Jackson keen to put on a show for the other Special One

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The Independent Football

We are talking here about the sartorial, of course, not the gladiatorial, because in terms of what he has at his disposal Peter Jackson is very much the Matalan shopper in this comparison. But in terms of how they look and what they think of themselves? Well, Jackson's assistant probably summed it up best in the gob-smacked moments after the FA Cup third-round draw called for Huddersfield to visit the Premiership champions.

"It should be quite a contest," said Terry Yorath. "In one corner there's a manager who thinks he's the best-looking in football. And, in the other, there's Jose Mourinho."

Jackson grins wide when you recount his old pal's quip, but the tooth-lined arch is shaped by pride rather than embarrassment. He has positively encouraged the Galpharm Stadium chant that goes something like "Who needs Mourinho, when we've got our Jacko..." and is more than prepared to stand on style trial.

"Look, the days of managers in scruffy old trainers, with big beer guts sticking out of tracksuits, are gone," he tells you, presumably glad to have seen the back of Barry Fry. "I'm positive Jose won't be dressed like that when we play them, I can assure him I won't be. In fact, I've got a new suit on order and I've even considered getting an Armani overcoat."

Thus, the gauntlet (Gucci) has been thrown down, although if all this sounds like mischief on Jackson's part in a well-guided effort to blow Mourinho's fuse, it isn't. Jackson is a big fan and, like his label, makes no secret of it. "I admire him greatly," says the 44-year-old about his junior of two years. "People might say that he's cocky, but I look on it as 'extreme confidence'. And why shouldn't he be? Look what he's done. It's incredible."

Primarily, Jackson was referring to the Portuguese's on-field achievements, citing - as all football folk do - that glittering piece of evidence known as Porto's European Cup. But in contrast to most in the game, and certainly to most managers who don't much care for his revolutionary approach to public relations, Jackson sees Mourinho's honours as being stacked up off the field, too.

"I don't care what they say, he is a breath of fresh air with his personality shining through," he says. "Mourinho has done so much for the image and profile of 'the manager' in such a short time. Before him you would only see the top players and pop stars in the adverts, but now there's a manager up there as well. He's opened doors."

It certainly makes a change from gaffers having them slammed in their faces, a nose-putter-outer Jackson can only too painfully recall. While Mourinho's management CV makes unparalleled reading, Jackson's is remarkable in itself; he has had only two stints in the hot seat and both these have come at the same club, yet four years apart. It is nice to think of Barry Ruberry, Huddersfield's former chairman, sitting down with the administrators and remembering his shameful sacking of Jackson in 1999 as he agreed to write off £12.5m of debt a few years ago, although that is probably being a tad too wistful.

Nevertheless, in those crazy days at the back end of the last century, when success was measured in a short term so frenzied that Huddersfield's progression into Premiership prospects under Jackson was scandalously forgotten, this was undoubtedly the craziest dismissal of all. "The club were mad to get rid of me," says Jackson, the memory of the dead-of-night instalment of Steve Bruce burning all too brightly. "But there's no point looking back. When I agreed to come back two years ago [Jackson had been working in the media and, intriguingly, as an agent, in the meantime] it was a case of only looking forward.

"The place was a total shambles then. We were in administration, in the bottom division and at my first training session I had eight players. I thought then, 'Christ I've got some job on to fulfil my promise of getting them back in the Championship by 2008'. Here we are, though, well on course."

In fact, the Terriers are scampering way ahead of schedule, a play-off victory from League Two in 2004 being built on with a concerted promotion push to Jackson's promised land this season. It is not just the League tables that make happier reading, either, as the new chairman has recently announced that the club are back in those blessed columns of the self-sufficient.

"That means we're not a selling club any more," says Jackson. "And that's a good thing, because our stands are packed with Premiership scouts every week. A few of our boys will make it at a higher standard, just like Jon Stead did, and I'm sure that's because of the exposure they've had here. D'you know that 11 out of our squad of 20 have come from our academy, and that in an LDV match earlier in the season, every one of our outfield players was an academy boy? That is a record."

It is one that Jackson is justifiably proud of, and as he imagines his youngsters mixing it with the likes of Lampard, Robben and Terry, and as he sees Huddersfield's biggest day in decades coming into focus, he cannot resist dipping deep into the Cup vernacular.

"Can we win?" he replies with textbook incredulity. "I believe - no, scrap that, I know - that on 7 January there's going to be a shock somewhere. So why shouldn't it be us causing it? Sure it would be one of the biggest shocks in FA Cup history, but if we play our best and they play their worst... well, who knows? People will say I'm nuts, but what's a bigger crime: going up there all positive or going up there simply to get walloped? How d'you think Jose would go up there if he was in my position?"

Probably the same. Although the Armani overcoat would be a definite.

REPLAY 1986: Birmingham haunted by day of the own goal

Altrincham are preparing to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their 2-1 victory at Birmingham on 14 January 1986 in the FA Cup third round, the last occasion on which a non-League side won away to opposition from the top division.

Most of the Altrincham squad will attend an event entitled "Birmingham 20" at the Ashley Hotel, Hale, next month. But the scorer of the winning goal is unlikely to be there; Robert Hopkins, the volatile Birmingham winger (above), decided the tie with a back pass into his own net.

The game was postponed on the original date 10 days earlier and by the time it was played, Birmingham had lost 14 and drawn one of their previous 15 First Division matches, sinking from eighth place in late September to 21st. Only 6,636 bothered to turn up at St Andrew's, where Kevin Ellis put the Gola League visitors ahead, beating a young David Seaman from close range. Hopkins equalised, but then made a piece of unwanted history with that own goal.

Ron Saunders resigned as Birmingham's manager two days later, and despite a brief improvement under his successor, John Bond, the Blues won only three more games and were relegated. It would be 16 years before they returned to the top flight. Now they face a third-round tie away to Torquay of League Two on Saturday.

Altrincham were renowned Cup fighters who had drawn at Everton in 1975 and Tottenham in 1979 before losing the replays. At one time they reached the third round for three successive seasons. They earned the tie at St Andrew's with wins at Chorley and Blackpool, but lost away to York City in the next round and finished fourth in the Gola League (now the Conference).

Birmingham: Seaman; Ranson, Dicks, Hagan, Armstrong, Kuhl (Wright), Bremner, Roberts, Kennedy, Platnaur, Hopkins.

Altrincham: Wealands; Gardner, Densmore, Johnson, Cuddy, Conning, Ellis (Farrelly), Davison, Reid, Chester, Anderson.

Steve Tongue

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