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Mike Jackson enjoying Shrewsbury Town challenge

18 March 2014

By Tony Leighton

Michael Jackson is synonymous with the word 'thriller,' and that's the ride Shrewsbury Town fans are on as their favourites - led by the namesake of the late, great singer - head towards the climax of the Sky Bet League 1 campaign.

Rookie boss Jackson, who started what is his first management job in January, takes his relegation-threatened team to Colchester United on Tuesday evening looking for only his second win in what will be his 10th match in charge.

Just as they were when the former central defender took over from Graham Turner after he retired, the Shrews are in the drop zone and battling for their League 1 lives just two seasons after promotion from the bottom division.

But Jackson, whose six-club playing career began at Crewe Alexandra and in 2010 with Shrewsbury was ended prematurely through injury, is relishing the challenge of the difficult situation he has inherited at the Greenhous Meadow.

"I'm enjoying it," he told ahead of the trip to Colchester. "We were in a tough position when I took over, but management opportunities rarely come up when a club's flying - it's usually when things are not going well."

Jackson took advice from several managers he had worked with during his 18 years as a player, though one he did not call was Manchester United's under-pressure David Moyes, under whom he played at Preston North End.

"I don't think Moyesy needs me calling him at the moment," said 40-year-old Jackson, "but when I was at Preston with him he helped me into coaching. He was a big influence back then, and I eventually went on to get my UEFA pro license.

"But although I've asked for and taken advice, in the end you have to go your own way and that's what I'm doing. I've got a contract until the end of this season, and the plan is for Shrewsbury to still be a League 1 club next season."

The plan seems to be developing as the Shrews, despite only one win to date under Jackson, have also had five draws - including highly creditable stalemates against the division's top two teams, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Brentford.

If they beat 17th in the table Colchester they will be just one point below the safety places; and in the nine games that they will then have remaining, they are set to meet all four of the teams who currently sit immediately above them.

So the second-bottom Shrews, reckons the manager, have every chance of survival. "I think we're moving in the right direction," he said, "but we can't look too far ahead and right now I'm only thinking of the game against Colchester.

"They're one of the teams that we're trying to get ahead of in the table. They've been a bit up and down in terms of their results of late, but they're certainly not a bad team and in Joe Dunne - who I know well - they've got a good manager.

"So I think it will be a tight game, and it will probably come down to which of the teams can hold their concentration longest. But it's certainly a game that we need a positive result from, and winning it would give us a massive boost.

"We've had some good results in the last couple of months, but to get the wins we need in our last few games we have to start converting our chances. We've not been doing that for most of the season and we have to get it right.

"But if we can do that we can stay up. There are so many teams scrapping around the bottom end of the table and I think that the division will start splitting in the next few weeks - and we aim to keep Shrewsbury Town in this division."

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