Who is Mark Jackson? The intriguing rise of Mariners’ new Football Manager

Mark Jackson was unveiled as Central Coast Mariners’ new first team Football Manager overnight ahead of the 2023-24 Isuzu UTE A-League season. KEEPUP has a look at his football journey.

The Central Coast Mariners announced the appointment of Mark Jackson as the club’s Football Manager ahead of the new Isuzu UTE A-League season, following an extensive football career overseas.

Jackson arrives at the club after a 20 year playing career for the likes of Leeds United and Scunthorpe United, before returning to the former as a coach in their Academy system, helming teams all the way from U15s to U23s.

He was most recently senior head coach of Milton Keynes Dons, where he was unable to stave off relegation in England’s League One last season.

JACKSON: ‘The perfect fit’ for the Champions – Mariners appoint new Football Manager

Now, he arrives at the Mariners with the blessing of former head coach Nick Montgomery, as he looks to continue the good work left by his predecessor who led the club to last season’s Isuzu UTE A-League Championship.

As he embarks on his first week in the job, KEEPUP takes a look at his extensive football career.

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Playing career

Jackson was a graduate of Leeds United’s youth academy, making 22 appearances for the club, with 18 of those coming in the Premier League.

During his time at Leeds, he was teammates with Australian football great Harry Kewell.

His performances were awarded with a call-up to England’s U20 side for the 1997 FIFA U20 World Cup, where he featured in all four of their matches – including starts against Mexico and in the Round of 16 against Argentina alongside England greats Jamie Carragher and Michael Owen.

He also played against his future coaching partner in crime Jesse Marsch in 1997, during a summer tour of the USA.

The centre-back had two loan spells at Huddersfield Town and Barnsley during his five years at the club, before joining Scunthorpe United in 2000 on a free transfer.

He went on to make over 100 appearances for The Iron and was awarded Player of the Season honours in 2002.

After departing the club in 2005, Jackson played for the likes of Kidderminster Harriers, Rochdale and Farsley before his retirement from the game in 2015.

Re-joining Leeds, success at youth level

Following the end of his playing career, Jackson entered the coaching circuit and returned to his boyhood club – Leeds.

Jackson signed on as the U15 and U16 coach in November 2015, before being promoted to co-U18’s manager alongside two-time Scotland international Andy Gray and then – becoming the sole manager the following season.

In his first season as sole manager, Jackson’s U18’s side finished in first place, winning the Professional Development League Northern League title.

“We’re delighted with the season,” said Jackson following winning the title.

“There’s numerous reasons, obviously. Straight away you can see we’ve had success in the league where we’ve won the title. Ultimately you’ve seen progression of players at the football club which is key to what we want as an academy and that is success in itself.”

Two years later, he took on the job of head coach of the club’s U23 side in Premier League 2 Division 2, earning promotion to the top flight in his first season in charge, where they remained unbeaten at home.

His squad boasted the likes of Sam Greenwood and Joe Gelhardt, who combined for 23 goals in the league that season, along with Dutch midfielder Crysencio Summerville – who is now part of the club’s senior team.

Jackson’s work with the U23 side was rewarded with a promotion to the senior team in March 2022, becoming first team head coach in former Leeds boss Jesse Marsch’s coaching team.

In the ensuing months, Jackson and Marsch helped keep the team afloat in the Premier League, surviving by three points ahead of Burnley.

First team opportunity at MK Dons

The following December, Jackson was given his first opportunity as a senior head coach at the helm of Milton Keynes Dons.

Jackson replaced Liam Manning after a difficult start to the League One season, which saw the team next to bottom on December 11, only months removed from just missing out on promotion to the Championship.

“Jacko has been an absolute asset for me from the first day that I set foot into the building,” Marsch said at the time of his departure.

“He has done everything and more that I could have hoped, his passion, his commitment and his love of this club made him essential for me and for us in our quest to stay in the [Premier] league [last season]. I fully believe that without him we wouldn’t have stayed in the league.

“I value him completely as a person and as a football mind.”

At the time, BBC Three Counties Radio sports editor Geoff Doyle thought Jackson would be a “good fit” for Dons “in terms of the management/coaching structure” at the club.

Jackson led Dons to victory in his first game in charge, a 1-0 victory over Forest Green Rovers, which ended an over four month wait for a home win.

In March, Jackson was nominated for the League One Manager of the Month award, after winning three consecutive games but lost out to Ipswich Town’s Kieran McKenna.

His winning streak was back-ended by a run of four consecutive draws in April, to keep them in the mix for surivival.

However, inconsistency plagued his tenure, as Dons would go winless in their last eight games and were relegated to League Two.

They finished only a point behind Cambridge United, following a 0-0 draw on the final day with Burton Albion saw them drop back into the drop zone for the first time in almost two months.

Jackson would be dismissed two days later, ending his first coaching tenure with a record of six wins, nine draws and 10 losses.

Landing in Terrigal

Four months after his spell in Milton Keynes came to an end, Jackson was appointed Football Manager of Central Coast Mariners.

The Englishman arrived with a strong endorsement from former coach Nick Montgomery, who only departed the Mariners for Hibernian earlier this month – following his Isuzu UTE A-League Championship success last season.

“With the departure of Monty and Sergio, the search for replacement leadership has taken centre stage,” Mariners chairman Richard Piel said.

“While we had a substantial number of applications from people around the world, Mark immediately showed that he is the perfect fit for our club.

“Having spent several seasons in youth development at Leeds United, many of which were under a world-class coach in Marcelo Bielsa, and with our focus on youth development, it was a no-brainer when Mark put his hand up for the role. Mark will fit seamlessly into the community and is a great cultural fit for us as a club.”

To get an insight into Jackson as a coach, he showcased some of his coaching philosophies in a video posted to the Coaches Voice Academy Twitter page.

Jackson now has the task of trying to continue the good work put in place of his predecessor, with the club going through a quasi-rebuild following the departures of key players Jason Cummings, Nectar Triantis, Sammy Silvera and James McGarry – to name a few.

His first game in charge will come on Wednesday, October 4 when the Mariners take on Stallion Laguna FC in the AFC Cup group-stage, as they look to bounce back from a 1-0 loss to Terengganu on the opening matchday.