How Nicolas Jackson proved Alan Shearer wrong and turned his Chelsea career around

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Rewind six months and Nicolas Jackson might have been reluctant to get too close to the Chelsea supporters who berated him from the Stamford Bridge stands.

But Jackson is changing opinions – just ask Alan Shearer – and his first instinct after scoring his 14th Premier League goal of the season was to jump straight into Chelsea’s travelling fans at Nottingham Forest’s City Ground.

It was a moment symbolic of the way in which Jackson has managed to make even his biggest critics doubt themselves, as he prepares to face Brighton and Hove Albion with Chelsea on Wednesday night.

Jackson’s 14 League goals have put him ahead of Rasmus Hojlund, Darwin Núñez and Kai Havertz for the season, and just five behind Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins, who has deservedly made a number of pundits’ team of the season lists.

In total, the 22-year-old has scored 17 times and assisted on six occasions. But, perhaps just as significantly in Chelsea’s injury-ravaged season, Jackson has remained fit and available.

He has made 42 appearances in a debut season as Chelsea’s only fit out-and-out striker and played almost 4,000 minutes without missing a single game through injury, despite undergoing wrist surgery and playing with a splint.

Jackson has proved himself to be a fighter and has forced an about turn from Shearer, who did not hold back in his initial criticism of the former Villarreal man on Match of the Day, at which time he had only scored two League goals.

Shearer accused Jackson of displaying a “complete lack of movement” and failing to display the instincts of a striker after the home defeat to Brentford in which the Senegal international had been distracted by heckling from a Chelsea fan in the Stamford Bridge stands.

Mauricio Pochettino and Nicolas Jackson

Jackson was heckled by some sections of the Chelsea support during their match with Brentford in October – Shutterstock/Javier Garcia

But, 12 League goals and six months later, Shearer was much more positive in his analysis of Jackson after the victory over Forest in which he scored the winner and celebrated with the Chelsea supporters.

“He’s definitely raw but there is big potential there,” said Shearer on Match of the Day. “He’s good at running with the ball, his runs in behind are really intelligent. It’s that final thing where he’s got to brush up on and get in behind. He’s 22 years of age, 29 starts, 14 goals…I think that’s a decent return.”

Mauricio Pochettino had watched Shearer’s critique of Jackson after the Brentford defeat. Asked if had watched Match of the Day last Saturday to see Shearer’s latest opinion of the forward, Chelsea’s head coach said: “No, but I heard.

“It’s true that he (Jackson) deserved [some criticism] because he was missing big chances. What are you (the media) going to say? You need to describe, no? But for us, it’s a different judgment. It’s to see the potential and the capacity to improve. Then it’s about, even if you are not scoring goals and you get all the criticism, it’s to show all the trust and the confidence, and keep working in the same way.

“I think Nico has the potential to be a very, very good striker. A fantastic striker. He got amazing criticism from the beginning because he was compared to [Didier] Drogba from the start. But to judge and be so radical in the opinions, be careful because I think it’s about seeing what is going on, what we see and Nico, I think through confidence and working really hard, is changing the opinion. I am so happy that now the people start to see Nico in the way we saw.”

‘We need to create things that the fans really love’

On Jackson’s City Ground celebration and his improving relationship with Chelsea’s fans, Pochettino added: “I am so happy about that. I enjoy it when the fans enjoy it with the players. For me, it’s more important than the [fans’] relationship with the coach.

“We need to create things that [make] the fans really love the players because they are the principal actors. Then it’s up to us to have the capacity to manage the situation. Sometimes, we can be more strong, sometimes we need to be more flexible, sometimes we need to show emotions. Sometimes we don’t need to show emotions. That is to get the right balance in the man-management.

“It’s easy when the fans or the people are upset with some players because they miss a penalty or miss a chance, to say the fans are right and to kill the player. But when we really believe in the player, sometimes the fans need to trust us.

“When the player deserves for us to back him, like in the case of Nico, we back and we give everything to be calm and be working hard because we knew the capacity and the quality he has, and it was only time to show.”

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