Former Everton and Norwich City defender Matt Jackson spoke to canaries.co.uk this week ahead of Saturday’s Premier League meeting between the two sides.
Signing for Everton in the 1991-92 season, Jackson entered Merseyside as a young player amongst a wealth of experience. Speaking on his time with the Toffees, the centre-back claims that it’s there he was shaped the most as a player, more so than at any other club he donned the colours for. That enabled him to make the move to Norwich in 1996.
“Joining Everton was really part of my formative years. I joined the club at 19 and made my debut at 20. I was really in the mix of an established, senior set of players and management alike.
“The club was going through a big transition as I joined, going from big success in the 1980s to a really tough time in the 1990s. The six years of my career there was difficult until Joe Royle came in and settled us down after the 1995 FA Cup final win against Manchester United.
“A huge part of my career was Mike Walker, who came in and gave me a chance to come down to Norfolk after playing under him at Everton.
“Mike wanted me to play as a centre-back rather than the right-back position I played previously, which was a tough change, but I knew I had to do it and from there it was a great transition joining Norwich.”
Going into more detail on his career in blue and white, Jackson discussed life at the club, detailing how making the switch from Preston North End was an eye-opening experience for a player of his age.
“Goodison Park was just brilliant when moving to a big club as a young player. You don’t really understand what football is really like in a club like Everton until you experience it. There was a fantastic rivalry with Liverpool.
“Having grown up in a nice, rural area, it was eye-opening living in a city for the first time. That was a period of my life that will forever be part of me.”
Signing for Norwich meant that Jackson had joined the side who previously took apart his former club 5-1 in September, 1993. When asked about the move, and any memories he had playing against City, Jackson said at the time the focus was only on the success of club he represented.
“There’s one abiding memory of Efan [Ekoku] absolutely demolishing Everton. But you couldn’t have expected much more, Norwich were great at the time and had an absolutely fantastic campaign in Europe.
“As a player, Norwich seemed so far away as a move, you never really think of anything other than the club you’re playing for. In fact, the move to Norwich was so far that I nearly signed for QPR! I was expected to go down to QPR and sign with them, but I got the call to sign for Norwich, and so that’s where I went.
“It’s strange how things pan out, after playing against the club you never would have thought you’d then sign for Norwich, but it was amazing.
“I loved the club and I loved Norfolk life; I had a very young family at the time, so it was a great place to be. It was tricky having come out of the Premier League for Norwich though. I believe my personal performances were good, but for parts of my time at the club they were struggling, and that wasn’t easy to deal with.
“To be honest, I only have one regret from my time at Norwich and that was that I wasn’t a more mature figure for the club. I was captain, but I still had a selfishness about how I played, I never realised the responsibility of captaincy.
“That responsibility didn’t really kick in for me until I was captain at Wigan, but I wish I gave the same leadership at Norwich as I did at Wigan.”
After his time as a Canary, Jackson partnered with fellow centre-back Jason De Vos in defence at Wigan Athletic. It was in the 2004-05 season that De Vos went on to sign for Ipswich Town. When asked if he spoke to his teammate about the move, Jackson revealed he was fully supportive of the move to City’s rivals.
“Me and Jason De Vos were very close, it was a great partnership, and we were great friends too. He had a great opportunity given to him from Ipswich and decided it was best to sign for Joe Royle. It was unfortunate he left Wigan, but he got the better offer from Ipswich.
“There’s obviously that rivalry there between Norwich and Ipswich but they’re two great football clubs, and he did very well there.”
After his time as a player came to an end, Jackson moved to a different sector of the football industry. Discussing his career off the pitch, Jackson waved off any desire of coaching and spoke of the route he decided to take instead.
“After retiring at Watford, I became a football consultant for IMG, where I mentored and managed young players.
“From there I moved quickly into becoming the operating manager at Wigan under Roberto Martínez and Dave Whelan. I was in the club every day, setting up different things for the academy and recruitment departments.
“In that position, Roberto would hand me loads of stuff to get done from a football perspective and not take his time away from coaching and looking after his players. Both those jobs were such a great education into the fabric of how a football club is run.
“For me, they were far more exciting than a coaching career ever was, I was much happier on the outside.
“After that I went on and did various broadcasting jobs for the BBC and Sky. It all gave me such a diverse look at football, and I loved it.”