 20 minutes later he walked off with the match ball after scoring a sensational hat-trick.
A couple more appearances off the bench followed, but it was hard not to start the Canadian. He scored in the 5-1 win at Ipswich and then plundered another hat-trick as City beat Derby 3-2 at Carrow Road, a late, late goal clinching there vital points.
Then came the trip to Portsmouth, when Jackson headed home David Fox’s cross - and City were back in the Premier League.
City were ruthless, and Jackson was the final cutting edge.
“I am just so grateful because it didn’t have to go that way,” explained Jackson, 33, who now plays for Stevenage. “I remember I went on a trip with Canada. It was an emotional time for me because I lost my uncle just before I got the move and it was coming up to around that time and it was a weird time. I remember clarity came into me of what I needed to do, clearly in my mind, just scoring and giving everything. The first game back was against Scunthorpe and I remember going in at half-time and I remember Cully looked at me and I was just in a zone. I know I am coming on and I know I need to score. I looked at Cully and he looked at me and he just gave me the nod. He didn’t say anything, just the nod to say ‘you know what you need to do’.
“I came on and I was in this ruthless place and around that time that is what stood out for me. I was just ruthless and there was momentum there, and with the team as well. It was perfect. We were just in form, we knew everything about each other and what we needed to do and how we won games - and we just had this thing of always going to the last minute.
“It was just an amazing time.”
What Culverhouse did may have been somewhat subliminal. What Grant Holt did at Portman Road was far from it.
“I was on the bench and Holty went flying in for a tackle in the first minute and I was thinking, ‘dude, you could have got sent off, that is high risk’. You set the tone and from there you just know you were going to win. Holty absolutely lifted him! And I remember watching and thinking, ‘yeh, we will win now’ and we did, we ended up going on to comfortable win.”
Jackson had gone from relegation to League Two with Gillingham to promotion to the Premier League in 12 months – it was a big change, but perhaps not completely unexpected given Lambert’s ultimatum to his team before the season started.
“I have gone from going into pre-season for Gills in League Two where the emotions are different, coming off the back of relegation, to going into a pre-season camp in Germany where the first meeting I have is Paul Lambert saying, ‘if you don’t believe we are going to get promoted, there is the door, you can leave now’.
“You don’t have a choice in that, you just make a decision. I’m on board, we’re doing it and you just get this excitement straight away.
“The boys were buzzing because they had just got promoted and it was just an amazing atmosphere, and group. I got welcomed in straight away. There was this amazing team spirit. It was so good and a relief just to be part of something like that and just knowing from day one, this is where we are going.”
Where they were going was the Premier League.
“As a kid watching your idols on TV, watching Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole, looking at Old Trafford, it is just a dream, you don’t actually think you will ever get there. I remember when I was at Rushden – you toy with the idea, you’d love to do it, it would be amazing, but when you actually think about it, it’s like, how? Is that actually going to happen?
“You don’t think you are going to do it and when it does happen and you are looking at the fixture list and you come off the bench for your first game, it was ‘wow, thank you so much’. “