Michael Appleton has been announced as the new Portsmouth FC manager, almost four weeks after former boss Steve Cotterill left the Fratton Park hotseat to move north to Nottingham Forest. The 35-year-old, who was previously Roy Hodgson’s assistant at Premier League side West Bromwich Albion, has signed a three and half year contract with the club.
Appleton, who fought off a number of other more experienced candidates, will be looking to impress in his first attempt as manager of a football club. Chief executive David Lampitt explained in the press conference that Appleton ‘started out as a bit of a dark-horse in the selection process but ended up the unanimous choice’.
It is certainly an intriguing appointment for Pompey, with Appleton reportedly fighting off competition from a number of other more experienced candidates that included Sean O’Driscoll and Steve Coppell. The decision to appoint Salford-born Appleton can be seen as risky and understandably so. A worst case scenario would see his inexperience shine through and Pompey capitulate and end up in League One next season, in which case the appointment would back-fire spectacularly on David Lampitt and the rest of the club’s board.
Best case scenario would see the Blues secure a play-off spot come next May and who knows where they could end up this time next year. Everyone would be heaping praise on the board, not to mention Appleton.
When I first heard his name come up as a real possibility, I was very dubious. An inexperienced guy who no-one had heard of; a massive risk surely not worth taking; and the last thing the club needs. However, I have gradually come around to the idea that Appleton is actually an exciting and possibly excellent appointment.
Having been a coach at Albion for seven years, there was always going to be a time for him to move on – a new challenge, a new break to go and an opportunity to show someone else what he was capable of. And Pompey have given him a platform – a club slowly moving back in the right direction, with a playing squad more than capable of performing well in the Championship.
It is the sense of going into the unknown for Portsmouth, but I get the feeling there is more a feeling among supporters of optimism rather than pessimism. It has got fans and pundits talking about the club again, and for the right reasons. Appleton is highly-rated, and having worked under Roy Hodgson, will no doubt have picked up many useful tips and ideas when the chance came to manage himself.
Having also been on the books of Manchester United as a player, he will have learnt a great deal under a certain Sir Alex Ferguson. I get the impression that Michael Appleton is more of an appointment for the long-term, rather than the short-term. It won’t be said publicly, but his directive for this season will be to keep the club in the Championship. That might sound boring but it’s realistic.
Having been through turbulent times recently, Pompey are only just getting back to finding their feet. Another solid season in the Championship would do just nicely for Blues fans, ahead of a possible promotion push the following season. It’s about taking small steps at a time for a club who have fallen spectacularly in a matter of years.
But one thing is for sure: Pompey are slowly but surely building a solid foundation to rise once again.
And in Michael Appleton, they may have found just the right guy to lead them back up.